September 18: Ezra 1-3
2 “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. 3 Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”
7 Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the Lord that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. 8 Cyrus king of Persia brought these out in the charge of Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah.
Ezra 1:2-4, & 7-8
1 Now these were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town.
64 The whole assembly together was 42,360, 65 besides their male and female servants, of whom there were 7,337, and they had 200 male and female singers.
Ezra 3:1 & 64
10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord,
“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”
And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers' houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people's weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.
As we weave through the minor prophets in our daily reading, we come to a fascinating narrative in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, as well as other minor prophets who were contemporaries of this time. As the end of the seventy years of the captivity of the Jewish people draws near, Cyrus, king of Persia, issues a decree.
Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem.
Does it not seem a little out of place that the king of Cyrus should issue such a decree? Was he a believer? This is one of the most remarkable examples of God working in the heart of a pagan king to fulfill His purposes for His children. In Isaiah 45, God speaks to this very issue.
1 Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus,
whose right hand I have grasped . . .
4 For the sake of my servant Jacob,
and Israel my chosen,
I call you by your name,
I name you, though you do not know me.
5 I am the LORD, and there is no other,
besides me there is no God;
I equip you, though you do not know me,
6 that people may know, from the rising of the sun
and from the west, that there is none besides me.
I am the LORD, and there is no other.
Notice particularly these two phrases:
I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me.
I equip you, though you do not know me.
God clearly expresses that he has called Cyrus by name to make this decree to allow the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem to begin the rebuilding of the temple. He also clearly states that Cyrus does not know Him. As a matter of fact, Cyrus states in his decree (Ezra 1:3): He is the God who is in Jerusalem. In other words God was the God who was in Jerusalem, but He was not Cyrus' god.
How many people responded to this decree of Cyrus? Was it just a small band of religious zealots? According to the numbers given in Ezra 3:64, fifty thousand people responded to the decree of Cyrus and joined the caravan going to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple.
You can imagine the emotions present when the foundation was laid for the new temple. According to the directions given to them by King David, the priests came forward in their vestments with trumpets and cymbals to celebrate the name of the Lord. We are told that the old men who had seen the first temple wept with a loud voice while others shouted for joy.
So that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people's weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.
After seventy years of captivity, how glorious that must have been. Think of what it will be like when we reach God's final temple in heaven and fall down to worship our Lord of Glory. Will we weep for joy or shout praises to our wondrous and faithful God?
Just take that picture with you as you go about your duties of this day.
God Bless You,
All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.