Ezra 2:2 Part 3: Renewed Hope of a Promised King

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.” – Emily Dickinson


“What gives me the most hope every day is . . . knowing that nothing is a surprise to God.” – Rick Warren


“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.


To be Zerubbabel — heir to David’s throne during a time of foreign subjugation — was to live with finite disappointment and infinite hope. His ancestor a couple generations back had incurred a “finite” curse:


” . . . even if you, Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, were a signet ring on my right hand, I would still pull you off . . .

Record this man as if childless,
a man who will not prosper in his lifetime,
for none of his offspring will prosper,
none will sit on the throne of David
or rule anymore in Judah.

(Jeremiah 22:24, 30)


But the infinite promise — the expectation that kept hope alive in the absence of a king — was that one of David’s descendants would still reign eternally.


David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of Israel . . .
If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, then my covenant with David . . . can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne.”

(Jeremiah 33:17b, 20-21)


The anointed king would:
1. be God
2. be God’s Son
3. reign forever
4. be obeyed by all nations
5. build the temple

the king

Do you see these themes in the following verses? Even if I think I’ve messed up the entire plan — or maybe that someone connected to me has messed it up for me! — God always keeps His promises.

God’s promise to Judah (ancestor of King David and prince Zerubbabel) was that a descendant would rule the nations:

“The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.”

(Genesis 49:10)


God’s promise directly to King David:

“The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom.
He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son.
When he does wrong,
[literally: when he is “bent”] I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’”
(2 Samuel 7:11-16)


King David prophesied many more details (only a few covered here):

“‘I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.’
I will proclaim the LORD’s decree: He said to me,
‘You are my son; today I have become your father.
Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance
,
the ends of the earth your possession.'”

(Psalm 2:6-8)


“I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant,
‘I will establish your line forever
and make your throne firm through all generations.’

. . . He will call out to me,
‘You are my Father,
my God
, the Rock my Savior.’
‘And I will appoint him to be my firstborn,
the most exalted of the kings of the earth.

‘I will maintain my love to him forever,
and my covenant with him will never fail.
‘I will establish his line forever,
his throne as long as the heavens endure.”

(from Psalm 89)

The prophet Isaiah echoed the promises to David:

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse [David’s father];
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit . . .
the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. In that day the LORD will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people . . .”

(Isaiah 11:1, 9b-11)


Isaiah said the promised ruler would be God.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.”

(Isaiah 9:6-7a)


A prophecy during prince Zerubbabel’s time:

“Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne.”
(Zechariah 6:12b-13)


And a prophecy directly to Zerubbabel — reversing his grandfather’s “signet ring” curse. This prophecy probably served the purpose of reassuring the people that the promised King would still come from David’s/Zerubbabel’s line:

“The word of the LORD came to Haggai . . .
‘Tell Zerubbabel governor of Judah that I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. I will overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms . . .
On that day,’ declares the LORD Almighty,
‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’
declares the LORD,
‘and I will make you like my signet ring,
for I have chosen you
,’
declares the LORD Almighty.”

(Haggai 2:20-23)


“He who testifies to these things says,
‘Yes, I am coming soon.’
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”

(Revelation 22:20)

Ezra 2:2 Part 2 King & Priest Family Line Requirements

The Old Testament contains well over 300 prophecies about the Anointed One (Messiah) who was promised. For one person to match all these descriptions — meeting the qualifications to be the Messiah — would be nothing short of miraculous.

What criteria did the Jewish people of Jesus’ time examine to determine whether Jesus was the One they were expecting? Some believed He was the Messiah; others did not. Can these criteria still help people today to decide who Jesus is? And do we have enough evidence to be confident that the prophecies that haven’t been fulfilled yet will actually take place?

Zerubbabel (heir to the throne) and Joshua (high priest) were privileged to be part of these prophecies, as “symbols” of the Anointed One.

“Listen, High Priest Joshua, you and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch . . . and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.” (Zechariah 3:8-9)

“. . . make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua . . . And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.” (Zechariah 6:11b-13)

As I continue digging through the king-priest prophecies, it helps to keep in mind:
– the “rules” regarding which families were eligible for kingship or priesthood, and
– the promises specifically about the Anointed One as king and priest.

king priest promises

Ezra 2:2 Part 1: A King-Priest is Coming

The next few posts, I will be exploring the King-Priest prophecies about Jesus.

“Now these are the people . . . who came up from the captivity . . . (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to their own town, in company with Zerubbabel, Joshua . . .)”
(Ezra 2:1-2a NIV)

The Jewish people are returning from decades of captivity in Babylon. Their two most significant leaders are
1) the heir to the throne, and
2) the high priest.

Recap on these two men:

Zerubbabel was heir to David’s throne. He served as governor of Judah under King Cyrus. He is listed as an ancestor of Jesus.

Joshua was the first high priest in the restored community. His name is the same as Jesus (Greek). It means “YHWH is salvation.”

Later in this story, God will send prophets to Zerubbabel and Joshua to encourage them as they build up the temple. We will go ahead and jump forward a bit in the story (as prophets do) and explore a few of these prophecies.

The prophecies were not intended to tell Joshua and Zerubbabel that they would be famous or significant. The prophecies told them to keep up the work, because all of it was leading to Jesus. What greater significance could any of us want, than to know that our efforts are pointing to Jesus?

One of the prophets, Zechariah, called Jesus “the Branch.”

