1In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, to fulfill the word of the Lord from the mouth of Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also in writing, saying:

Thus says King Cyrus 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. 

Let any of those among you who are of his peoplemay their God be with them!—go up to Jerusalem in Judah and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel; he is the God who is in Jerusalem. 

And let all survivors in whatever place they reside be assisted by the people of their place with silver and gold, with goods, and with livestock, besides freewill offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:1-4 NRSVUE).

All who knew the Jewish survivors or who came across them were required to help the Jewish survivors along their way with gold, silver, goods, livestock, and other offering for the temple. This was a tall order for their neighbors and acquaintances whom they encountered along the way.

God provided a way for them to journey home: workers, families, priests, governmental officials, previous slaves, all who wanted to go could make the journey.

The book of Ezra is the story of God’s work to fulfill his promises by bringing his people back from exile and establishing them once again in their land. The prophet Jeremiah had foretold an exile lasting 70 years, after which time Babylon would be punished and Judah restored. The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia. This acknowledgment of God’s hand behind the events of the book is the perspective through which all those events are to be viewed (Ezra 1:5; 3:11; 5:5; 6:22; 7:6, 9; 8:18, 22;10:14).

On Cyrus’ role, see also Isaiah 44:28; 45:1. Cyrus’s proclamation is only the beginning of a series of events that will fulfill the prophecy. It is first made orally, and carried through the vast Persian Empire; also Esther 1:22, and then set down in writing, giving it the status of a solemn decree.

“who confirms the word of his servant
    and fulfills the counsel of his messengers,
who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’
    and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built,
    and I will raise up their ruins’;

who says to the deep, ‘Be dry;
    I will dry up your rivers’;

28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,
    and he shall fulfill all my purpose’;
saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’
    and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.
(Isaiah 44:26-28 ESV).

The Lord Jehovah. That is Who.

20 The word of the Lord came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, 21 “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, 22 and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother. 23 On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the Lord, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord of hosts.” (Haggai 2:20-23 ESV).

Upon arriving, they erected homes for the safety of their families, and then they began rebuilding the temple starting first with the altar. There the altar would sit, out in the open, unprotected, with no one but the Lord to keep this work of restoration from being destroyed by the disgruntled squatters and the foreign armies.

When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening” (Ezra 3:1-3 ESV). 

The Lord returned His people to their homeland. After building homes for their families, the first thing they accomplished was to build the altar. There they confessed their sins and repented. Do we take the time to do this? #pray… Click To Tweet

These first offerings were for the atonement of sins, for they had been away from the temple and the ability to make sacrifices for forgiveness since they had been carried off into captivity.

The order of events:

  1. The Command to Rebuild the Temple In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest: In Context | Full Chapter | Other Translations
  2. Haggai 1:3 Then the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai, saying: For more click In Context | Full Chapter | Other Translations
  3. Haggai 1:12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the words of the prophet Haggai, as the Lord their God had sent him, and the people feared the Lord. For more click In Context | Full Chapter | Other Translations
  4. Haggai 1:13 Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke to the people with the Lord’s message, saying, “I am with you, says the Lord.” (Haggai Word Search via Bible Gateway).

The new temple in Jerusalem was completed in 516 B.C. The first group who arrived were zealous for the Lord. Zerubbabel and Jehozadak, the high priest, led the people after being ordained by Haggai.

Malachi addressed the priests in approximately 450 B.C., some sixty-six years after the new temple in Jerusalem was completedThe LORD makes it all clear.

In about 444 B.C. Nehemiah journeyed to Jerusalem and aroused the people there to the necessity of repopulating the city and rebuilding its walls.

Once more it’s the issue of Jacob have I loved. The Lord has loved His people, the descendants of Jacob — Israel, keeping them a people group even through a captivity of nearly seventy years. The Lord knows how the behavior of the priests can either turn the people toward Him or away from Him, and so . .

We don’t talk much about reverential fear of the LORD, which was addressed last week. Our love and commitment to Him must enable us to recognize the need to respect and to exalt Him and His holy Name. Our God holds the power of life and of death. He is the Creator of the universe.

God keeps His promises. As He brought back His people from Egypt, so He brought back His people from captivity in Babylon. They were in Egypt for four hundred years, but only seventy in Persia. If He can bring them back when they wander, so too, He can bring us back to Himself when we wander.

God keeps His promises. As He brought back His people from Egypt, so He brought back His people from the captivity in Babylon. They were in Egypt for four hundred years, but only seventy in Persia. #Grace Click To Tweet

With the appointment of Zerubbabel to lead, a descendant of David, the lineage of Messiah has been re-established in Judah.

How would you feel if you were one of the exiles returned to Jerusalem?

What would you want to do first upon arrival? Would you have wanted the altar itself to first be placed back yet again where it belonged?

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