Read Ezra 1 -- 2
About 200 years before the time of Ezra, Isaiah had prophesied that Babylon would be overthrown by a man named Cyrus, and the Lord said of this heathen monarch of Persia: He . . . shall perform all My pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, you shall be built; and to the Temple, your foundation shall be laid. . . . And he shall let go My captives (Isaiah 44:28; 45:13). These prophecies were given to reassure the Israelites that following the judgment foretold by Jeremiah of 70 years of captivity because of their sins, God would restore them once again to the Promised Land (Jeremiah 25:11-12).
To fulfill that prophecy, Cyrus made a proclamation. . . . Who is there among you of all His people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the House of the Lord God of Israel, (He is the God) which is in Jerusalem. . . . Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the House of the Lord which is in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1,3,5).
When Cyrus began conquering the nations, he did not know that the One True God had brought about his victories for His own purposes. The Lord is not only the God of Israel, but God of the whole world. It was also God who stirred the hearts of some of the Israelites in Babylon to return to Jerusalem to rebuild His Temple. No one was compelled to go. The plan of God for our lives does not alter our freedom of choice or our responsibility for our choices. We can ignore His will, but we will ultimately be held accountable for our wrong choices.
The Jews in the new Persian Empire were enjoying freedom and prosperity. Only a comparative few were willing to follow Zerubbabel and hazard the 600 to 800-mile, four-month journey on foot. The desire of the few who chose to go to Jerusalem was to reestablish true worship of God in the place where He had chosen to put His Name (Deuteronomy 12:21; 16:11; Nehemiah 1:9). On this journey, there was neither a pillar of fire by night nor a cloud by day, and no manna fell from Heaven as experienced by the Israelites who were freed from Egyptian slavery (Numbers 9:15-16,22-23). But there is not one complaint recorded among them. This is in contrast to the continual complaints of their ancestors, who had been miraculously released from Egypt (Numbers 20:24; 27:14; Deuteronomy 1:26,43; 9:23).
When we recognize that our Creator controls everything that affects our lives, we can truly enjoy the peace of God at all times, since all things work together for good to them that love God (Romans 8:28). Believing this removes all fear, faultfinding, anger, jealousy, and strife. God is sovereign over everything that takes place in our lives and will use whatever happens in our lives to our ultimate advantage. He will use the suffering and the pain that we experience. Because of this, we do not become frustrated, but enjoy the peace of God, which passeth all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Christ Portrayed: By Sheshbazzar, another name for Zerubbabel, the prince (governor) of Judah (Ezra 1:8). Christ is both the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6) and the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5).
Word Studies: 1:6 strengthened their hands means gave them assistance; 2:43 Nethinim means Temple servants; 2:63 Tirshatha means governor.
NOTE: Definitions may not agree with present-day usage as given in your dictionary; we attempt to explain the thought expressed in the original language.
Government Official: Rep. Mark Green (WI) · BPM Staff: Dr. John A. Hash · Pray for your church leaders · Pray for the Bible Pathway International Radio broadcast sponsored by Mr. Alex Maneffa · Country: Kuwait (2 million) in the northeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula · Major languages: Arabic and English · Increased religious freedom following Gulf War · 95% Muslim; 4% Christian · Prayer Suggestion: Remember that God hears and answers our prayers (Isaiah 65:24).
Optional Reading: II Corinthians 3
NOTE: Bible Pathway covers the Old Testament with devotional and commentary insights over a nine-month period, January through September. Each day during these months, an optional reading of one chapter a day from the New Testament will also be listed. The October, November, and December issues will provide a daily commentary on the New Testament readings. Thus, the reader goes through the New Testament twice each year using the Bible Pathway plan.
Memory Verse for the Week: II Corinthians 6:17