God continued the work to redeem this fallen world even while His chosen people were in captivity in a foreign land and kept His promise to bring
them home in 70 years.
Around 538 B.C., God told Cyrus, the king of Persia, to build Him "a house at Jerusalem" (Ezra 1:2). Cyrus said anyone among God's people who wanted to return
to Jerusalem could return and rebuild the temple. He even sent the vessels taken from the temple back with the exiles to Jerusalem and
told the other people of the kingdom to help them.
God "stirred up" the spirit of over 40,000 of His people to return to Jerusalem after Cyrus's edict. The exiles first repaired the alter so they could
celebrate the appointed feasts and offer the regular sacrifices required by the Law. Two years later, they appointed Levites to supervise the
rebuilding of the temple. The people had a great celebration after they finished the foundation. Some people shouted for joy while others
wept when they saw the foundation because it did not compare to the former foundation.
The people living in the land asked to help rebuild the temple because they said they worshiped God too and had been offering Him sacrifices.
When the leaders told them no, the people in the land began to cause problems for the people of Judah - discouraging them and trying to scare them.
They even wrote letters to the king telling him the people of Judah would rebel against him when they finished the temple. The ploy worked, and construction
on the temple stopped for about 10 years.
God sent the prophet Haggai to point out the hypocrisy of the people living in
"paneled" or nice houses while God's house still laid in ruin. He told them to consider their current situation and consider if it was not due to their
disobedience. They planted and worked hard, but the harvests were small. God told them He was still with them and stirred up Zerubbabel, Joshua
and the people to work on the temple. He told them that, despite the fact this temple would not be as grand as the former, He was still with them
and promised to bless them.
Zechariah also prophesied to the Jews. The people were back in the Promised Land, but they were still oppressed and waiting on the Messiah. Even though
the prophets had said things would be better, it seemed nothing had changed in their situation since before captivity. Zechariah pointed out nothing
had changed in their hearts either and that was the most important change. He reminded them if God was faithful to carry out the curses of the Covenant,
He would surely carry out the blessings as well - in His time and in His way.
The people began to rebuild the temple in 520 B.C. and, once again, faced opposition. The governor of the area wrote a letter to the king. When Darius
the king searched the records and found Cyrus's decree to rebuild, he actually ordered the area "Beyond the River" be taxed to help rebuild the temple
and said he would provide the material for the sacrifices as long as the people promised to pray for "the life of the king and his sons" (Ezra 6:8-10).
The people finished the temple in the last months of 515. They celebrated Passover in the first month of 516 B.C. - 70 years from the beginning of the exile
in 586 B.C. just as God had promised (Jeremiah 25:11).
Fifty-seven years later, in 458 B.C., the king of Persia, Artaxerxes, sent Ezra back to Jerusalem with more exiles and with silver and gold offerings from
the king and more offerings from the people for the "God who dwells in Jerusalem". He even ordered the rulers of the land to give Ezra whatever he needed.
The king also gave orders for Ezra to establish the Mosaic law in the land, set up judges, and teach the Law to anyone who did not know it. (Ezra 7)
When Ezra arrived, he realized God's people had once again intermarried with the people of the land. He begged God's forgiveness and called the people
About 10 years later, in 446 B.C., Nehemiah, the king's cup bearer, heard the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, the gates burned, and the people in
trouble. At his request, the king sent him back with protection and provisions to rebuild the wall. After surveying the situation, Nehemiah rallied
the people to start rebuilding the wall. They instantly face opposition from the surrounding peoples who feared the strength of the city and its people
if the walls were rebuilt. Despite the opposition and conspiracy, the people continued to work, tools in one hand and weapons in the other.
They complete the wall in 52 days.
The people gathered to celebrate, and Ezra read the Law. As the people wept at hearing God's word (Nehemiah 8:9), Nehemiah told them not to
weep or mourn but to celebrate because "the joy of the LORD is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). The heads of the father's houses returned the following day
to "study the words of the Law" (Nehemiah 8:13) and discovered it was time to celebrate the Feast of Booths. They feasted
seven days and gathered again on the eighth day according as directed in the Law.
They read from the Law for half of the day, confessed and worshiped (Nehemiah 9:3). Then they began to bless God as they recounted his faithfulness and
all His blessings to His chosen people throughout the years. They also recounted the people's unfaithfulness to God. The people renewed the Covenant
and promised "to walk in God's Law" (Nehemiah 10:29). The people also organized themselves to continue the work of the temple and repopulate their land.
Nevertheless, the people still sinned - corruption among the priest, intermarriage, abusing the disadvantaged, and not giving their tithes - and they suffered
the consequences - ruled by another nation, small territory, small in number, oppressed by their neighbors, drought, pestilence, etc., and, most important, the lack of God's glory
in the temple.
About 100 years after Cyrus's decree, God sent Malachi to point out these sins and call the people to repentance as they awaited the coming Messiah.
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