A SOVEREIGN SAVIOR
Lord, thank You for fair-minded leaders.
Read EZRA 6
The Decree of Darius
6 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[a] 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[b] 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.
a Ezra 6:3 That is, about 90 feet or about 27 meters
b Ezra 6:17 Or purification offering
New International Version (NIV)
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“God is still on the throne, / and he will remember his own” (Mrs. Frederick W. Suffield, 1884–1972).
The new temple is finally completed. We learn that the Jews’ success owes not to their own dogged determination but rather comes through God’s command via the help of Persian kings (14). That God accomplishes his will by using pagan monarchs as his instruments forcefully demonstrates his sovereign rule over the leadership of the nations. In the current turmoil of international affairs, we take great comfort in remembering that he has never relinquished that authority.
Soon after its dedication, the temple hosts its first Passover. Look who is there—not only Israelites but also some of their Gentile neighbors who now worship the Lord, having forsaken their former pagan ways (21)! The barring of non-Jews from joining in the rebuilding project (Ezra 4) may offend certain twenty-first-century sensitivities, in spite of their less-than-honorable motives. Now we see plainly that none are excluded from joining God’s people if they align themselves with God’s revealed word and ways.
Throughout Israel’s history, God’s covenant promises have always been accessible to Gentiles who turned to the Lord. At his calling, Abram was told “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen. 12:3). Israel’s function as “a kingdom of priests” (Exod. 19:5,6) includes the idea of a worldwide witness. Ultimately, that witness gets focused through Messiah Jesus, whom faithful Simeon recognizes as “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32). Christ’s genealogy prominently features women of Gentile birth or association (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba; Matt. 1). He is the foundation and cornerstone (1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 2:20) of the New Testament house of God, composed of believers of both Jewish and Gentile origin and foreshadowed by the previous Jerusalem temples. God is not only sovereign over all, but also the Savior of all who trust in him.
Eternal life is available to “whoever believes” in God’s one and only Son (John 3:16). What is the difference between saving faith and intellectual assent?
Lord, we understand that when we do it Your way, in the long run we achieve the desired results.