The Remnant Returns to Israel

Last week we talked about Daniel¬’s last year under the new king Darius the Mede. Once again the faithful prophet was raised to a position of honor. But Daniel thought more about the plight of his people than about the honors he received. When would the captivity ever end, he wondered? Reading the prophecies of Jeremiah reminded him that it was supposed to last seventy years. With fasting, sackcloth and ashes the aged prophet prayed to the Lord, pleading with Him to open His eyes to their sufferings, the sad state of Jerusalem and the deserted ruins of His holy temple. Their deliverance would certainly not depend on their righteous deeds, he confessed, but only on God¬’s mercies and forgiveness.

Before long a Persian named Cyrus took over the throne of the Medo-Persians from Darius the Mede. You remember Isaiah said more than a hundred years before that Cyrus would carry out God¬’s will. The time for their return had finally come!

In Cyrus¬’s first year as king, he sent the long-awaited proclamation throughout his kingdom. His heralds went everywhere crying out, ¬“All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all His people? May his God be with him! Now let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel¬…¬” Cyrus also put the decree in writing for a permanent record.

Cyrus knew everyone would not return. He commanded others to provide gold, silver, animals and supplies for the journey. Then Cyrus himself gave something very special - - thousands of gold and silver vessels taken from the Lord¬’s house by Nebuchadnezzar and kept in the idol¬’s temple in Babylon all through the years.

Now the tears of sorrow turned to shouts of happiness. Not only could those who wanted to go back to Judah do so - - their sacred temple would be rebuilt so everyone could worship the Lord there again! Those who stayed gave more than enough gold, silver, animals and precious things for the new temple and for the trip.

A great number set out joyfully to the music of songs and laughter. But the journey back to Jerusalem grew long and hard, with much of it over dreary desert with no trees or water. Most of the people walked the endless miles - - animals had to carry baggage.

At the end of their journey, the weary travelers¬’ first glimpse of Jerusalem was a great disappointment. Its wall was in shambles, its gates burned with fire and piles of rubbish were everywhere. Only broken pillars and charred beams were left of the great buildings. Where, the younger people must have wondered, was the beautiful Jerusalem their parents and grandparents had told them about? Even their elders must have been dismayed by the terrible destruction.

However, the group was brave and determined. They had known there would be hardship and their strong faith did not fail. Without delay their governor Zerubbabel and the high priest Jeshua built an altar so they could offer sacrifice, probably on the very spot where the great altar of the temple had stood before. The daily offerings were begun and the Feast of the Tabernacle was kept - - for the first time for most of those there.

Later work was started on the temple. Gladly the people added more money to that brought from Jerusalem. Workers were hired and the foundation was soon laid. Then a great celebration was held. Seeing the priests in their special garments and hearing the trumpets and cymbals would have thrilled those who had never taken part in the temple ceremonies.

The people were so happy to worship that they shouted with a great shout! But everyone did not join in the shouting - - the old men who remembered the first temple wept loudly instead. And those who heard the noise far away could not tell the weeping from the shouting.

Talking it Over:

1. Talk about how God used Daniel in important ways. Not only did he show heathen kings about the true God - - He also told about God¬’s everlasting kingdom which Jesus would set up.
2. Talk about Daniel¬’s prayer for his people in Dan 9.
3. Read the words of those who returned in Psalms 126. How might we have to go through sad times before we have good times?

Memory Verse:

¬“Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.¬” Psalms 126:5
Why did the Jews have to go through sad times before they had happy times again? How is this like planting seeds?

Text by Betty Belue Haynes, originally published in Bible Talk Times. Used here with the kind permission of the author. Users are free to reproduce for use, but not for publication.