Passage: Ezra 1:2b-3
“…to build Him a house…”(Ezra 1:2b)
God’s house/temple on Earth was a symbol of a Covenant
— an agreement with His people that His presence would stay with them.
– Cyrus decreed that God had appointed him to build Him a house.
Was Cyrus the first to build God a “house” on Earth?
1. Moses built the tabernacle according to God’s specifications:
– a tent that could be easily moved in the desert
– contained the Ark of the Covenant (see below)
“…have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.” (Exodus 25:8-9)
“Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God.” (Exodus 29:45)
2. King Solomon built the first stationary temple:
– after peace had been established in the capital city of Jerusalem
– also contained the Ark of the Covenant (see below)
– was destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar of the Babylonians
– the articles that were not destroyed were taken by Babylon
“The word of the LORD came to Solomon: ‘As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, observe my laws and keep all my commands and obey them… I will live among the Israelites…”
(2 Samuel 7:11-12)
3. This study of the book of Ezra will take us through the rebuilding of a smaller, second temple:
– completed around 350 BC
– never contained the Ark of the Covenant (maybe destroyed by Babylon; see below)
– the second temple was destroyed again in 70 AD, a few decades after Jesus’ life on earth
What was the Ark of the Covenant?
The Ark of the Covenant was a small wooden box (4′ x 2′ x 2.5′).
Inside were the stone tablets that were engraved with the Ten Commandments that God had given to Moses.
The lid of the box had a gold plate over it, called the “atonement cover” (often translated “mercy seat”). The priests would sprinkle blood over this plate. God, whose presence was over the Ark, would see the blood, covering over the Law that the people had broken. The blood would atone for the people’s sins, and God would have mercy.
(Note: The “ark” of the covenant is not the same Hebrew word used for Noah’s “Ark” — although God did tell Noah to “cover” that ark with a “covering.” (A pitch covering is implied.) The word for “atonement cover” (mercy seat) comes from the word used for the command to “cover” Noah’s ark. And the word “covering” (translated “pitch”) usually refers to the ransom of a life, i.e., a blood covering.)
Did the disappearance of the Ark of the Covenant indicate a failure or weakness in God’s plan?
Years before the temple was destroyed and its artifacts confiscated, Jeremiah prophesied:
“‘In those days, when your numbers have increased greatly in the land,’ declares the LORD, ‘people will no longer say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” It will never enter their minds or be remembered; it will not be missed, nor will another one be made.'”
The details of the tabernacle, two temples, and the ark of the covenant can be overwhelming.
In a nutshell, God wants to live with the people He created.
They had to make a Covenant first — which reminds me of a prenuptial agreement. The deal was that they would obey His law, and He would live among them and never abandon them.
They broke their part of the agreement, as everyone has broken God’s Law. At the destruction of the temple, it appeared that God had let the Covenant go, abandoning His people — especially because the Ark of the Covenant went missing.
But God does not go back on His promises, ever.
“…if we are faithless,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot disown himself…”
(2 Timothy 2:13)
“‘Return, faithless Israel…
for I am faithful,’ declares the LORD…
‘…I am your husband…'”
No matter what I’ve done, I can always turn back to God. I should never believe that He has abandoned me.
If today were my last day on earth, I would:
…make sure my family knows I will never abandon them. Even if they’ve made me upset, they are always welcome.
I have turned away from You again and again, doing things that aren’t healthy or good. My guilt piles up, which makes me believe I should stay away from You — when You are the only One who can fix what I’m doing wrong. The truth is that my broken Law has been permanently covered by the blood of Your own Son. Your presence is always available to me, guilt-free. Thank you for Your life-changing friendship and commitment to me.
For Jesus, whose blood covers the broken Law,
All verses are NIV unless otherwise noted.