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Mar 10, 2015

90 Day Challenge – Day 69

Sarah Christmyer

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Bible Time Period: Return

You brought the exiles back to Canaan; they rebuilt the Temple and Jerusalem and were taught once more from your Law: Rebuild my broken heart and life as I return to you.

Period Preview

The state of God’s people at the close of the period of the Exile is as follows:

  • Israel, the northern kingdom, was conquered by Assyria in 722 BC and the tribes that composed it ceased to exist in any meaningful way.  Most of the people were deported and scattered.  In their place, King Sargon imported people from five other conquered nations and settled them in the area of Samaria.  These intermarried with the remaining Israelites.  The mixed  population of Samaritans that resulted worshiped the God of Israel right along with the gods they brought from their homelands.
  • In 587 BC, the southern kingdom (Judah) fell to the Babylonians, who destroyed Jerusalem and the TEmple and carried off many of the Judeans to exile in Babylon.  God’s faithfulness to his people and to the promises he made regarding David’s throne — despite their infidelty — can be seen in the messages of the prophets of that time, who prophesied destruction and exile but also held out the hope of restoration and a new covenant.

The period we now enter, the Return, will chronicle Judah’s return home after 70 years of Babylonian captivity.  The people return in three waves over about a hundred years.  The story is told in the books of Ezra (who describes the first two waves of return) and Nehemiah.  Before you read, try to imagine yourself into the scene.  Knowing all that the Promised Land an the Kingdom meant to Israel, what must it have been like to be away from that land for so long?  What damage has been done to the place and teh people?  What kind of healing is required to make them whole?  Amid all the events that are described, focus on the three types of rebuilding that take place during this time of return:

  • Zerubbabel will lead Judah in rebuilding the Temple;
  • Ezra will rebuild their spiritual lives by teaching the Law; and
  • Nehemiah will head an effort to rebuild the Jerusalem walls.

Two new world powers come into play during this time and greatly influence the course of events:  Persia, which gains ascendancy at the start of the period, and Greece, which follows about 200 years later.  In secular history, this is the time of Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle.

Today’s Reading

Ezra 1-5

Today’s Question

What unlikely person did God use to return his people to the Promised Land?  Does this surprise you?  What does it tell you about God?

Join the discussion below!

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  • God uses the Babylonian King Cyrus to decree the return of those Jews who were inclined to do so, to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of the God. This does not surprise me. God uses the most unlikely people to do His Most Holy Will. As I went to bed last night, I was thinking about our comments the last couple of days about the carrying off into captivity of the Jews into exile, both in the north and in the south…God appears to be a punitive and judgmental God…which we know is not God…God we say is loving, kind, merciful, and wants to be in relationship with His people…so as I thought about it, I realized that it was the behavior of the people themselves that caused the bad results to happen…1. Their focus turned from God to other more selfish desires and gods. 2. They began to weaken in their resolve to fight for their belief in God as David and Solomon did. For these reasons they would show to countries around them their vulnerabilities and those countries took action against Israel and Judah at their weakest moments…God allowed this to happen to the Jewish people because they had turned from God. I believe that the captivity caused those in Babylonia to repent of their former actions and desire to worship God again, in which case God in His loving mercy turns King Cyrus’ heart to favor the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, thus the return of the people to their own land. I am a retired teacher. I have felt for a very long time, having worked closely with children, that 1. We are responsible for our own behavior. 2. Our behavior has good and bad consequences. 3. When we go against God’s law (commandments and Church law)when we act, we can expect to pay the consequences of such an action. Yet, God, because He is always loving, will never turn His back on us…He is always in the business of calling us back to following Him more closely…There is a children’s book that I used with my own children many, many moons ago; and then with my students (though I didn’t mention God as I was teaching in public school at the time)to teach them about decision making and problem solving…it really, really helped to get them to understand this process we all must make…It was “Making Up Your Own Mind” by Jan Wilt Berry…You can find it on Amazon.com. Since it is a children’s book it is an easy read, but a wealth of information, even for older “children” like me…I have given away copies, so am now ordering another for my own library again…and I am 67 years young…(we are never to old to read children’s books, I think). Being able to understand how we make decisions helps us to understand how we use free will, and how God, who loves us calls us to be His loving children. The Jewish people were willful and selfish breaking God’s commands and thus they were carried off into captivity. They turned to God and thus they were returned to their homeland. At least this is my take on how this all plays out.

    • And just like a loving parent, God sometimes has to use punishment which is temporarily painful to change our behaviors and bring long-term happiness.

      • I don’t like to think of God using punishment; but rather, allowing punishment to happen to us to change our behavior and bring long-term happiness…there is a difference between using and allowing I like to think…Just my opinion, though.

        • Yes, I, too prefer the word, “allow.” God disciplines us, no doubt about that and for our own good, to awaken us and prevent us from sinking further into sin “The greatest checkmate of sin is the cross,” as our spiritual assistant commented.

