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Breezin’ Through the Bible #19, Going Home

February 25, 2014

Going Home 

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, the Lord moved the heart of the king to proclaim and put in writing that the people of God could return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. They were to be provided with gold and silver, goods and livestock, and the articles carried from the temple when Nebuchadnezzar carried away the people to Babylon. Zerubbabel was appointed governor of the tribes, and in 537 BC, he led 50,000 people home to Jerusalem.

The people of Judah rebuilt the altar first; then they laid the foundation of the temple. They made sacrifices of burnt offerings in the old way and celebrated the Festival of Tabernacles and other religious ceremonies. They sang songs to the Lord. They built the temple in the same place the old temple had been. Some of the older people, who remembered the grandeur and grace of the old temple, wept to see this temple would be smaller and less grand. The younger people, who had not known the original, were joyful. Sadness and joy were mixed together in celebration. After a 70 year absence, life in Jerusalem could not be the same. Going home is not the same as staying home, but it would have to do. Home is where God is.

Soon the enemies of Judah began to worry about Judah’s strength and power. They discouraged and frustrated the builders, encouraging them to stop working. In the second year of king Darius of Persia, God sent word to the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to get them working again to complete his house. Jerusalem would be his holy city. Then their enemies told them to stop building for they had no authority. Letters were sent to king Darius of Persia, who searched his archives and found the decree of king Cyrus. King Darius told the enemies of Judah to stay away and let the Jewish people finish their temple, and to help them in their project. And so in 20 years from start to finish, in 516 BC Jerusalem had its temple.

But in the meantime, the people were relying less on sacrifices in the temple and more in the writings and studies of he Torah, the ancient documents from God that are now studied by Christians as the Old Testament of the Bible. The Jewish people began to attend synagogues or schools to study God’s words and to use them in their lives.

God’s love is ever faithful and merciful. He does not use adversity to punish, but to instruct his wayward people. See Psalm 19, the longest song in the Bible for the psalmist’s heartfelt entreaty, “Oh, how I love your instructions.” The psalmist loves God’s laws, his decrees, his commandments, his instructions, his commands, and his words. God’s words contain truth in all its forms. Home must be in God’s heart and in his words.

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