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Back from exile, Israelites built a new Temple

September 21, 2023

Daily Scripture

Ezra 1:5-7, Haggai 1:1-8, Ezra 6:13-16

Ezra 1
5 Then the heads of the families of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites—everyone whose spirit God had stirred up—got ready to go up and build God’s house in Jerusalem. 6 All their neighbors assisted them with silver equipment, with gold, with goods, livestock, and valuable gifts, in addition to all that was freely offered. 7 King Cyrus brought out the equipment of the Lord’s house—those items that Nebuchadnezzar brought from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods.

Haggai 1
1 The Lord’s word came through Haggai the prophet in the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month on the first day of the month, to Judah’s governor Zerubbabel, Shealtiel’s son, and to the high priest Joshua, Jehozadak’s son:
2 This is what the Lord of heavenly forces says:
    These people say, “The time hasn’t come,
        the time to rebuild the Lord’s house.”
3 Then the Lord’s word came through Haggai the prophet:
4         Is it time for you to dwell in your own paneled houses
            while this house lies in ruins?
5 So now, this is what the Lord of heavenly forces says:
    Take your ways to heart.
6     You have sown much, but it has brought little.
    You eat, but there’s not enough to satisfy.
    You drink, but not enough to get drunk.
    There is clothing, but not enough to keep warm.
    Anyone earning wages puts those wages into a bag with holes.
7 This is what the Lord of heavenly forces says:
    Take your ways to heart.
8     Go up to the highlands and bring back wood.
    Rebuild the temple so that I may enjoy it
        and that I may be honored, says the Lord.

Ezra 6
13 Then Tattenai, the governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their colleagues carried out the order of King Darius with all diligence. 14 So the elders of the Jews built and prospered because of the prophesying of the prophet Haggai and Zechariah, Iddo’s son. They finished building by the command of Israel’s God and of Cyrus, Darius, and King Artaxerxes of Persia. 15 This house was completed on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the rule of King Darius.
16 Then the Israelites, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles joyfully celebrated the dedication of this house of God.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

This week’s GPS focuses on the Bible reasons for Resurrection’s current “Generation to Generation” campaign. For more information about the campaign, click here.

After almost 70 years of exile, the Persian king Cyrus allowed Israelites to return to Jerusalem. With a firm “nudge” from God through the prophet Haggai, and with far fewer resources than King Solomon had had, the Israelites set out to rebuild a Temple in Jerusalem. It took nearly 20 years, through many challenges and opposition. But rebuilding God’s temple mattered to the Israelites, who persevered through the hardships to complete the work God called them to.

  • Rebuilding the temple took far more than any one person, or even one community, could provide. The limits of the project often discouraged the Israelites (cf. Haggai 2:3-4). Have you or someone you know well ever felt God nudging you into a project, initiative, or mission that seemed beyond what you could do? What was that experience like? In what ways did God’s power and provision show itself through that experience?
  • During this hard time of rebuilding, some Israelites wept. Nehemiah, a key leader with Ezra, told them, “The joy from the Lord is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10). Pastor Eugene Peterson wrote, “One of the most interesting and remarkable things Christians learn is that laughter does not exclude weeping. Christian joy is not an escape from sorrow.” * How does God-given joy differ from “happiness”? How can God’s presence help you find joy even at challenging times?

Lord God, open my eyes to see the beauty you can create when we all pitch in. Open my hands to give freely and open my heart to feel the joy that comes as we grow together. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Wendy Lyons Chrostek

Wendy Lyons Chrostek

We're glad to share this from Wendy Lyons Chrostek, who currently serves as location pastor for Resurrection--Brookside. When she wrote this blog post in 2014, she was a member of the Congregational Care staff.

Louisiana is no stranger to flooding, and last year was no exception. My hometown of Lake Arthur faced such a threat. The levee was just about three inches from flooding over, and there was no way they could hold off the water without everyone’s help. So the efforts began—in this small town, person after person stepped up to help fill and lay sandbags. It’s easy to invest time and energy when it’s your home about to get flooded, but when your home isn’t in danger, it’s a whole lot easier to stay inside. But that didn’t stop them. It wasn’t about helping themselves as much as it was about helping their neighbors, about helping those they saw at the grocery store, and who they saw in line picking their kids up from school, and those that they sat next to at the high school football game. It wasn’t their home, but that didn’t matter.

During the reign of King Darius, the prophet Haggai had brought a word from the Lord that it was time to rebuild the temple. The people were reluctant—in fact, they were more worried about taking care of their own homes, which led the prophet to say, “Is it a time for you yourselves to live in paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” (Haggai 1:4) It took someone from the outside to make them realize that something needed to be done. And so the efforts began. “Everyone whose spirit God had stirred—got ready to go up and rebuild the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. All their neighbors aided them with silver vessels, with gold, with goods, with animals, and with valuable gifts, besides all that was freely offered.” (Ezra 1:5-7) Did you catch that? It wasn’t just those whose hearts had been stirred by God, but also neighbors. They weren’t Jewish, they wouldn’t be worshipping in the temple, they didn’t have any stake in this, and yet they freely offered their gifts.

The waters held off, and Lake Arthur repelled this threat of a flood. Like those seeking to rebuild the temple, they were compelled by the vision of something greater than themselves. When the entire community stands behind a vision, something profound happens. And you get to be a part of that.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000, p. 100.