Return From Exile


Today's Reading: Ezra 1:1-11; 2:68-70; 3:8-13

The previous reading gave a hint at the restoration that was promised to Israel following the Babylonia conquest.  The book of Ezra presents us with the fulfillment of the restoration that had once been promised.

It makes sense that after a traumatic defeat (literal or figurative) that we would become discouraged. It's only human.  What we knew may not have been idea or enjoyable or healthy, but it was what we knew and there's something comforting about sticking with what we know rather than venturing out into the unknown.  I have a friend who likes to say, "Different isn't always better, but better is always different."  We can often be really hung-up on what is different and miss what is better...

The Babylonian Captivity was never intended to be the final word.  Many nations will be defeated in conquest and then ceased to exist as they are swallowed up by a more powerful army.  But that was never the case with Israel.  Babylon was God's tool of discipline and restoration for Israel.

When an invading army conquer a particular kingdom, they would take loot, and often, anything that wasn't already a jewel or money, would be destroyed and turned into something valuable to the victors.  Most often this would be done with religious and royal items.  But Nebuchadnezzar never did that...instead, he put all of Israel's most valuable and important temple artifacts into storage, almost as if he planned to pull them out again one day.  And one day, they were pulled out of storage, dusted off, and returned to the Israelites.

In Cyrus' first year as king of Persia, he freed the Jews.  There was absolutely no benefit to him in doing this and the very act completely defies logic.  Hence the reason Ezra says, "in order to fulfill the word of the LORD...the LORD moved the heard of Cyrus..."  This was always God's plan, and he made sure it was carried out.  The result: everything taken from the temple was returned to the Israelites, and the Israelites were allowed to return to what used to be Jerusalem, and the temple was rebuilt.  And as a testament to the change that had taken place in Israel's heart, the temple was rebuilt on the exact location it once stood and it was built to the exact specifications of the original.  In other words, they returned to original will of God...they built what God wanted for them, not what they wanted!

Restoration is the great goal of the Bible.  God is constantly on a mission of renewal and restoration.  He fought for the restoration of humanity on the cross, and he continues to work toward the full restoration of all creation.  The day is coming when all things will be made new again.  This has always been the intention.  Death, pain, misery was never the end game.  And like Israel, we will experience restoration, in full, and in all it's glory!