Ezra ends and it is followed by the second part, which is concerned mainly with the rebuilding of the city and the walls, instead of the Temple. Nehemiah receives permission from king Artaxerxes, after confessing his people’s sins to God, to go to Jerusalem to repair the wall.
Opposition to the rebuilding project appears son in the narrative (Nehemiah 2:19). There is always opposition when men and women of God are on the front lines of the battle. We must always pray for those who lead us spiritually.
The primary tactic of the enemy is to create confusion (Nehemiah 4:8). Confusion discourages people and can cause them to give up. When we face similar trials and tests of confusion, the believer must keep his focus on the the author of peace, and not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). That is only accomplished by watching and praying (Nehemiah 4:9; 21) and by immersing oneself into the Work of God (The Bible).
King Artaxerxes authorizes Ezra to return to Jerusalem with more exiles. It is a four month journey back to their homeland (Ezra 7:8-9). Upon arrival they present several things to the LORD, gold and silver to the Temple, sacrifices, and an attitude of cooperation.
But there is sin in the camp. Ezra the priest hears that many Jews are imitating the local pagans and have intermarried with them. Ezra confessess this sin to the Lord and many become sorrowful. The people promise to separate from the pagans in the land, and the men will divorce their wives. What a mess they have created.
Why is it so tempting to become like the world around us? For Christians, we are to be in the world, but not of it. We are citizens of heaven, and are pilgrims in this land. Our call is to be Ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us. Therefore we are to reconcile ourselves to God and not the world.
The Palace intrigue continues with Mordecai being honored for his loyalty, and Haman is hanged. The Jews are allowed to defend themselves against their enemies, and Mordecai is promoted. The Jews successfully defend themselves, and the Festival of Purim is established to commemorate the event. Mordecai becomes the prime minister. One wonders why this book was not called, “Mordecai.”
Make no mistake, the account in the book of Esther concerns an empire that was brutal and bloodthirsty. Esther was probably not the sweet little woman that children’s Bible storybooks portray her as, or hollywood movies for that matter. It is improbable that a passive young woman would rise to the powerful position of queen of Persia.
She was likely shrewd, tough, and fearless. She was not afraid to see someone put to death. It is possible queen Esther was queen Amestris described by the historian Herodotus. (The Histories VII:114).
Whether you believe she was sweet and kind, or cold and calculating, the account is intriguing and God used her in a great and powerful way!
Read Esther 1:1 – 5:14
I remember Carol and I walking through the streets of Jerusalem in late 2015 and hearing the sounds of Jewish children playing and laughing. Many children can been seen behind us as we stand next to an ancient pillar from Herod’s temple.
Those children play under the threat of attack from enemies. One day they will play and laugh in peace (Zechariah 8:5). The sights and sounds today are foreshadowing of that day when Jerusalem is called the City of Truth and Jesus Christ will dwell in their midst. “Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold your King is coming to you (Zechariah 9:9). No longer will there be a threat and men and women will grow old with “great age” (Zechariah 8:4).
But first, Israel must go through a purging–a great trial so that they may believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Nations will be against Jerusalem and it will be a time of distress (Zechariah 14:1,2). But they will call out for the Messiah, and He will return and plant His feet on the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4). He will set up His government and people from all nations will come to worship Him (Zechariah 14:16). Everything and everyone will proclaim HOLINESS TO THE LORD (Zechariah 14:20).
That day is coming.
Read Zechariah 8:1 – 14:21
Zechariah is “the most messianic, the most truly apocalyptic and eschatalogical of all the writings of the Old Testament.”1 There are 41 New Testament citations or allusions to Zechariah’s book2
1International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956
2Eberhard Nestle and Kurt Aland, eds., Novum Testamentum Graece. New York: American Bible Society, 1950
This short little ‘minor prophet’ book contains three messages preached by Haggai over a period of several months (August, October, and December), to the returning Jewish remnant.
The LORD stirred the heart of Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, to begin work on the rebuilding of the glorious house of the LORD of hosts (Yahweh of armies). Many things stand out in this prophecy:
- The restoration of this latter temple shall be greater than the former (The temple of Solomon). That is because during the times of Herod the presence of Jesus the Messiah would be in it (Matthew 12:6 and John 2:13-22).
- Zerubbael is compared to a signet ring (a seal of royal authority or personal ownership). Back in Jeremiah (22:24-25) God said that if Jehoiachin (Zerubbabel’s grandfather) were His signet ring, He would pluck it off Him. Possibly the LORD is saying through Haggai; He is reversing the curse pronounced on Jehoiachin?
- Zerubabel is in the line of messsianic descent (Matthew 1:12). Evidently, Haggai is presenting Zerubabel in a representative role in typifying (a type of) Messiah?
In any case, the temple will be rebuilt and filled with the glory of the Lord!
The final Son of David will rule the earth in peace and righteousness!
Therefore, Haggai’s message is for God’s people to be faithful now to the task to which He has called them.
Whenever the LORD’s work begins to show promise, adversaries come out of the woodwork. Satan does not want the plan of the LORD to proceed. He does not want the Gospel to be proclaimed. It is discouraging when opposition comes, but there is hope in the LORD.
With the temple reconstruction underway, the haters come out. They send a letter to king of Persia, filled with lies and slander. The result is a work stoppage. But thank God for bold believers–Those who never give up. After listening to the prophets, Zerubbabel and Jeshua begin to build again, no matter the opposition.
