1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying:
· Babylon fell before his army (B.C. 538) on the night of Belshazzar’s feast Daniel 5:30 and then the ancient dominion of Assyria was also added to his empire.
o [Writing on the Wall]
o 22 "Yet you, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this, 23 but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and your ways, you have not glorified. 24 "Then the hand was sent from Him and this inscription was written out. 25 or "Now this is the inscription that was written out: ‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.’ 26 "This is the interpretation of the message: ‘MENE’—God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. 27 "’TEKEL’—you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient. 28 "’PERES’—your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians." 29 Then Belshazzar gave orders, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a necklace of gold around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he now had authority as the third ruler in the kingdom. 30 That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain. 31 So Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two. Daniel 5:24-31
· In 538 B.C. Cyrus took BABYLON by diverting the course of the Euphrates into another channel, and entering the city by the dry bed during a feast at which the Babylonians were reveling.
o Isa 44:27 "It is I who says to the depth of the sea, ‘Be dried up!’ And I will make your rivers dry.
o Isaiah the prophet had predicted the exact way that Babylon would be conquered by Cyrus.
2 "Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
· Isa 45:1 Thus says the LORD to Cyrus His anointed, Whom I have taken by the right hand, To subdue nations before him And to loose the loins of kings; To open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:
· Isa 44:28 "It is I who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.’ And he declares of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built,’ And of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid.’"
o Cyrus is fulfilling the prophecy found in Isaiah.
o The prophet Isaiah had written these words hundreds of years before the birth of Cyrus.
3 ‘Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the LORD, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 ‘Every survivor, at whatever place he may live, let the men of that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.’"
· Thus the words of the prophet were fulfilled by a pagan king.
· God is capable of using the unbelieving nations to accomplish his will.
· God the Almighty is still on his throne.
5 Then the heads of fathers’ households of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and the Levites arose, even everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up and rebuild the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem.6 All those about them encouraged them with articles of silver, with gold, with goods, with cattle and with valuables, aside from all that was given as a freewill offering.
· God's people are sometimes asked to give gold and money in order to accomplish God's will.
· Not all of Israel were able to go back to the promised land, but all of Israel could give.
· What was true in the Old Testament, is still true today.
o Not every Christian can go out to the mission field. But, every Christian can give to the work of missions.
o [Lottie Moon Christmas Offering]
1 Now when the seventh month came, and the sons of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem.
· The phrase "gathered together as one man" signifies the unity and sense of community among the people.
· God can do great things when his people are united together.
2 Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brothers the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brothers arose and built the altar of the God of Israel to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the law of Moses, the man of God.
· In verse two, we see the priestly and royal lines work together to rebuild the altar of God.
· Moses was a man of many flaws. But, the Bible refers to him as a man of God.
3 So they set up the altar on its foundation, for they were terrified because of the peoples of the lands; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, burnt offerings morning and evening.
· The people did not wait for the temple to be completed, before worshiping God.
o As soon as the altar was constructed the people immediately began to worship.
o The devil will provide us with many reasons for not worshiping God. But, the child of God will worship God in good times and in bad times.
· The Bible tells us that the people were terrified of the other nations that resided in the land.
o These were the people who moved in to occupy the territory that was left vacant by the Israelites after they were conquered by the Babylonians.
o Just as the Arabs today resent the return of the Jews to their promised land, so also the people who took over their land during the first exile also resented the return of the Jews.
o [The same animosity and hatred that we see directed towards the Jews today in the Middle East, was directed towards their forefathers when they returned from Babylon.]
10 Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD according to the directions of King David of Israel.
· Asaph was a Levite whom Davis appointed to supervise the music used in the worship of the tabernacle.
· Later, his descendents led the worship music in the temple.
· After, the return from exile we see his descendents taking up again their old jobs.
11 They sang, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, saying, "For He is good, for His lovingkindness is upon Israel forever." And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.
· They proclaimed the goodness and lovingkindness of God.
· One of the first things we teach our children about God is that he is good.
o The old children's prayer got it right:
o "God is great, God is good…"
Biblical Truths from This Lesson:
· When God gives us opportunities to serve him, we should respond to them with joy, gratitude and determination.
· We should remember that godless people will often oppose those who work for the Lord.
· We need to participate in corporate worship, since public praise glorifies God and encourages believers.