The Branch would be like Zerubbabel and Joshua.
– He would be both king and priest.
– The two roles would be peaceful “friends” in Him.
– He would build the temple.

“Now listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your friends . . . are a symbol, for behold, I am going to bring in My servant the Branch . . . and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.” (Zechariah 3:8-9)

“Take silver and gold, make an ornate crown and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Then say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord. Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the Lord, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.”‘” (Zechariah 6:11-13)

Whatever challenges I face in the daily grind and the broken-down “rubble” today, let me keep my eyes open to the ways God wants to use my life as a symbol of Jesus. Let me value this type of significance more than any personally identifying significance. Let me stay encouraged and focused as I build up the other “living stones” in Jesus’ temple.

References:
Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (1980)
Kiel and Delitzch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. 4, 3rd ed., 2011
Gaelbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 1988
www.blueletterbible.org

Ezra 2:1-2a One Leader Short of a Full Team

Chapter Two finds us in a phone book of names — and in a foreign language.

But God’s Word is like a treasure map covered with Xs. Digging anywhere – even in a list of names – might uncover our Pearl of Great Price, who is Jesus.


Quick recap: The Israelites had been in captivity for the span of a lifetime. Now a band of young, idealistic leaders with few possessions and high expectations are trekking back to the ruins of Judah. Do they still have enough people — all the right people necessary for God to fulfill His ancient promises?

A couple names from the list of leaders might sound familiar:


“Now these are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive to Babylon (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to their own town, in company with Zerubbabel, Joshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum and Baanah)…”
(Ezra 2:1-2a NIV)

“Mordecai” and “Nehemiah” are names of Bible heroes from other books — but they are not the same people.

For the sake of saving the “best” for last, I’ll work backward through these names.


Reelaiah, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah — these names are all unfamiliar to me, and the commentaries shed little light on who they are.

Mordecai — not the same Mordecai who was uncle to Queen Esther. (Mordecai and niece Esther apparently stayed behind in Babylon.)

Nehemiah — not the same Nehemiah who came later to rebuild the wall (which got him an eternal book named after him).

Seraiah — shares his name with a high priest who had been put to death by King Nebuchadnezzar. That high priest, Seraiah (not the Seraiah here), was the grandfather of the last person on this list…

Zerubbabel — Zerubbabel was prince of Judah! He was heir to King David’s throne and an ancestor of Jesus. Zerubbabel was allowed to serve as governor, even though Judah was under Persian rule.

Joshua — Joshua was the first high priest among the captives who returned. His name, translated into Greek, is “Jesus.” It means “YHWH [God] is salvation.”


Joshua and Zerubbabel are exciting names! The prophets used them as symbols to explain what Jesus was going to do when He came. (More about that in future posts…)


There are eleven names on the list above — 11 leaders who returned.

In the Bible, God often chose 12 leaders to accomplish His purposes (especially the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 disciples).

Where is the 12th leader here?

The book of Nehemiah contains the same list, but with one name added, for a full 12:

“These are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town, in company with Zerubbabel, Joshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum and Baanah)…” (Nehemiah 7:6-7a NIV)

(Variations in names between the Ezra and Nehemiah lists are normal, like writing “Debbie” instead of “Deborah.”)


Our twelfth leader — the one who is included in Nehemiah’s list but not in Ezra’s — is Nahamani. The meaning of his name is interesting and comforting, considering the circumstances of the returning leaders.



Nahamani comes from the root word nacham. It means:

be sorry, repent, regret, be comforted, comfort
(TWOT)


We think of “repent” as people turning away from sin and turning back to God. But this Hebrew word is most often used for God “repenting” — even though God never sins!

When people repent and turn back to God, God “repents” and turns back from His punishment. He offers comfort instead.


…God repents … he relents or changes his dealings with men according to his sovereign purposes… From man’s limited, earthly, finite perspective it only appears that God’s purposes have changed. Thus the OT states that God “repented” of the judgments or “evil” which he had planned to carry out…”
(TWOT)



“Comfort, comfort [nacham, nacham] my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for…” (Isaiah 40:1-2 NIV)


For a tired, poor band of people returning to rebuild their homes after being in captivity as a punishment for idolatry, it might be reassuring to have a leader named “God gives comforts instead of punishment!”

(Short rabbit trail:

“Nahamani” is a variant form for “Nehemiah.”
(EBC-Vol4)

Could “Nahamani” be “Nehemiah” himself, with his name adjusted to distinguish from the first “Nehemiah” who came? The commentaries are silent…)


Does this “11-plus-1 leader” situation ring a bell?

At the time of Jesus’ resurrection, there were only 11 disciples. (Judas had betrayed Jesus and then killed himself.) The 12th disciple was replaced in the next few weeks.

This 12th disciple’s name was Matthias, which means “gift of God.”

The ultimate gift of God — the greatest comfort — is that He removes our shame and punishment (completed fully when Jesus died to pay for our sins).

Any time I feel inadequate (one sandwich short of a picnic, one hour short of a better post, one leader short of seeing God’s promises carried through) God already has a plan to supply whatever is missing. He is the God of completion.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life…” (2 Peter 1:3a)

“…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 1:6)

This is comfort, and a great gift from God.

References

www.blueletterbible.org

Through the Olive Tree Bible app:

“NICEZN” — Fensham, F. Charles. New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Eerdmans, 1982.

