God’s Renewing Word of Thankfulness and Praise
Ezra 1:1-11: Today we will begin reading excerpts from the book of Ezra which describes the return of some of the Jewish exiles from Babylonia and the restoration of life and worship in Jerusalem. Jerusalem had been captured by the Babylonians in 586 B.C., and the Temple was destroyed. Emperor Cyrus of Persia defeated the Babylonians and in 538 B.C. allowed the exiles to return home and rebuild the Temple. Today’s reading includes Cyrus’s decree allowing the Jews to return home. The prophet Isaiah speaks of God’s choosing Cyrus to bring this about (see Isaiah 45:1-8; 48:12-16).
Cyrus Commands the Jews to Return
1 In the first year that Cyrus of Persia was emperor,the Lord made what he had said through the prophet Jeremiah come true. He prompted Cyrus to issue the following command and send it out in writing to be read aloud everywhere in his empire:
2 “This is the command of Cyrus, Emperor of Persia. The Lord, the God of Heaven, has made me ruler over the whole world and has given me the responsibility of building a temple for him in Jerusalem in Judah. 3 May God be with all of you who are his people. You are to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is worshiped in Jerusalem. 4 If any of his people in exile need help to return, their neighbors are to give them this help. They are to provide them with silver and gold, supplies and pack animals, as well as offerings to present in the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”
5 Then the heads of the clans of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, the priests and Levites, and everyone else whose heart God had moved got ready to go and rebuild the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem. 6 All their neighbors helped them by giving them many things: silver utensils, gold, supplies, pack animals, other valuables, and offerings for the Temple.
7 Emperor Cyrus gave them back the bowls and cups that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem and had put in the temple of his gods. 8 He handed them over to Mithredath, chief of the royal treasury, who made an inventory of them for Sheshbazzar, the governor of Judah, 9-10 as follows:
Today’s Key Verse: Ezra 1:5
Then the heads of the clans of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, the priests and the Levites, and everyone else whose heart God had moved got ready to go and rebuild the LORD’s Temple in Jerusalem.
What was stated in Cyrus’s decree (verses 2-4)? What help did the Jewish exiles’ neighbors provide (verse 6)? What did Cyrus return to the Jewish exiles (verses 7-10)? Based on today’s reading, how would you describe Cyrus as a ruler?
Gracious God, I thank and praise you for keeping me in the shelter of your love and care. Open my heart and eyes to the needs of those I encounter today that I may share the bounty of your blessings with others. In your holy name, I pray. Amen.
Ezra 3:1-13: Worship and the rebuilding of the Temple begins.