        • I completely agree, Beverly. The painful results of choosing the world’s way rather than God’s way, is the punishment. It’s only in choosing God’s way that brings fruitfulness, peace, and joy.

    • Thank you, Beverly for the info…I have requested my daughter to buy this book for me
      so I can give it to my granddaughter. Thanks a lot for insight, too!

      • By the grace of God, I found this wonderful God-filled book in the 70’s…but its information is timeless…you are most welcome.

    • God is a tough-loving parent. He sent his children to the time-out corner for some 70 years. The naughtiest children got a little longer.

  • King Cyrus is an unlikely supporter of the restoration of the people to the promised land. The long list of people and clans was not a great read (I scanned over it) … but it shows the purposefulness, order and discipline as this people return. They re-learn what they had forgotten, they re-built what was lost and they organised themselves as one “body” with a purpose to worship God and live in his presence. Sometimes we lose a sense of mission and purpose so maybe that “march” of names is a good lesson for us to move in one direction together to God’s promised land!

    • I also scanned the long list of people as I really hate genealogy. However as a skimmed it I did marvel at the keeping of genealogical records of the Jewish people without the internet I also noted that the choir got their own list right along with the priests and clergy I like that

  • I find it so amazing the God has a plan for everyone! He utilizes King Cyrus of Babylon as His conduit
    to rebuild His house in Jerusalem.

    God does work in such mysterious ways. When you least expect something, He guides us. He so loves us and I think at night how He must shed a tear for us, because we think that I know how to REALLY be happy. My false gods are becoming less and less important to me. Maybe there is
    a light at the end of the tunnel that I will gravitate to within my lifetime!
    Dear God, the Holy Spirit, Open my mind and heart.

  • I did not receive the Email for day 68. I did go to the website to get the readings for that day.

  • In using Cyrus, a pagan worshipper, God shows that he does not discriminate how he uses his awesome power to bring about his Word and Will. Just look at the amazing things God can do! How comforting and peaceful this makes one feel knowing the true power of our God and how we will all, if we completely allow ourselves to be caught up in the tides of his divine waters, will find salvation and mercy no matter what life brings us or no matter our past failures. Lord, help me always to jump into your waters and fully immerse myself in your powerful tides, as they direct me to where you need me to be as a shepard in your flock and example of your never ending power, mercy, forgiveness, and compassion.

    • Your prayer reminds me of Jonah! Oh, Lord, when I am in darkness akin to the belly of a whale, may you guide that whale through the troubled seas and set me safely where I can do the greatest good for Your glory!

      • Wonderful thank you for sharing! I did not even think of that. Sometimes, something moves me so much that I start typing and wonder if it comes out coherent at all. Its really been exciting to type what I would have typically just prayed and never got down on paper. Love this self-reflection!

          • I love that I am lost I will say I am in the belly of the whale. Like Johah I have tried to run from God. And when God caught me I did spend time “in the belly of the whale”

  • Using King Cyrus doesn’t surprise me at all, given how God delights in utilizing the least likely people (according to our flawed, human judgments) to affect great opportunity. God is ever-faithful and knows our hearts.
    Throughout salvation history we have been seeing the theme of exile and return over and over again. I see it today, in fact, as we struggle just in the U.S. to turn our nation back to God. The return of the people had to be so difficult, though, because it has been 70 years! The Israelites in the desert had to wait 40 years, thus a whole generation had passed away. Here, two generations have effectively passed away – how brave the souls were to return to their ruined heritage and rebuild.

  • Sometimes I wonder whether God delights in doing the unexpected and watching our astonishment and joy when we realise what He has done for us. This time the Israelites appear timid as they come to a home now populated by the enemy. Gone is the desire to merge in with their neighbours but they still lack trust which I can understand as they must have felt like a lamb surrounded by wolves. For me, at this stage the biggest change in the Israelites is that they stand together instead of being led astray by the pagans. When there is doubt over the validity of some of the priests, they pause and investigate because this time they want to get it right and please God.

    This re-affirms that God works in the most delightfully loving and unexpected ways. God seems to be working gently, tenderly and slowly compared to when He was the column of smoke, a burning bush, within the tent or Ark. In the latter, He was so obviously present, in this part of the Bible He is like a delicate whisper (but obviously still mighty and powerful). Sometimes, it is in restraint and delicacy that we are stronger than when we wield power.

  • Cyrus is this unlikely person. Cyrus is a Gentile yet he shows respect for the one true God of the Hebrews. This is an indication that the Gentiles would in the end have a large part to play in Salvation History

  • Cyrus, King of Persia, received the decree to issue the Proclamation to build the home of God in. Jerusalem . Life should always be moved in the direction of restoration with God. He is always working toward bringing into His light. He takes every opportunity to work with each one of us. Wow, that is amazing because I am constantly working towards this direction and that is constant work. Thank you God for not giving up on any one of us!

  • The saying that “God works in mysterious ways” is certainly a magnificent demonstration in this reading. The king of Babylon, now being, Cyrus, was God’s vessel to help widen that window just a little bit more for the Israelites. Truly, the Holy Spirit was guiding Cyrus.

