Have you ever been stumped in a pleasant way when something unexpected happens to cause you to marvel and wonder “how could this be?”. Have you experienced favor and generosity from someone totally random, who is not related to you in anyway that it just blows your mind off? Maybe something like a total stranger walking up to you and handing you a $100 gift card to go treat yourself at a nice restaurant.
Well, something way bigger and cooler happens in the book of Ezra.
Three different pagan rulers who had subdued the people of Israel and ruled over them decide to open their hearts and show favor to the exiled children of God so they can rebuild the temple of God which had been destroyed. Not only do these kings give the Israelites permission to go take care of the temple but they also equip them with the resources and remove the obstacles.
Let us take a closer look.
First up is Cyrus, king of Persia. His heart is moved by the Lord to:
- Permit the people of God to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple (1:3)
- Give out orders for “any survivors” to provide the people with silver, gold, goods, livestock and freewill offering to be used in the re-building of the temple (1:4)
- Bring out the articles that king Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from the temple all those years ago and give it back to the exiles (1:7-11)
This is truly remarkable. But why should we be surprised? This was God’s promise to the exiled children and it was up to the Lord to make it happen and He did.
Next up we see king Darius step in several years later. By this point even though the temple rebuilding work had been started, it had been met with opposition and had halted. This is where the next king Darius comes in. He actually ends up reading the history book and finds out the decree previously issued by king Cyrus concerning the temple and makes sure that the work will be completed (6:1-5). So then this is what he does:
- Orders the leaders who opposed the temple construction to not hinder the rebuilding anymore (6: 6-7)
- Makes provisions from his royal treasury to pay for the required temple expenses (6: 8-10)
- Decrees that anyone who opposes this edict will be put to death and their house be made a pile of rubble (6:11-12)
When God makes a way there is no stopping. And God can even use a foreign king to bring forth His promises to his people. The above allowed for the temple of God to be rebuilt and dedicated.
And it doesn’t end here.
Finally, the third king that we see God moving is king Artaxerxes of Persia. Several years after the temple was rebuilt is when we see Ezra being mentioned with his long list of credentials (7: 6, 10). He travels from Babylon to Jerusalem along with a group of exiled people God equipped with the favor and decree of king Artaxerxes who had made the following provisions:
- Permits the priests and Levites and any of the Israelites to travel back with Ezra (7:13)
- Blesses him richly with as much silver and gold as need to take to the God of Israel and to buy the necessary provisions for offering sacrifices to the Lord (7:15-17)
- Give permission to use the leftover money as he sees fit to enhance the temple (7: 18-19)
- And if anything more is needed to expense it to the royal treasury (7:20)
- Orders the other local treasurers and leaders to Ezra whatever else is needed (7:21-24)
- Give Ezra the authority to appoint magistrates and leaders as needed to administer justice as required by the law of the Lord (7:25-26)
What more could any one ask for? God will always be glorified no matter how bleak the situation may look like.
And what I have summarized up here is only part of the content in the book of Ezra. Why don’t you dive in yourself and read the whole book for yourself. Only 10 chapters and you can read it using my suggested plan below.
The Israelites in exile are remarkably being restored to their land as they find much favor and provision to rebuild the Temple and rediscover the law of the Lord under the leadership of Ezra.
Weekly Reading Plan
And now here is the weekly plan for you to read through this journey of the return of the exiles.
If you want to dig deeper here are some of my suggestions:
- Use the above schedule to read through all of the text
- Optional (if you want to really read through the Bible in a year): Read Psalms 88-90
And that is it for week 31!
Happy Bible Learning!