“EBC” — Garland, David E. and Longman III, Tremper. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4. Zondervan, 2010.

“TWOT” — Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Moody, Chicago, 1980.

Verses are NASB unless otherwise noted.

Ezra 1:8-11 Adoption, Identity, and Credit

OPEN UP:

heading1 overview

A man with a mystery name was entrusted with the temple valuables. He also laid the foundation of the temple, and he may have been the adoptive father of the prince.

My true, eternal name is also unknown. But the identity of my adoptive Father is clear.



“and Cyrus, king of Persia, had them brought out by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and he counted them out to Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah. Now this was their number: 30 gold dishes, 1,000 silver dishes, 29 duplicates; 30 gold bowls, 410 silver bowls of a second kind and 1,000 other articles. All the articles of gold and silver numbered 5,400. Sheshbazzar brought them all up with the exiles who went up from Babylon to Jerusalem. “
(Ezra 1:8-11)


heading2 people places

The captives are still preparing to leave captivity in Babylon and return to the ruins of Jerusalem…

Mithredath was treasurer to King Cyrus. His name is Persian, meaning “given by [the god] Mithra.”

Sheshbazzar, the “prince of Judah” also has a foreign name. He is a mystery man…



heading3 events

– King Cyrus had his treasurer count out the temple articles to Sheshbazzar.
– Sheshbazzar brought the temple articles back with the returning exiles.


heading4 inquire

Why are these people’s names so long??

I thought my 7-letter name was long! These 10- or 11-letter names just add to the difficulty of navigating an ancient, foreign culture.

The Jewish captives had been thrown into a melting pot that mixed at least four different languages.

Hebrew — the “home” language of the Jews, and the language of the Old Testament
Akkadian — possibly the language of the Babylonians
Parsa/Persian — the language of the Persians
Aramaic — a commonly-known language, sometimes used in official international documents


Can these names be skipped over?

I’m skipping Mithredath. His name is Persian, and he was treasurer to King Cyrus.

Sheshbazzar is such a mystery that he has the honor of making it into the “New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties.”

His name might mean “worshipper of fire.”

Or…

The name Sheshbazzar is commonly regarded as Babylonian, meaning either “Shamash [the sun- god] protects the son” (samas- abla- usur) or “Sin [the moon- god] protects the father” (sin- ab- usur).
(NICEZN)



If Sheshbazzar is prince of Judah, why does he have a name that refers to other gods?

The Babylonians gave new names to the captives who served in the royal court. For example, Daniel is a Hebrew name meaning “God is my judge.” In Babylon, Daniel received the court name Belteshazzar, which means “[the god] Bel protect the king.”

“…to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar…”
(Daniel 1:7)


What was Sheshbazzar’s Hebrew name?

Some older commentaries say he was Zerubbabel, the next “prince” in line for the throne. Zerubbabel played a key role in rebuilding the temple.

1. They are both called “prince” of Judah (although “prince” could refer to any appointed ruler, such as governor).
2. They are both appointed as (puppet) governors over Judah.
3. They are both credited with laying the foundation of the temple.

The only other place Sheshbazzar is mentioned is in an Aramaic document written by the Jews in Ezra 5, which says he laid the foundations of the temple.


“…[the temple articles] were given to one whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom [Cyrus] had appointed governor… Then that Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God in Jerusalem…”
(Ezra 5:14, 16)

The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it…”
(Zechariah 4:9)



Why would anyone doubt that “Sheshbazzar” is the Babylonian replacement name for “Zerubbabel”?

Zerubbabel is not a strong Hebrew name, clearly requiring a Babylonian replacement. It means “seed of Babylon” or “born in Babylon.” He probably was born in Babylon and may have been given an “acceptable” cross-cultural name.



Are there other possibilities for Sheshbazzar’s Hebrew identity?

(Assuming Sheshbazzar was Jewish, and not, for example, a secular governor/prince over Judah…)

Some have speculated that Sheshbazzar was Shealtiel, the uncle of Zerubbabel.

Shealtiel was part of the royal line, so the term “prince” would apply.

His name is clearly Hebrew, requiring a replacement name in Babylon. (Shealtiel means “I have asked of God.”)


Shealtiel seems to have adopted Zerubbabel.

“…Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brothers arose and built the altar…”
(Ezra 3:2)


Zerubbabel’s birth father was Pedaiah, Shealtiel’s brother, who may have died in captivity.

The sons of Jeconiah, the prisoner, were Shealtiel his son, and… Pedaiah

The sons of Pedaiah were Zerubbabel…”
(1 Chronicles 3:17-19)



Which one laid the foundation of the temple?

If Zerubbabel was young, Shealtiel/Sheshbazzar may have been governor for a short time until Zerubbabel took over. They may have laid the foundation of the temple together.


We’ll probably never be sure, this side of heaven.


use

Above all else, my salvation is a matter of identity.

Am I still a captive, with the horrible names a captive is called?

Worthless.
Worshipper of worthless things.
Unfaithful to God.
Not free to choose.

Whose child am I? What is my real name?


Some of this I won’t know until I get to heaven.

“To him who overcomes… I will give… a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.”
(Revelation 2:17)

We don’t know everything, but then we will, just as God completely understands us.”
(1 Corinthians 13:12b CEV)


Like Sheshbazzar/Shealtiel/Zerubbabel, my real name is a mystery — but there is no question whose child I am.

“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
(Romans 8:15-16 NIV)


I love my earthly parents, but in the records, look for me under “Deborah daughter of God!”