  • Ezra 2 – kinda hard to read, as it is mostly a list of people who went home to Judah after being held captive by Nebuchadnezzar… God grant me the reason to read this more carefully…

    this caught my eye: “Also, of the sons of the priests: the sons of Habai′ah, the sons of Hakkoz, and the sons of Barzil′lai (who had taken a wife from the daughters of Barzil′lai the Gileadite, and was called by their name). These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but they were not found there, and so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean; the governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food, until there should be a priest to consult Urim and Thummim.” (Ezra 2:61-63, RSV-CE)

    well?

  • God’s plan seemed to have started prior to Cyrus King of Persia with Nebuchadnezzar and the king succeeding him in that they took the Israelites into bondage instead of killing them all. As we have read, when the conqueror left a land he would slaughter any survivor of that land. But with the Syrians, they took they Israelites to their own countries – there was not obliteration of a nation. This was a gift from God in itself. Now that Cyrus is the King of Persia, the Israelites are granted the most wonderful gift of all from their God since perhaps fleeing Egypt – they are allowed to return to their Promised Land and worship freely. They were encouraged to rebuild their temple as well as their beloved Jerusalem. This was one of the most magnificent gifts from God.

  • The leadership of King Cyrus appears to restore the building of the Temple of God. He must have been granted this strength by God to renew the commandments and laws in the land of God’s intention. However, it was interesting to witness the human weakness of possessiveness, jealousy and deceit of who will be responsible to rebuild the temple. It’s almost hilarious to see the repetition of these virtues unfold with the people. I can just hear God say, “OMG!!!! Here we go again!” I’m sorry God, you gave us free will to think and make choices, and history has proven we just don’t get it sometimes.

  • Hi
    My class just started doing the 8 week Quick Journey Through the Bible and a
    question came up that no one could answer: Why was Old Testament
    Joseph not counted as a Patriarch?

    • Joseph probably is considered a Patriarch. The book of Acts (I know that’s not part of the Quick Journey) gives the title patriarch to the 12 sons of Jacob of which Joseph is #11 I believe.

  • The Persian king, Cyrus, allowed the Jews to return to their homeland. It’s not recorded why he gave the decree to let the Jews go and to have them rebuild God’s temple. Only a king giving a royal decree could make this happen and have men follow that decree. And only God’s grace could touch King Cyrus’ heart and mind to give such a decree. It’s truly AWEsome to see how God works and with whom he uses to bring about the most unbelievable events. It’s certainly true that God doesn’t call the qualified; God qualifies the called. He will give us what we need when we need it to carry out His will. We need only obey and trust Him.

  • All, please pray to the Lady of all Nations for our world:

    “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father,
    send now your Spirit over the earth.
    Let the Holy Spirit live in the hearts of all nations,
    that they may be preserved from degeneration, disaster, and war.
    May the Lady of All Nations, the Blessed Virgin Mary*, be our Advocate. Amen.

  • It was King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon who overran Jerusalem, executing God’s judgment on Judah for the sins of Manasseh (see 2 Kings 24:3-4). If God can raise up Babylon to punish, he can reduce them and raise another to favor the Israelites. Thus, Babylon was defeated by the Persians, led by King Cyrus. Cyrus issued an edict to let God’s people return to Jerusalem and even helped fund the rebuilding of the Temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.

  • Margaret Gaffney, born in County Leitrim, Ireland in 1813, is known as the “Angel of the Delta.” Emigrated to U.S. with her family as young girl. Her parents died within two years of yellow fever. As an orphan in Baltimore and later married in 1835 Charles Haughery, they moved to New Orleans. They had a daughter but within a year her husband and child died in a cholera epidemic. She worked as a laundress, volunteered at a Catholic orphanage. Children had no bread, she helped buy bread from them from her own meager savings. The Sisters of Charity, whom she was fond of, operated the orphanage. She helped them with her salary to erase their debt. She purchased cows to give the orphans fresh milk. She opened the first steam bakery in the South. She died in 1882 and left over a half-million dollars to orphans and the poor. She is also known as the “Bread lady of New Orleans.”

    In 1859, the Daughters of Charity opened the Hotel Dieu Hospital in New Orleans to provide health care to seamen and city’s poor. Their first patient was said to be a black slave. On this day in 1924, the sisters opened a new Hotel Dieu to replace the original aging structure.

  • God used the Persian King,Cyrus to bring the Israelites back and order them to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and brought our the treasures of gold and silver that Nebuchadnezzar had confiscated from the Jews. When they Jews delayed in doing the work the Persian King Darius ordered the work done. 2 Persian kings were responsible. God used them to do his work. God uses whomever He pleases to do His work. He looks for hearts that open to His promptings.

  • It’s amazing to connect thatcher we listen to God’s message and floorboard his call what can be done by us all through him. Here he’s called upon a nonbeliever Jew to carry this through. God give me the powers to listen and follow you much more than I’ve done in the past.

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