They trusted in the God of Israel, and He was with them. The result? King Darius issued a decree for the work to continue. Anyone trying to stop them would be hanged from a beam taken from their own house!
When we seek the LORD (6:22), His hand will be upon us.
The fulfillment of Jeremiah’s words was totally God’s doing (Jeremiah 29:10). Seventy years of Jewish captivity in Babylon were about to end. The deporation happened in stages beginning in 605 B.C. The decree of Cyrus in 538 B.C. was 67 years later. By the time the people returned and built the altar in 536 B.C., 70 years were almost up.
This remarkable return, declared and orchestrated by God, was carried out by a ruler who did not worship the God of Israel. He was not a believer in Yahweh. His concern was to establish strong buffer states around his empire which would be loyal to him.
We see in this a perfect example of how even non-believing leaders can be used for God’s purpose. Of course we would be remiss in not recognizing many similar decrees regarding the Jews and Israel made by our own U.S. President. He has recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, proclaimed Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, cancelled the Iran nuclear deal, among many other things. Many in Israel call him the modern day “Cyrus.”
Christians must also recognize that there is no such thing as a “Palestinian” or “Palestine.” Those words should not be in our vocabulary. All of the land belongs to Israel. And one day it will all be theirs when Jesus Christ returns.
When the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid (3:11), many of the old men who had seen the first temple, “wept with a loud voice.” Most likely this was weeping from sorrow and discouragment as they remembered the grandeur of the Solomonic temple in contrast to this new one. Nevertheless, the sounds of weeping and joy were mingled together and were so loud that they were heard from far away.
We miss the gravity of the coming Great Tribulation. The vision was so disturbing to Daniel he mourned for three weeks; he could not eat nor care for his own appearance. The Great Tribulation is a terrible time on earth–millions, more likely billions of people will die. So horrendous was the vision that Satan tried to stop the messenger from bringing the message to Daniel (Daniel 10:13-14).
Chapter 11 has both a near and far prophetic events. The first being a “mighty king” in 11:3, identified as Alexander the Great whose rise to power had been foreshadowed by the bronze belly and thighs of Nebuchadnezzar’s image, the winged leopard (7:6), and the prominent horn of the goat (8:5-8). Throughout chapter 11 other kings and rulers arise including Antiochus Epiphanes (11:21-35). He is the little horn of Daniel 8:9-12, 23-25 who foreshadows another king.
Daniel 11:36 shifts from the near prophecy to the future. This is the prophecy of the 70th seven (or week).
The anti-christ is no joke. He will be a satanic, self-willed king (Daniel 11:36), and like lambs to the slaughter, the world will follow him. Even Israel, God’s chosen people, will believe his venomous lies for a time. The duration of this king’s rule has been determined by God (11:36). It is suggested he will be homosexual (11:37) which is not difficult to imagine in our day and age. These will be desperate times on earth and for Israel. But God will destroy the kingdom of this king at the personal appearance of Jesus Christ to this earth (Revelation 19:19-20). And Israel will be delivered (Daniel 12:1-3).
Daniel and his readers could not have comprehended all the details of the prophecies given in this book. Not until history continues to unfold will many be able to understand these prophetic revelations (Daniel 12:4). This illuminating of prophecy is known as the doctrine of progressive illumination (not to be confused with the false doctrine of progressive revelation–God has revealed everything to us in His Word, there is no more revelation).
Believers are rescued from this coming Satanic wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10). We do not await the anti-christ, rather we look for the Blessed Hope of the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). Amen!
Daniel receives more visions, culminating in a visit from the angel Gabriel. Gabriel’s message? God will successfully accomplish His total plan for Israel during a specified number of years.
The number will involve “seventy weeks” of seven for a total of 490 years, beginning with the comand to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The years will fall into three categories:
- First period, 49 years during which Jerusalem will be rebuilt (Daniel 9:25).
- Second period, 434 years, at which time the Messiah will be crucified (Daniel 9:26).
- Third period, 7 years, a reference to the coming Great Tribulation (Daniel 9:27).
The glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us…
A second dream comes to Nebuchadnezzar and he asks Daniel to interpret it. This time it is personally related to the king. A time of dread is about to come upon the king, all he must do to avert it is to live “righteously and humble himself.” For someone in power that may be easier said than done.
The king spoke saying, “Is this not great Babylon, that I have built…by my mighty power and….my majesty?
Because of his pride and lack of acknowledgement of the One True God, he has to live like an animal for seven years. His kingdom and sanity are restored when he acknowledges God.
When we confess our sins, our fellowship with the Lord is restored.
Years pass and a new king comes to power. He too has a dream, and Daniel, now older, interprets it. This dream relates to the fall of the Babylonians to the Persians.
Anti-semitism is not new. In chapter six a plot is hatched to put Daniel (a Jew) to death. With the Medo-Persian nation now ruling, like his friends decades before him, Daniel will not bow to a false god. He prays instead, three times a day. Yet, a decree has been issued and Daniel has broken the law. The punishment? Thrown into a den of lions.
Darius the Mede has become a friend of Daniel’s. He is heartbroken that this old man (Daniel was probably in his 80’s), must be cast into the lion’s den. When morning comes and Darius discovers his friend alive, he recognizes the power of the living God.
So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian (See Ezra 1:2).
Read Daniel 4:1 – 6:28