If today were my last day on earth, I would:

…make sure my kids know their true identity as God’s children through His Spirit.



heading6 pray

God,
Not only did you make me a full daughter, but you made me a full heir. You even gave me Your own nature — Your Spirit. I share this with a lot of other people, and we all merge together to form the temple. It doesn’t matter which one did what. It matters that we are together, and we belong. This is a great, mysterious gift!
For Jesus’ glory alone, Amen.

References

www.blueletterbible.org
Bible Hub: Sheshbazzar
Defending Inerrancy

New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Zondervan, 1982. (link)

Through the Olive Tree Bible app:

“NICEZN” — Fensham, F. Charles. New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Eerdmans, 1982.

“EBC” — Garland, David E. and Longman III, Tremper. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4. Zondervan, 2010.

“TWOT” — Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Moody, Chicago, 1980.

All verses are NASB unless otherwise noted.

Ezra 1:6-7 Small Resources for Big Restoration

OPEN UP:

heading1 overview

The returning captives must have felt joy and loss as they recovered the articles of worship that had survived the temple destruction.

With God, there is hope that He has a bigger plan for restoration than anything we’ve imagined.


“All those about them encouraged them with articles of silver, with gold, with goods, with cattle and with valuables, aside from all that was given as a freewill offering. Also King Cyrus brought out the articles of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and put in the house of his gods;” (Ezra 1:6-7)



heading2 people places

Jewish captives are preparing to leave Babylon, returning to the ruins of Jerusalem.

Nebuchadnezzar was the former king of Babylon (before King Cyrus of Persia defeated the Babylonians). In 587 BC, King Neb had destroyed Jerusalem, taking the Jews captive.

Nebuchadnezzar’s gods might have included Marduk, the same god Cyrus worshipped.

The house of Nebuchadnezzar’s gods contained articles captured from foreign temples.

Conquerers customarily carried off the statues of the gods of conquered cities. The Hittites took the statue of Marduk when they conquered the city of Babylon… As the Jews did not have a statue of the Lord, Nebuchadnezzar carried off the temple goods instead.
(EBC-Vol4)



heading3 events

– Neighbors gave valuables to those preparing to return to Jerusalem.
– King Cyrus brought out the articles of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had put in the house of his god.



heading4 inquire



Would the Jews have compared their release from captivity with the “exodus,” when the Israelites left Egypt after 400 years in slavery?

The Israelites had received gifts before they escaped Egypt, similar to the way the Jews were receiving gifts as they left captivity.

“God said to Abram, ‘Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years. But I will also judge the nation whom they will serve, and afterward they will come out with many possessions.‘” (Genesis 15:13-14)

“Israel… requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. (Exodus 12:35-36)


It is probable that Cyrus was assisted by Jews in the drawing up of [his] decree… which is constructed with a good knowledge of current Jewish conceptions. This would also explain the undertones of the Exodus motif…   It is understandable that the Jew or Jews who assisted the secretaries of Cyrus with the construction of the decree could have included their ideal of a new exodus in communications to their country. 
(NICEZN)



Did God intend for the Jewish people to “plunder” Babylon in the same way that the Israelites “plundered” Egypt before they came out of slavery?

When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, their population exploded. They left with great wealth, as a result of gifts they had received from the Egyptians.

But only a small remnant of Jews returned from Babylonian captivity. The gifts they received probably came from Jewish neighbors who chose to stay, more than from the Babylonians.

The Babylonian captivity was the result of sin. The captives were returning, greatly weakened, to a ruined city. They would not regain independent rule in the foreseeable future. The rebuilt temple would be a pale reflection of the first one.

If God had a purpose in the captivity (other than disciplining His people), it seemed to have been more along the lines of dispersing them among the nations to pave inroads for the spread of the gospel, rather than increasing their wealth.

Were all the articles from the temple returned just as they were?

This seems unlikely. Nebuchadnezzar had cut apart some of the gold and bronze.

“He carried out… all the treasures of the house of the LORD… and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple…”
(2 Kings 24:13)

“Now the bronze pillars which were in the house of the LORD, and the stands and the bronze sea which were in the house of the LORD, the Chaldeans broke in pieces and carried the bronze to Babylon. …the bronze of all these vessels was beyond weight.”
(2 Kings 25:13, 16)


Did God care about their wealth and the articles from the temple?

“Yes… concerning the vessels that are left in the house of the LORD… ‘They will be carried to Babylon and they will be there until the day I visit them,’ declares the LORD. ‘Then I will bring them back and restore them to this place.’” (Jeremiah 27:21-22)

I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’” (Jeremiah 29:13-14)


use

Even while the people were receiving back their treasures, there must have been a great sense of loss. Things are not fully restored. How could they possibly recreate the glory of the pillars and the massive bronze sea that were in Solomon’s temple?

The plans I thought God had for me didn’t turn out quite so gloriously as I thought they would, either! I can see better times ahead, but there is a sense of loss. This isn’t Eden, and it isn’t Heaven, and I share the blame for it. I’ve had my own idols, and I’ve done things wrong, and I can’t go back and fix it.

With God, though, there is always hope. He always has good plans — surprises.

The best surprise is that Jesus is coming. He is coming to this worn-down temple that falls so far short of the glory it was intended to have. The good news of peace, forgiveness, and love will be spread in a way that is not overbearing, intimidating, and impressive, but humble and gentle, for the brokenhearted.

