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READING: Ezra 1, 3 & 4 – Cyrus’ Proclamation, Rebuilding Temple, & Opposition           


In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus King of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: “Thus says Cyrus King of Persia: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up.” (2 Chronicles 36:22-24; Ezra 1:1-3a) 

Ezra begins where the Chronicles end; the above is a quotation of the ending of Chronicles and the beginning of Ezra. 

The rest of Cyrus’ proclamation is in Ezra 1:3b-4. Note how he again acknowledges that the LORD, the God of Heaven, but seems to restrict the LORD to being the God who is in Jerusalem and the God of Israel. He called on his kingdom to support the Jews who wanted to return. He also brought out the vessels of silver and gold that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem when the city was burned, and the Temple destroyed to contribute to the work of the temple to be built in Jerusalem. Approximately 50,000 people joined the caravan to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:64-67). 

In the seventh month of this first year, they built an altar to begin offering burnt offerings to the LORD. They celebrated their return with the Festival of Booths, a reminder of Israel’s long trek from Egypt through the wildernesses of Arabia. From this time, they had the morning and evening sacrifices on the altar that would become part of the Temple, but the foundation of the Temple had not yet been laid. 

In the second year, in the second month, they began work in earnest on the Temple. When the foundation was laid, there was a great celebration. Priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets; the Levites, the sons of Asaph, had cymbals to praise the LORD following David’s directions. They sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD. “For He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever towards Israel.” There were both joyful shouts and sad weeping from the older people who remembered the Temple torn down half a century before. 

Adversaries from Samaria came and asked to join the Jews in building the Temple. They were flatly refused, which caused a split between Samaria (who still worshiped idols) and Israel who were restoring purer worship of the LORD God of Israel. These adversaries then bribed counselors against building this temple. The building was stopped until the reign of King Darius (Ezra 4:7-15). 

Fear stopped the building. It was twenty years later that the building resumed because of two prophets: Haggai and Zechariah. 

But God does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). 

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 

PRAY FOR YOURSELF 

Father, God, I understand the joy of Israel as they returned to their land. Their celebration of the festival of booths is especially touching. I understand both the joy and sorrow as the temple foundation was laid. Please give me some understanding of why they shrank back in fear to continue building when they were challenged by the Samaritans. They had the proclamation of Cyrus! Wouldn’t that have silenced their antagonists? Had living away from Jerusalem changed them so much that they were spineless? Teach me how much being away from Your people harm my spiritual life with You. This is my prayer, in the name of Jesus, AMEN! 

MY PRAYER FOR YOU (and for myself)

Holy Father, my prayer for all who read this and for myself, is that we learn from the experience of Israel in their exile and return. How does this apply to us? I know these things are written for our learning that we may with patience have hope. Let us ponder these events to glean from them nuggets of truth that will enhance our hope for our future. I offer this prayer for myself and all who read this, in the name of Jesus, AMEN! 

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