Ezra & Nehemiahby Robert M. Solomon
A person loses his luggage at a busy airport, makes a report of his loss, and leaves the airport feeling sad. A few days later, the airport calls him to tell him his bag has been found. He retrieves the bag and finds that all his belongings are intact. What a relief!
Unfortunately, the Jews will not experience a similar sentiment upon their return to Jerusalem. Nothing is left intact in Jerusalem. Not only has the temple been destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC, but all the valuable articles inside it have also been taken away by the conquerors (2 Chronicles 36:18). These articles were made during the Exodus by Spirit-enabled craftsmen according to God's instructions (Exodus 31:1-10), and were used for the worship of God.
The Israelites have lost so much of their worship of God because of their disobedience. The temple is no more, and the temple articles are now in a pagan Babylonian temple (Ezra 1:7). Without the temple and the articles needed to worship God, the Israelites are not able to worship Him with the right rituals as prescribed by the law of Moses.
But God is at work. When He restores, He goes all the way. Not only does Cyrus permit the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, but he also orders all the articles that were seized from the original temple to be returned to the Jews (v. 7). An empty temple without its furnishings and articles would not have been of much use for the ritual worship required of Israel.
The Persian treasurer makes a careful list of the 5,400 articles and hands them over to Sheshbazzar, the governor of Judah (vv. 8-11). Many scholars think that the names Sheshbazzar (meaning ″joy in affliction″) and Zerubbabel (″a stranger in Babylon″) actually belong to the same person who led the Jews back to Jerusalem. Missing in the list, however, are the key furnishings in the temple, such as the altars, golden lampstand, and ark of the covenant, which had probably been lost. Note, for instance, that a new altar had to be built (3:1-6).
Sheshbazzar leads the exiles ″from Babylon to Jerusalem″ (1:11). God has kept His promise and is bringing a remnant of His people back to Jerusalem so that His temple can be rebuilt and His people can worship Him there. The Lord is a master at restoration. It is He who said, ″I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten″ (Joel 2:25), and it is He who blessed Job twice as much as he had before being afflicted (Job 42:10). Whatever we may lose by straying from God, He is able to restore when we return to Him.
Do you think there is something that you or your church have lost in worship? If so, how can it be restored?
″From Babylon to Jerusalem″ (Ezra 1:11) represents a momentous turning point. What does it mean personally for you?