From the small rebuilding effort will come something bigger than they could possibly imagine. Billions and billions would find the God of hope through their contribution to the Bigger Story.


If today were my last day on earth, I would:

…write down how God has worked in my story.

heading6 pray

God,
You are the God in the small beginnings. You are the God of the seed that falls to the ground and dies an inglorious death before sprouting as a tender shoot, taking root, and growing big branches that bear fruit. You are the God of mustard-seed small faith. You are the God who can be trusted with every broken-down failure. You are for the little band of returning captives, just wanting to do it right this time, wanting to seek You with all their hearts, hoping you’ll show up. God, please show up today, and let me know Your powerful presence in this humble temple.
For Jesus, who struggled on this same earth, Amen.



References

www.blueletterbible.org

Through the Olive Tree Bible app:

“EBC” — Garland, David E. and Longman III, Tremper. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4. Zondervan, 2010.

“NICEZN” — Fensham, F. Charles. New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Eerdmans, 1982.

All verses are NASB unless otherwise noted.

Ezra 1:5 Judah Preserves His Brother

“Then the heads of fathers’ households of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and the Levites arose, even everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up and rebuild the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.”
(Ezra 1:5)

OPEN UP:

heading1 overview

In God’s Story, nothing is random. There are significant promises and traditions around each of the three tribes that God preserved to go back to Jerusalem.



heading2 people places

People:

heads of the tribe of Judah
heads of the tribe of Benjamin

Levites — all descendants of the tribe of Levi, including priests
priests — descendants of Levi who had been specially commissioned to be priests

Places:
leaving Babylonian captivity to return to Jerusalem


heading3 events

– God “stirred the spirits” of some of the Jews in captivity.
– Those people arose to return.


heading4 inquire

“spirit”ruwach — wind, breath, mind
“arose”quwm — rise, arise, stand; often used for making preparations, especially for travel (see the post for Ezra 1:1c-2a)



Who were Judah, Benjamin, and Levi?

They were three of Israel’s twelve sons. The descendants of the other sons had been almost entirely lost, due to wars, captivity, and intermarriage.


Judah — the royal line

The descendants of Judah were preserved for a few reasons:

1. Practically speaking, they avoided capture the longest because they lived in the fortified capital city of Jerusalem.

2. They stayed faithful to God longer than the other tribes, so God delayed His punishment of them.

3. They carried the prophecy of an eternal king from their line. God protected them in order to fulfill this promise. (Jesus came from the royal line of Judah.)

“The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.”

(Genesis 49:10 NIV)


Levi — priestly line

The descendants of Levi were priests. They had no land allotted to them. They were supposed to be scattered among the twelve tribes, to serve them. The temple was in Jerusalem, so a good portion of the priests (including the high priest) would have lived there.


Benjamin

It makes sense that God would preserve the kings and priests.
But why Benjamin?

Practically speaking again, the land allotted to Benjamin was next to Judah’s land, with Jerusalem on the border.

In later Jewish history Benjamin was closely associated with Judah.
(NICEZN)

The descendants of Benjamin could easily have been preserved within the fortifications of Jerusalem.

Circumstances are rarely random in God’s Story, though.

Many years before, Judah offered his life to redeem his brother Benjamin — foreshadowing Jesus’ redeeming sacrifice.

A quick review of the story in Genesis:

— The brothers sell Joseph into slavery (Ch. 37)
— Joseph rises to second in command of Egypt (Ch. 41)
— Joseph’s brothers come to Egypt to ask for food but don’t recognize Joseph (Ch. 42)
— Joseph’s brothers come back for more food, this time bringing little Benjamin (Joseph’s only full brother) (Ch. 43)
— Joseph plants a “stolen” silver cup in Benjamin’s sack of grain, arrests him, and says he will keep him prisoner (Ch. 44)

This is where Judah rises to become a redeemer:

“…if my father… sees that the boy isn’t there, he will die …please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. … Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father.”
(Genesis 44:30-34 NIV)

— Joseph sobs, hugs his brothers, and has his dad brought to Egypt (Ch. 45)



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The king of Judah has offered His life in my place, to save me from my own prisons.

Because He has redeemed me, I’m lumped together with Him, permanently. His inheritance is mine! God preserves Jesus’ life for the fulfillment of promises. My life is preserved, too (like Benjamin’s), because Jesus once offered His life to save mine.

“For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”
(Hebrews 9:15 NIV)

“…we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
(Romans 8:17 NIV)

If today were my last day on earth, I would:

…look for ways to sacrifice for others.



heading6 pray

God,
I want to be like Judah and Jesus, sharing in their suffering. I don’t do well with suffering, God. But Judah was motivated by his compassionate desire to relieve others’ suffering, just like Jesus was. Please open my eyes with compassion for the misery in the world, and show me what I can do to alleviate it.
For Jesus and His priceless inheritance, Amen.

References:
– Garland, David E. and Longman III, Tremper. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4. Zondervan, 2010.
– Fensham, F. Charles. New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Eerdmans, 1982.
Bible Gateway: The Dispersion
– www.blueletterbible.org
All verses are NASB unless otherwise noted.

