|Posted by Lorraine Serra on October 7, 2010 at 6:39 AM|
I hope you have been reading Ezra in preparation for our indepth study of Haggai. Of course, the history of Israel and how they ended up as exiles is told throughout the books of Kings and Chronicles. Exciting stuff. Good kings, horrible kings. A divided kingdom. Compelling, intriguing, shocking, and in all, God's hand is sovereign.
But, did you realize it was all part of a prophecy foretold by Jeremiah as he began his ministry to some of the good and bad kings in about 626Bc? Yep, roughly 40 years before King Nebuchadnezer of Babylon invaded Jerusalem and took her king, queen, and most people away into captivity in 586BC, Jeremiah was issuing some stern warnings about devastation and destruction ahead for this stubborn, rebellious nation.
In fulfilling the prophecy of Jeremiah,(Jer.29:10), God brought an end to the monarchy as Jerusalem was taken into captivity for a period of 70 years to Babylon,
which eventually came under the rule of Persia. The empire of Persia included Media, Babylonia, Chaldea and Persia and was founded by King Cyrus in 536BC.
So, here we are reading Ezra who begins his part of the history of Israel telling how Persian King Cyrus, 100 years after Jeremiah's ministry began, got the ball rolling for the Jews to get back home again. Why should we care?
Well, did you wonder how it came to be that this great pagan Persian King Cyrus in chapter 1 of Ezra would suddenly obey the "stirrings of the Lord" and decree that the remnant of Jews, who had laid the foundations for the first temple in Jerusalem, should now gather up their belongings and head back home to rebuild it? I did, so I nosed around a bit.
Now, we know that the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord,(Prov. 21:1) and taking a peek at Isaiah 45:1-5 should really make your head spin.
Here is why: Isaiah wrote about Cyrus in about 700BC, more than 150 years before Cyrus reigned over Babylon and the Jews held captive there. Cyrus wasn't even born yet.
Now, check out this interesting bit of history I found in my research. First, Cyrus was an eminent king in antiquity.
He is mentioned in the works of many historians of the time.
Second, the historian Josephus makes note that Cyrus had a partiality to the Jews because somebody along the way showed him the ancient Isaiah text where his name is mentioned.
Scholars believe most probably, that person was Daniel, whom as we know, was carried off to Babylon, and through his devotion and dedication to the Lord God, proved God protects His own, even delivering Daniel out of the mouths of jealous men and vicious lions in a den of death. (Daniel 6:23-25)
Daniel risked death to honor God through obedience, and God's name was elevated to a high position throughout
the kingdom by King Darius, the Mede, who later ruled alongside of Cyrus, the Persian king. Isn't that cool! God is so awesome!
Wow! The stage was set.
The pagan kings witnessed the power and
majesty of God through the fearless obedience of his servants during captivity. (Don't forget Shadrach,
Meshach and Abednego, Daniel 3:25)
God set the stage, more than a hundred years earlier, for the Jews to return to their homeland after living
in exile in oppressive conditions. He chastened His people so they might cry out and long for Him again.
God always keeps His promises, and so begins to bring the remnant of His people home to rebuild not only the temple for the Lord, but their relationship with their loving heavenly Father. Amazing!
Thank you, Lord, for this example of assurance, that though we may stray from you, you are always ready to provide a way back home again to the truly humbled heart.
SO here are a couple of questions for you to consider and I will look forward to your responses here on the blog.
1. Why do you think Ezra included all those lists of people and things that would be traveling back to Jerusalem? Is there any significance in your opinion?
2. In Chapter 3 we read that the returning exiles were afraid of the people in the land. Any thoughts about that? Why would they be afraid?
For those of you who have never done research on Biblical texts, a great tool to use is called a Commentary. This is a scholarly work by authors who have researched ancient texts, archaeology, the vast array of texts by early church theologians, Jewish and Christian. They have put it together concisely for our benefit....sort of an encyclopedia. There are several dozen commentaries out there. It is a great way to dig into a study. Pray and ask God to lead you as you study. Ask the Holy Spirit to bring the scriptures alive and to reveal His wisdom as He teaches you. See what surprising nuggets you may find!!
My husband, John, loves his books and our home is FULL. Personally, I like to use the internet. (Thanks be to God!) You might, too. Do a Google search for "Bible commentaries" and get started!
God bless you. See you in a couple of days.
Categories: HAGGAI STUDY