Chapter 1:5-11 (ESV) - Then rose up the heads of the fathers' houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem. And all who were about them aided them with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, with beasts, and with costly wares, besides all that was freely offered. Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the Lord that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. Cyrus king of Persia brought these out in the charge of Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. And this was the number of them: 30 basins of gold, 1,000 basins of silver, 29 censers, 30 bowls of gold, 410 bowls of silver, and 1,000 other vessels; all the vessels of gold and of silver were 5,400. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up, when the exiles were brought up from Babylonia to Jerusalem.
Question to consider: At what other point in history did Israel receive treasures like this?
The nation of Israel had gone into Babylonian captivity after years of neglecting the commands of God and worshiping after the gods of the surrounding nations. Before its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar, the Jerusalem temple was filled with idols and high places set up to sacrifice to other gods. We studied this in great detail in our walk through Ezekiel. When the Lord gave Israel the land they inhabited, He positioned them to be a central hub for trade routes between the East and the nations along the Mediterranean Sea. The Mediterranean nations were then the shipping hubs to the rest of the world beyond the sea. The greatest of these shipping nations was Tyre.
Because Israel essentially brokered all of the trade routes between Babylon and Tyre, they became wealthy and forgot the God who established them. The temptation was to become multicultural and invite idols and worship from the surrounding nations in order to strengthen trade relationships. The benefits proved to be temporary because it was not long before Babylon and Tyre realized that if Israel were destroyed, they could trade directly with one another without having to pay the middle man. Once God removed His protection of Israel, He allowed the Holy City and temple to be destroyed, and the people to be held captive in Babylon for 70 years.
Now that their time of punishment had come to an end, the Lord stirred the heart of king Cyrus to let the Israelite captives return home and rebuild. Instead of hardening his heart against God like Pharaoh once did, king Cyrus let the people go. Rather than the exodus occurring in haste, the people who returned were also stirred by God to do so with the intention to rebuild. In the Exodus, God gave Israel the treasures of Egypt to build His tabernacle. Now, God stirred the hearts of the Gentiles living among the Israelites to equip them with the treasures needed to rebuild the city and temple. Cyrus even returned all of Israel’s vessels that had been originally captured by Babylon.
All of this was to fulfill the plans God had for Israel that were spoken by Jeremiah, “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” (Jeremiah 29:10-14)
While the nation of Israel was originally established by violence, it was reestablished by way of peace, promise and hope. This peace, promise and hope would find their ultimate fulfillment almost 500 years later in Christ Jesus.
Dear heavenly father, thank You for fulfilling Your promise of peace and hope in Christ Jesus. Rather than placing our hope in worldly prosperity, we pray that You open our eyes to the imperishable inheritance and blessed hope of Christ Himself and the righteousness that only He can give. Amen.