SNAPPY COMEBACK

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COMEBACK FROM SETBACK

So our meddlesome neighbors have made a claim in the court of the king, and stopped the reconstruction of the temple.  So the prince of this world has a season to hinder the kingdom, but no more.  When God’s time is right he spoke to the prophets with new instructions.

Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them.  Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.  At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall?  Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building?  But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then they returned answer by letter concerning this matter.  Ezra 5:1-5

God told the prophets to resume the work that the king had forbidden, so the obedient men began the work again.  And their enemies began their work again too.  I understand a neighbor tattled on my handyman for not having a building permit for my remodeling.  The building inspector was not concerned about my little repairs, but he had to humor the whiners by stopping by the house.  So here the Jews have to endure the opposition again, and the matter is again referred to the king. 

The copy of the letter that Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai and his companions the Apharsachites, which were on this side the river, sent unto Darius the king:  They sent a letter unto him, wherein was written thus; Unto Darius the king, all peace.  Be it known unto the king, that we went into the province of Judea, to the house of the great God, which is builded with great stones, and timber is laid in the walls, and this work goeth fast on, and prospereth in their hands.  Then asked we those elders, and said unto them thus, Who commanded you to build this house, and to make up these walls?  We asked their names also, to certify thee, that we might write the names of the men that were the chief of them.  Ezra 5:6-10

So the letter begins with the discovery of work ongoing on the temple.  This report indicates that they were taking names.  Isn’t that always a bad sign?  So they go on…

And thus they returned us answer, saying, We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and build the house that was builded these many years ago, which a great king of Israel builded and set up.  But after that our fathers had provoked the God of heaven unto wrath, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house, and carried the people away into Babylon.  But in the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon the same king Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God.  And the vessels also of gold and silver of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that was in Jerusalem, and brought them into the temple of Babylon, those did Cyrus the king take out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered unto one, whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor;  And said unto him, Take these vessels, go, carry them into the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be builded in his place.  Then came the same Sheshbazzar, and laid the foundation of the house of God which is in Jerusalem: and since that time even until now hath it been in building, and yet it is not finished.  Ezra 5:11-16

So these builders admit to having angered God and being punished.  But now they point out the decree of king Cyrus who had ordered them to be about this building.  They report having started the work and admit that they have not finished their assignment.

Now therefore, if it seem good to the king, let there be search made in the king’s treasure house, which is there at Babylon, whether it be so, that a decree was made of Cyrus the king to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send his pleasure to us concerning this matter.  Ezra 5:17

Now the Jews have a new court and a new judge.  They also have a case based on precedent and a king’s authority.  God has provided the conditions in his time, and faith opened the door to a new possibility.  Everyone wants to have a snappy comeback, but none is greater than “it is written”.  Let’s see where this takes them now.

If the news is all bad it opens the door to challenge God.  We can find some bad news around us today, but are we any less prepared to trust God for our help?  We are going to see where that will take us in our own time.

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FRIENEMIES

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LAWYERS: WOLVES WITH SHEEPSKINS

God has presented the decline and fall of Israel in two accounts now.  Is this getting wearisome?  It gets old to God too, since we are still doing it today.  When your children stray far from being good it is a drain of joy.  But he has given us a break by skipping to the end for a look at the joy of recovery, when Judah is being restored.  We will hear from the prophets of the captivity period and see how long it took Judah to wake up.  But now we see that the rebuilding process is not without resistance.  Judah will need to live by faith again.

Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel;  Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.  But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.  Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building,  And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.  Ezra 4:1-5

Here come our friends to help us.  These may indeed be people of Israel, taken into captivity before Judah.  They did serve God, but their rebellion took them into God’s wrath before Judah went down.  Still the men of Judah recognized them as adversaries with evil intentions.  Israel had already had their wars with Judah in the past.  We still have people who claim to serve the same God even as they are plotting to stop the work of the kingdom.  Whoever these people are they are recognized as being trouble makers.

When enemies come bearing gifts, sound red alert and raise the shields, the Klingons are coming.  The house of faith will continue to obey God and build the temple.  There will always be people in opposition, even as there are today.  Do you think we can convert worshippers of Baal or Allah?  We can convert a few who are predestinated, but they will be facing intense persecution.  These ancient enemies hired counselors, probably much like our modern lawyers.  They searched for legalities to bring accusation against the brethren of Judah.

And in the reign of A hasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.  And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue.  Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort:  Then wrote Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions; the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, the Susanchites, the Dehavites, and the Elamites,  And the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Asnapper brought over, and set in the cities of Samaria, and the rest that are on this side the river, and at such a time.  Ezra 4:6-10

So the enemies of Israel wrote a complaint to the king of Persia.  They appealed to the worldly in all the politically correct ways.  They had failed to delay the work by infiltration and sabotage, so now they bring an accusation to the king.  They file false accusations because they serve the accuser of the brethren, who is Satan. 

This is the copy of the letter that they sent unto him, even unto Artaxerxes the king; Thy servants the men on this side the river, and at such a time.  Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations.  Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city be builded, and the walls set up again, then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings.  Now because we have maintenance from the king’s palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king’s dishonour, therefore have we sent and certified the king;  That search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers: so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time: for which cause was this city destroyed.  We certify the king that, if this city be builded again, and the walls thereof set up, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river. Ezra 4:11-16

So the claim is made that the Jews are rebellious and will not pay their taxes.  The accusers claim that they are only looking out for the king by reporting this to him. 