Ezra 1:4 To Stay or To Go

“Every survivor, at whatever place he may live, let the men of that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:4)

OPEN UP:

heading1 overview

The gifts to the returning Jews probably came from the many Jews who chose to stay in Babylon. God had plans for both groups.


heading2 people places

People:
The LORD
every survivor — former Jewish citizens of Jerusalem and Judah (and their children) who had been relocated into captivity 70 years prior

men of that place

“…could mean non-Israelite neighbors… More probably it designates the many Jews, especially of the second and the third generation, who did not wish to leave the land of their birth.”
(EBC-Vol4)

Places:
whatever place he may live — Babylonian cities to which the Jewish captives had been deported 70 years prior


heading3 events

– King Cyrus asks men in each place where captive Jews had settled to give money, livestock, and gifts to the Jews who were preparing to return to Jerusalem.


heading4 inquire

Were the Jews required to return to Judah?

King Cyrus didn’t require it. He only allowed it:

“Any of his people among you may go…”
(Ezra 1:3 NIV)


The earlier prophets suggest that God wanted His people to return:

“Leave Babylon, flee from the Babylonians! Announce this with shouts of joy and proclaim it…”
(Isaiah 48:20 NIV)

“…now, get out of Babylon as fast as you can… Lead the way home!”
(Jeremiah 50:10, 8-9 MSG)


Were the Jews who stayed disobeying God?

Godly Jewish leaders stayed in Babylon — Esther, her uncle Mordecai, the prophet Daniel, etc. God used them in positions of leadership to influence foreign kings and protect their people.

“…who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
(Esther 4:14 NIV)


Why would anyone prefer to stay?

If they had followed what the prophet Jeremiah told them when they went into captivity, they were well established in Babylon:

“This is what the LORD… says… ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage… Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.’”
(Jeremiah 29:4-7 NIV)


“A significant group stayed behind, because they had become prosperous and were satisfied with conditions in that country. They enjoyed a great amount of freedom and some of them [were successful in] business.”
(NICEZN)



Did the Jews who stayed “miss the boat,” in terms of what God was doing?

The more I study the Old Testament, the more I am convinced of God’s ultimate control of history. This doesn’t excuse people from personal responsibility, but when they do return to the God who is not bound by time, He is fully capable of weaving mistakes into His Story, as if He always knew they would happen.

Many years before the Babylonian exile, when the northern and southern tribes of Israel split and civil war was imminent, God said:

“…You must not go up and fight against your relatives… for this thing has come from Me…”
(1 Kings 12:24 NASB)

(The Message version puts it: “I’m in charge here.”)

After that point, the Israelites — who had at least a dormant understanding of God — became increasingly scattered among the nations. Even during the time of the Babylonian exile, many of the Jews who had not been taken captive ended up settling in Egypt.

“THE DISPERSION was the general title applied to those Jews who remained settled in foreign countries after the return from the Babylonian exile… The influence of the Dispersion on the rapid [spread] of Christianity can scarcely be overrated. The course of the apostolic preaching followed in a regular progress the line of Jewish settlements.”
Source: Bible Gateway



In a more immediate sense, God used the Jews who stayed to financially support the Jews who returned.

“Although financially assisted by their rich Jewish compatriots, the Jewish returnees were poor and ill equipped to shoulder their responsibilities in Judah.” (NICEZN)



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I’ve regretted the many years when I was busy with life and wasn’t paying attention to what God was doing.

God used those dark times, though. Especially when I saw how God brought me out of them, they made my faith far more valuable to me than it would have been otherwise.


In spite of wasted years, Jesus says it isn’t too late to do His work:

“‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’ “But he answered… ‘I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you… are you envious because I am generous?’”
(Matthew 20:12-16 NIV)


I’m commanded to “go,” just as the Jews of the exile were:

“Go into all the world…”
(Mark 16:15 NIV)

“…go and make disciples of all nations…”
(Matthew 28:19 NIV)

I used to imagine traveling to do humanitarian work. I’ve wondered if my mistakes prevented that. But now I am in a position where I can financially support others who go.

Also — like the Jews of the exile — I have no idea how my circumstances might fit into God’s Big Story.

“…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
(Romans 8:28 NIV)

“I’m in charge here.”
(1 Kings 12:24 MSG)


If today were my last day on earth, I would:

…trust that God knows exactly what He’s doing; if I’ve loved Him and have been called according to His purpose, my life has not been wasted.


heading6 pray

God,
Just like everyone else who follows You, I want You to use my life in Your Story. You promised that Your Holy Spirit would enable us to serve You. Please let me walk by the Spirit today, and teach me to recognize Your voice.
For the sake of Jesus, whose work makes life well worth living, Amen.


References:
– Garland, David E. and Longman III, Tremper. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4. Zondervan, 2010.
– Fensham, F. Charles. New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Eerdmans, 1982.
Bible Gateway: The Dispersion
– www.blueletterbible.org
All verses are NASB unless otherwise noted.

Ezra 1:3 How to Appease “All” the Gods

“Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! 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. (Ezra 1:2b-3)

OPEN UP:

heading1 overview

There is only one God who needs to be appeased. Faith and belief are pleasing to Him.


heading2 people places

People:
King Cyrus
the God who is in Jerusalem
His people

Places:
Jerusalem which is in Judah


heading3 events

– Cyrus decrees that all Jewish survivors of the Babylonian captivity can go back to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple.

heading4 inquire

Did King Cyrus believe in God?

Only God knows, but Cyrus may have been pantheistic.

At that time, when a new king took power, it was common for him (or his advisors) to write a decree announcing that the gods had appointed him as king.

