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