Read Ezra 6
The Decree of Darius
King Darius then issued an order, and they searched in the archives stored in the treasury at Babylon. 2 A scroll was found in the citadel of Ecbatana in the province of Media, and this was written on it:
3 In the first year of King Cyrus, the king issued a decree concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem:
Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices, and let its foundations be laid. It is to be sixty cubits high and sixty cubits wide, 4 with three courses of large stones and one of timbers. The costs are to be paid by the royal treasury. 5 Also, the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, are to be returned to their places in the temple in Jerusalem; they are to be deposited in the house of God.
6 Now then, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and you other officials of that province, stay away from there. 7 Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God. Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site.
8 Moreover, I hereby decree what you are to do for these elders of the Jews in the construction of this house of God:
Their expenses are to be fully paid out of the royal treasury, from the revenues of Trans-Euphrates, so that the work will not stop. 9 Whatever is needed—young bulls, rams, male lambs for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine and olive oil, as requested by the priests in Jerusalem—must be given them daily without fail, 10 so that they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven and pray for the well-being of the king and his sons.
11 Furthermore, I decree that if anyone defies this edict, a beam is to be pulled from their house and they are to be impaled on it. And for this crime their house is to be made a pile of rubble. 12 May God, who has caused his Name to dwell there, overthrow any king or people who lifts a hand to change this decree or to destroy this temple in Jerusalem.
I Darius have decreed it. Let it be carried out with diligence.
Completion and Dedication of the Temple
13 Then, because of the decree King Darius had sent, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates carried it out with diligence. 14 So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo. They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia. 15 The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.
16 Then the people of Israel—the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles—celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy. 17 For the dedication of this house of God they offered a hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred male lambs and, as a sin offering for all Israel, twelve male goats, one for each of the tribes of Israel. 18 And they installed the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their groups for the service of God at Jerusalem, according to what is written in the Book of Moses.
19 On the fourteenth day of the first month, the exiles celebrated the Passover. 20 The priests and Levites had purified themselves and were all ceremonially clean. The Levites slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the exiles, for their relatives the priests and for themselves. 21 So the Israelites who had returned from the exile ate it, together with all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of their Gentile neighbors in order to seek the Lord, the God of Israel. 22 For seven days they celebrated with joy the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because the Lord had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.
If Ezra 6 was a movie we’d be on the edge of our seat, leaning in, waiting for the fist-pump-in-the-air celebration of the ending. On first reading it, we might miss the drama of it all, but look again: a lost letter of declaration found; the powerful opposition rendered powerless becoming the solution and resource to accomplish the work of the Israelites; an unlikely, ungodly advocate and defender of God’s people; a 21-year project completed; and a 70-year-old prophecy fulfilled. Sit with the drama, the weight, the excitement of it all.
To understand the excitement of it all, we need a little background. Psalm 137 reminds us of the despair of the exiles. The pain of being away from their home. “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion (Jerusalem)…how can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” They lived as aliens and foreigners in a place that was not their home. Yet, they longed for home and for God to fulfill His promise to them—that He would bring them back to Jerusalem.
God always pays for what He orders. About 70 years prior, God said (through his prophet Jeremiah), “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.” Ezra 6 is the culmination of years of waiting. God is a promise-keeping, way-making God, who is faithful to the faithless and rebuilds places, dreams, and people out of ruins. Imagine the wonder and the buzz and the excitement when the final stone was put in place and the people of God were home again. No wonder the word joy is mentioned so often in this chapter.
What can we learn from Ezra 6? God is faithful to keep His promises. He hasn’t forgotten us. The work we get to do on this side of heaven is met with opposition and obstacles, but God will often use unlikely and unexpected people and circumstances to fulfill the work He has for us. Our faithfulness to sacred work matters and it will often be harder and require more patience than we thought. And one day, we, too, will experience the joy of being home. Until then, let’s do the work and trust Him to complete it.
- What surprises you about this chapter?
- What do you learn about the character of God? What do you learn about the character of man?
- How are you experiencing God’s faithfulness? Is there a situation or circumstance where you need God to move on your behalf? Answer both of these questions in a prayer to Him.
Did You Know?
Isaiah 44:28 says, “Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.” These prophetic words were written 100 years before the events in Ezra 6. This prophecy confounds those who make it their mission to dispute the authenticity of the Bible. They cannot understand or make sense of how a King—who had not even been born—is NAMED 100 years before his rule.
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