Cyrus’s decree is inscribed in a clay cylinder using ancient cuneiform writing.

image

Photo source


Excerpt from the Cyrus Cylinder:

“[The god Marduk]… checked all the countries, seeking for the upright king of his choice. He took under his hand Cyrus… and called him by his name

I am Cyrus, king of the universe…

I sent back to their places… the gods… and made permanent sanctuaries for them. I collected together all of their people and returned them to their settlements, and the gods … I returned them unharmed to… the sanctuaries that make them happy. May all the gods that I returned to their sanctuaries… ask for a long life for me…”

Translation source: the British Museum


The following verse has some parallels with the Cyrus Cylinder. (The prophet Isaiah lived before Cyrus — remember that Cyrus means “sun.”)

“Thus says the Lord to Cyrus His anointed,
Whom I have taken by the right hand,
To subdue nations before him…
‘I will give you… treasures… And hidden wealth…
So that you may know that it is I…
who calls you by your name…
though you have not known Me
;
That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun
That there is no one besides Me.”
(Isaiah 45:1-6)



Is God ok with acknowledging several gods?

Cyrus’ respect for other nations’ gods seems enlightened, tolerant, and loving.


The Bible says:

– there is only one God.

“…the LORD is God; besides him there is no other.”
(Deuteronomy 4:35 NIV)


– worshipping nonexistent gods is a destructive, unhealthy waste of resources.

“Those who worship hollow gods… walk away from their only true love.”
(Jonah 2:8 MSG)

“[they will] cry out to the gods to whom they burn incense, but they will not help them at all when disaster strikes.”
(Jeremiah 11:12 NIV)

“All who make idols… which can profit nothing… are only human beings. … The blacksmith… gets hungry and loses his strength… The carpenter… shapes it… that it may dwell in a shrine. … He prays to it and says, “Save me! You are my god!” … No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, ‘Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals. … Shall I bow down to a block of wood?’ …a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself…”
(Isaiah 44:9-20 NIV)



– fulfilled prophecy is a way God helps people gain confidence that He is real.

“I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God. Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come… Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock…”
(Isaiah 44:6-8 NIV)



Why did Cyrus think the god Marduk was leading him to be compassionate? Why do other religions have good in them?

“He has… set eternity in the human heart…”
(Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV)

A book titled “Eternity In Their Hearts” suggests that every culture contains fragments of the knowledge of God.

Maybe this is because all people descended from Adam or Noah (who both knew God)…
Maybe it’s because all people were created in the image of God and are designed to know God…

“…people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough… By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives…”
( Romans 1:18-23 MSG)

The author of “Eternity…” also wrote “The Peace Child,” a story about warring cannibalistic tribes who came to understand what Jesus did — by enacting their cultural practice of giving one of their infants to the enemy to secure peace. (This beautiful video briefly tells the story.)



Cyrus was trying to make all the gods happy. But if there is only one God, what makes that God happy?

To believe He exists and believe in the one He has sent:

“…without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
(Hebrews 11:6 NIV)

“Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’”
(John 6:28-29 NIV)



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I can learn about God through studying the Bible, and the fulfilled historical prophecies give me confidence about its truth.

There is still so much I don’t know…

What does God do about people who have grown up believing in other gods? What if they are busy serving their families — or they don’t read well — and they aren’t able to study other religions in-depth to find the religion that offers the most solid reason to believe?

At the root is a different question:
Can I trust God’s character, that He is compassionate and fair?

I can see through history that when there is a true understanding of what Jesus did, people are set free from injustice, violence, and despair. When God acts — even to mete out justice — compassion is at the core of His motives.

I need to have faith in His plan to bring compassionate justice to every nation.


If today were my last day on earth, I would:

…look for specific ways to be a reflection of God’s compassion.


heading6 pray

God,
Please have mercy on the people in the world who are oppressed by violent religions. You have created them in Your image, and Your compassion is hidden in them, piercing their consciences. Bring them to a place where they can think clearly. Provide clues to help them understand what You have done for them. God, have mercy on me for the ways that I don’t understand You, and for the ways I’ve shut myself off to common sense and to belief.
For the sake of Jesus and His incomprehensible love, Amen.


References:
Wikipedia: Cyrus Cylinder
British Museum: Cyrus Cylinder
Don Richardson, “Eternity in Their Hearts.” Bethany House, 2006.
Don Richardson, “Peace Child.” Bethany House, 2005.
Statement by Don Richardson about Islam

Ezra 1:2c A Home Founded By the God of Peace

Passage: Ezra 1:2b

“…in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.” (Ezra 1:2b-3)

OPEN UP:

heading1 overview

God wanted His Name to dwell in a specific location. Ultimately, this location was and will be Mount Zion, or Jerusalem.



heading2 people places

Cyrus — king of Persia, conquered Babylon, declared that the captive Jews could return to their homeland

Jerusalem — city conquered and established by King David in 1000 BC, then conquered by the Babylonians in 597 BC

Judah — the parcel of the Promised Land that was allotted to the descendants of Judah (one of the twelve sons/tribes of Israel)


heading3 events

– Cyrus designates the location of the rebuilt temple: Jerusalem, which is in Judah.


heading4 inquire

How did the Israelites begin to live in Judah/Jerusalem?

Israel had three founding fathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel. God promised that He would give their descendants the large piece of land that was then occupied by Canaanites.

