SUNRISE IN JERUSALEM; 2ND CHRONICLES 36:21-23

As with every good story the writings of the Chronicles conclude with a happy ending. The story, particularly in 2nd Chronicles is the tale of the temple; its construction, consecration and eventual condenmantion as the holy and beautuful house was burned with fire.

The inspired historian paints a sorry picture of countryside and city and especially of the house of worship, decimated. The sword of Babylon had conquored and those who were not slain were taken in chains to Nebucadnezzar’s great citadel as slaves.

And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons

2 Chronicles 36:19-20

Our last study, which you can here review, tells the story of the end of a civilisation; the sun has set over Jerusalem:

https://hopeinthevalley.co.uk/2022/07/04/jehoiachin-zedekiah-the-end-of-a-civilisation-2nd-chronicles-369-21/

At the close of this heartbreaking description, the writer talks about the beginning, a new beginning. God had a promise for His people that there would be this new beginning, like the mythical pheonix rising from the ashes. He is the God of the new birth, of forgiveness, restoration and revival. The darkness had closed in but the dawn would break once again over old Jersualem and the foundations of the temple would be relaid. How infinite, how remarkable, how gracious is the goodness of God!

The application from this story should be of encouragement to anyone that’s troubled by a sense of failure; God can and will give us a new day. In these dark times when the godlessness of this secular world is encroaching we rejoice that he restores, revives – better days will come.

The people who read the Chronicles’ account in the days of Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah were living in this new dawn. But that too would be difficult and challenging as every season is – but they were the ones who lived to see the rebuidling and reestablishing of God’s people in Jerusalem once again. God never fails!

THE PROPHET’S PROMISE

To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years.

2 Chronicles 36:21

At the heart of the promise, that the faithful remnant clung onto for seventy years, was the word that Jeremiah had received in the dark days of the setting sun.

And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.

And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.

Jeremiah 25:11-12

For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.

Jeremiah 29:10-14

The reason why seventy years was the term selected for the captivity is most remarkable and the Chronicler advances the reason why this was the case. Seven, in addition to being the number of completion and perfection, represents holiness unto the LORD. Bound up with man’s duty to a holy God was the observing of the Sabbath Day (the seventh day) and the keeping the Sabbatical Year (the seventh year). With the passing of seven sabbatical years the Jew observed the fiftieth year, which was the Jubilee. During these years of apostasy the Sabbaths, in all their forms, were not observed; Jehovah was deprived of what was His. The Levitical code warned of grave consequences:

And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste. Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies’ land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths. As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it.

Leviticus 26:33-35

Depriving God of His Sabbath, would cause God to act and take what was His. He would remove HIs people and force the land into a seventy year Sabbath.

It is apparent from our reading of the prophets that disobedience with respect to the Sabbath was one of the most serious sins, of which the nation was guilty:

Therefore the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; I made a covenant with your fathers in the day that I brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondmen, saying, At the end of seven years let ye go every man his brother an Hebrew, which hath been sold unto thee; and when he hath served thee six years, thou shalt let him go free from thee: but your fathers hearkened not unto me, neither inclined their ear. And ye were now turned, and had done right in my sight, in proclaiming liberty every man to his neighbour; and ye had made a covenant before me in the house which is called by my name: But ye turned and polluted my name, and caused every man his servant, and every man his handmaid, whom ye had set at liberty at their pleasure, to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids. Therefore thus saith the LORD; Ye have not hearkened unto me, in proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother, and every man to his neighbour: behold, I proclaim a liberty for you, saith the LORD, to the sword, to the pestilence, and to the famine; and I will make you to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.

Jermiah 34:12-17

While we are living in this New Testament age, the principle of what God is saying should not be lost on us. While restoration is promised, the cost of sin will not remain unpaid. Nor will that restoration take place before God takes what we have witheld from Him. If we withold obedience He will exact it from us, if we act with pride, He will humble us, if we withold the tithe he can bring our business low, if we sin in private He can expose that to public view. He is not mocked, those whom He loves He chastens, that we might be partakers of His holiness.

THE EMPEROR PREPARED

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,

2 Chronicles 36:22

Twice in world history God has restored Israel to her homeland by working in the hearts of the world powers. On May 14th 1948 David Ben Guirion declared Israel as an independent nation, on the same day President Harry Truman recognised the new state. Out of ashes of World War 2 and the attempted annihilation of the Jewish people a nation was born. God was at work amid the darkness of human depravity, preparing the way for a new beginning.

The moment in history that the Chronicler records is the freedom given to the Jewish slaves by Cyrus the Persian Emperor. The origin of this declaration is clear though, “the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia.”

Amazingly, the details of Cyrus down to his very name, were prophesied by Isaiah long before the captivity and the return. It was evident that God raised up this great Gentile leader for a specific purpose.

“Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden,to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.”

Isaiah 45:1-4

Internationally, this encourages our hearts. God’s purposes will never be thwarted and he brings good out of the most unlikely situations. Babylon, the conqueror of Jerusalem semed invincible but she herself was destroyed. Her victor was stirred up by God to give HIs people freedom seventy years after the captivity, according to Jeremiah’s promise.

Personally, its a simple reminder that God has a plan, a good purpose for us, a plan that He will fulfil.

The Jews were instructed to pray for the fulfilling of the promise during the dark times. Daniel took this to heart and earnestly prayed over the Scriptures in Babylon itself:

In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.

And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments:…

O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us. Now therefore, O our God, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the Lord’s sake. O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.

Daniel 9

Let us pray for what will come to pass, the fulfilling of His promises and His purpose for our lives, this congregation, the Church of Christ in this nation and across the world.

O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy.

Habbabuk 2:3

THE IMPERIAL PROCLAMATION

Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.

2 Chronicles 36:23

Cyrus, for a Gentile, had a concept of God’s sovereignty, dominion and man’s stewardship that many New Testament Christians do not have.

He recognised that His vast territories had been loaned to him by God and that this same God had purposed for Him to restore freedom to the Jews, so that their temple might be rebuilt in Jerusalem.

That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.

Isaiah 44:28

It is evident from the historical account by Ezra that Cyrus recognised that these people must bring their sacrifices and their prayers to God in the place appointed. The Jews were not merely released that they might have their homes and terrtories back. They were released that the temple would have a new day, a new beginning.

Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.

Ezra 1:2-4

The first wave of returning captives had many advereries and much discouragement because rebuilding a new civisilisation is not easy work. But they were encouraged and inspired by the purposes of God and so they laid the foundations of the temple under Zerubbabel and built the walls as the prophets Haggai and Zechariah gave them encouragement. What they achieved may not have been as externally beautiful as Solomon’s edfice but it was more blessed, the glory of the latter house excelled the former because Christ would walk within its precincts and teach as only the God-man could do. The new day would come.

And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come:and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.

Haggai 2:7-9

The other great post-exilic prophet encourages our hearts in this day of small things, when we feel inferior to what past generations achieved, let us pray that revival would come, that a new day would dawn in this generation.

Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it;and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. For who hath despised the day of small things?

Zechariah 4:6-10

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