King Cyrus' order is rediscovered
1King Darius ordered someone to go through the old records kept in Babylonia.2Finally, a scroll was found in Ecbatana, the capital of Media Province, and it said:
This official record will show3that in the first year Cyrus was king, he gave orders to rebuild God's temple in Jerusalem, so that sacrifices and offerings could be presented there. It is to be built twenty-seven metres high and twenty-seven metres wide,4with one row of wooden beams for each three rows of large stones. The royal treasury will pay for everything.5Then return to their proper places the gold and silver things that Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple and brought to Babylonia.
King Darius orders the work to continue
6King Darius sent this message:
Governor Tattenai of Western Province and Shethar Bozenai, you and your advisers must stay away from the temple.7Let the Jewish governor and leaders rebuild it where it stood before. And stop slowing them down!
8Starting at once, I am ordering you to help the leaders by paying their expenses from the tax money collected in Western Province.9And don't fail to let the priests in Jerusalem have whatever they need each day so they can offer sacrifices to the God of heaven. Give them young bulls, rams, sheep, as well as wheat, salt, wine, and olive oil.10I want them to be able to offer pleasing sacrifices to God and to pray for me and my family.
11If any of you don't obey this order, a wooden beam will be taken from your house and sharpened on one end. Then it will be driven through your body, and your house will be torn down and turned into a rubbish dump.12I ask the God who is worshipped in Jerusalem to destroy any king or nation who tries either to change what I have said or to tear down his temple. I, Darius, give these orders, and I expect them to be followed carefully.
The temple is dedicated
13Governor Tattenai, Shethar Bozenai, and their advisers carefully obeyed King Darius.14With great success the Jewish leaders continued working on the temple, while Haggai and Zechariah encouraged them by their preaching. And so, the temple was completed at the command of the God of Israel and by the orders of kings Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes of Persia. 15On the third day of the month of Adar in the sixth year of the rule of Darius, the temple was finished.
16The people of Israel, the priests, the Levites, and everyone else who had returned from exile were happy and celebrated as they dedicated God's temple.17One hundred bulls, two hundred rams, and four hundred lambs were offered as sacrifices at the dedication. Also twelve goats were sacrificed as sin offerings for the twelve tribes of Israel.18Then the priests and Levites were assigned their duties in God's temple in Jerusalem, according to the instructions Moses had written.
19Everyone who had returned from exile celebrated Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. 20The priests and Levites had gone through a ceremony to make themselves acceptable to lead in worship. Then some of them killed Passover lambs for those who had returned, including the other priests and themselves.
21The sacrifices were eaten by the Israelites who had returned and by the neighbouring people who had given up the sinful customs of other nations in order to worship the LORD God of Israel.22For seven days they celebrated the Festival of Thin Bread. Everyone was happy because the LORD God of Israel had made sure that the king of Assyria would be kind to them and help them build the temple.
I had a fascinating discussion/debate with one of my Christian friends many moons ago. She was trying to get her head around the love that God has for people. She was making a case that God’s love is for the collective and not necessarily for the individual.
I remember thoughts buzzing around my head, like from Psalm 139:18 telling of God’s thoughts for one individual being more numerous than sand, or that he knows each hair on my Irish head (Luke 12:7)!
Without a doubt God is a big picture God and we see that throughout the Bible, but even more compelling, he is definitely a God of the details.
Those that returned from exile needed God in the details and God delivered emphatically!
We know from Ezra 1 that God is working through and nudging King Cyrus to the point of precise detail. The exact dimensions of the temple are laid out (v.3) and King Cyrus noted the need for wooden beams. Not just any wooden beams. In Ezra 3:7 we see that provision was made for cedar trees to be shipped from Lebanon, the best of the best. Also, don’t you love the end of verse 4? “The royal treasury will pay for everything.” Lovely little detail that!
After years and years of oppression and setbacks on the rebuild, God now nudges Kind Darius to tell the watching world to back off (v.6) and just let them at it. God is all over this, arranging everything they will possibly need (v.9). The threats against anyone who disobeys Darius will result in death (vv.11-12), but then what do you expect from a pagan king in the ancient near east!
So the temple was finally built and their celebrations were extravagant, to say the least (v.17). The exiled returnees were happy and rightly so because God was behind it all (v.22) – behind every little detail.
I encourage you today to bring all your needs to God, every little one. He knows you and your situation more than you can fathom. Trust God for all that you need.
Father, please give us today our daily bread. Amen.