Jacob/Israel had twelve sons. Hundreds of years later, when the descendants (tribes) of those sons finally entered the Promised Land, they divided the land into twelve pieces. The next step was to actually conquer it.

Jerusalem was on the border of the land allotted to the descendants of Judah and Benjamin. It was called Jebus (also Zion), inhabited by the Jebusites. The Israelites conquered and burned Jebus, but they did not succeed in driving out the Jebusites.

Later, King David (descendant of Judah) defeated the Jebusites. He made Jerusalem the capital of Israel.


Why was it important to have a capital city for the Israelites?

Years earlier, when Moses brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, before they entered the Promised Land, God told them:

“…seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go…

Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please. Offer them only at the place the LORD will choose in one of your tribes…”
(Deuteronomy 12:5, 13-14 NIV)

This is repeated multiple times — God will choose a place, and sacrifices can only be made there. Generally this was the place where the Ark of the Covenant was located.


Where did God choose for the Ark of the Covenant to be located?

It isn’t entirely clear to me how God specifically chose a location…

A few Scriptures say that Shiloh was God’s first choice for His dwelling:

“Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for my Name…”
(Jeremiah 7:12 NIV)

“He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent he had set up among humans.”
(Psalm 78:60 NIV)


Shiloh — the name of a city. Closely related words are “tranquility” and “rest.” With a slightly different rendering, it means “to whom it belongs.”


Right before Jacob/Israel died, he used the word “Shiloh” when he blessed his son Judah:

“Judah…your father’s sons will bow down to you…
The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs
shall come [“to whom it belongs” is actually “Shiloh” in the Hebrew text] and the obedience of the nations shall be his.”
(Genesis 49:8-10 NIV)


If God first chose Shiloh, why isn’t Shiloh the capital of Israel?

God abandoned Shiloh due to the disobedience of the Israelites, and the Ark moved somewhere else.

Following is a list of major locations of the Ark (not a complete list):

– When the Israelites wandered in the desert, sacrifices were made at the tent (tabernacle) where the Ark of the Covenant was kept.

– After the Israelites had settled some of the Promised Land, the tent with the Ark was set up at Shiloh.

– Shiloh was destroyed when the Israelites disobeyed God. (They had been worshipping other gods, and the priests had been sleeping with temple workers, etc.) They decided to take the Ark into battle as if it were a magic talisman. The Ark was captured by their enemies and later returned.

– The Ark moved from place to place for several years.

– King David conquered Jerusalem and secured peace for the Israelites. After he had built himself a nice palace…

“[David] said to Nathan the prophet, ‘Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.’”
(2 Samuel 7:2 NIV)

God responded:

“…Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? … I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling… did I ever say…’Why have you not built me a house…?’

…I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”
(2 Samuel 7:5-7, 12-13)

– God allowed David’s son, King Solomon, to build a temple in Jerusalem. The Ark of the Covenant was moved to the temple. God showed His recognition of the new location by filling it with a visible sign of His glory.

– The Ark disappeared at some unknown point afterward.



What was the status of Jerusalem in the time of Ezra?

By the time of Ezra, most of the Promised Land had been lost to wars. The descendants had been scattered into captivity, and their culture and lineage were lost to intermarriage. Although Jerusalem had stood firm longer than the rest of the Promised Land, it had also been taken and burned by the Babylonians, along with the temple.

When King Cyrus of Persia defeated the Babylonians, he let the descendants of Judah and Benjamin return to the province of Judah and rebuild the temple (although Judah and Jerusalem remained under Persian rule).

By the time Jesus came, Jerusalem was under Roman rule.
Still, God had preserved the city, the temple, the rituals, and the lineage of Judah, ready for the fulfillment of ancient prophecies.


What is the future of Jerusalem?

Revelation 21 in the New Testament describes the New Jerusalem, but there are also prophecies in the Old Testament:

“Then you will know that I, the LORD your God, dwell in Zion, my holy hill. Jerusalem will be holy; never again will foreigners invade her… Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations.”
(Joel 3:17, 20 NIV)

“In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established… and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple… He will teach us his ways…’ The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes… Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore… The LORD will rule over them in Mount Zion from that day and forever.”
(Micah 4:1-3, 7 NIV)


Jerusalem — means “founded by [the God of] peace”



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God wanted to give His people a home where they could rest peacefully, enjoying healthy relationships with Him and with each other.

The first plan, Shiloh, had to be abandoned because of the people’s disobedience.

The first covenant (contained in the Ark) also had to be abandoned because of the people’s disobedience.

But God keeps His promises even when people fail. Jesus became the sacrifice that was offered in the place God chose — Jerusalem. Jesus’ blood marked the establishment of a New Covenant, which will be completely fulfilled in the New Jerusalem.

My part of the New Covenant is easy: Let my life be purchased by God through Jesus’ blood, and look for my salvation only in Him.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins… If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God.”
(1 John 4:10, 15 NIV)

If today were my last day on earth, I would:

…rest and be founded in peace, knowing that I am completely forgiven.


heading6 pray

God,
You showed in so many ways that You were going to send Jesus — and that His rule would establish peace. I have a taste of that peace now, but I look forward to seeing peace come to all the nations. Please rule over my life now, today, and teach me Your ways. Bring health to my life, and let me know the presence of God living in me.
For the sake of Jesus, who bears Your Name and lives in me, Amen.

References:
Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Moody, 1980
www.blueletterbible.org
article on The Journeying of the Tabernacle

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