Then sent the king an answer unto Rehum the chancellor, and to Shimshai the scribe, and to the rest of their companions that dwell in Samaria, and unto the rest beyond the river, Peace, and at such a time.  The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me.  And I commanded, and search hath been made, and it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made therein.  There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, which have ruled over all countries beyond the river; and toll, tribute, and custom, was paid unto them.  Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until another commandment shall be given from me.  Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings? Ezra 4:17-22

So the king halted construction based on the history of rebellion Judah had established.  They were still known for the conquests of David and Solomon, and for how they taxed the lands they conquered.  Judah and Israel had failed to remove the Canaanites from the land, taxing them instead.  If they had removed their enemies as God expected, this history would not have followed them.  They were indeed rebellious against Babylon and their reputation was still in the records. 

Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power.  Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. Ezra 4:23-24

For this day the reconstruction of the temple was halted by the military.  The history of Judah had come back to stop their new hope.  But there were other records in the kingdom of Persia that would change this outcome.  It was time to appeal their case to a higher court.

RESTORATION

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RELATIONSHIP REPAIR

Judah has been in a bad place in captivity in Babylon.  They had earned that by being in a bad place in rebellion against God.  Still god has loved his people enough to be forgiving after their punishment.  They are allowed to return to Jerusalem and to restore the temple by king Cyrus of Persia.  They celebrated by sacrifice and worship to God.

And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem.  Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God.  And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD, even burnt offerings morning and evening.  They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required;  And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the LORD  Ezra 3:1-5

These people gave as required, and more still as a freewill offering.  They were not worshiping to fill some dead laws or rituals.  The work was still ahead to rebuild the temple though.  Provision had been made for that by king Cyrus.

From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the LORD. But the foundation of the temple of the LORD was not yet laid  They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia  Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the LORD  Ezra 3:6-8

Then stood Jeshua with his sons and his brethren, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together, to set forward the workmen in the house of God: the sons of Henadad, with their sons and their brethren the Levites.  And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel.  And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.  Ezra 3:9-11

They gathered materials of the cedars and stones and laid the foundation of the temple again.  They worshipped and gave praise to God as the foundation marked the beginning of restoration.  Assignments were given to the Levites for the work.

But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy:  So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.  Ezra 3:12-13

Those seniors who had seen the temple in its glory knew that this restoration did not match the former glory.  The weeping and the celebration blended together as these leaders of the past recognized their loss.  Sin leaves a penalty of loss even after one recovers from the greatest part of its damages.  One day Israel will recognize its Messiah and they will again match celebration with weeping as they recognize the loss that remains after their restoration and deliverance.  God knows when we are in danger, and takes time to issue warnings even to those who are backslidden into the darkest places.  He loves us enough to reach down to our fallen place with correction.

And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges;  I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.  But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.  So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate.16 Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.17 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.  Revelation 2:12-17

To the modern churches god has issued warnings out of his love for his people.  These messages of Revelation reveal his love in that he finds some good in us in our worst state.  These were written to churches that have been weakened by gross sin but still have some testimony of good.  Some will accept this correction and be rewarded for overcoming the temptation of sin with the help of Yeshua Ha Meschia.

RESTORATION

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HOMEWARD BOUND

As king Cyrus releases the Jews to return to Jerusalem, the numbers of the families are recorded.  As Ezra and Daniel predicted, these families will again see the Holy Land.  Again this is out of time sequence, but offers reassurance that the events of the captivity are not unending disaster. 

Now these are the children of the province that went up out of the captivity, of those which had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away unto Babylon, and came again unto Jerusalem and Judah, every one unto his city;  Ezra 2:1

Who are these Jews who return to Jerusalem?  Are they another generation or two after Daniel and his friends?  Are they descendants of Esther?  Will we find Hannaniah, Azariah, and Mishael among the returnees?  This first group appears to be named by families.

Which came with Zerubbabel: Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mizpar, Bigvai, Rehum, Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel:  The children of Parosh, two thousand an hundred seventy and two.  The children of Shephatiah, three hundred seventy and two.  The children of Arah, seven hundred seventy and five.  The children of Pahathmoab, of the children of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand eight hundred and twelve.  The children of Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four.  The children of Zattu, nine hundred forty and five.  The children of Zaccai, seven hundred and threescore.  The children of Bani, six hundred forty and two.  The children of Bebai, six hundred twenty and three.  The children of Azgad, a thousand two hundred twenty and two.  The children of Adonikam, six hundred sixty and six.  The children of Bigvai, two thousand fifty and six.  The children of Adin, four hundred fifty and four.  The children of Ater of Hezekiah, ninety and eight.  The children of Bezai, three hundred twenty and three.  The children of Jorah, an hundred and twelve.  The children of Hashum, two hundred twenty and three.  The children of Gibbar, ninety and five.  Ezra 2:2-20

Now I see a change as the returnees are listed by their former cities of residence.  Then they seem to lapse back to family names.

The children of Bethlehem, an hundred twenty and three.  The men of Netophah, fifty and six.  The men of Anathoth, an hundred twenty and eight.  The children of Azmaveth, forty and two.  The children of Kirjatharim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred and forty and three.  The children of Ramah and Gaba, six hundred twenty and one.  The men of Michmas, an hundred twenty and two.  The men of Bethel and Ai, two hundred twenty and three.  The children of Nebo, fifty and two.  The children of Magbish, an hundred fifty and six.  The children of the other Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four.  The children of Harim, three hundred and twenty.  The children of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred twenty and five.  The children of Jericho, three hundred forty and five.  The children of Senaah, three thousand and six hundred and thirty.  The priests: the children of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred seventy and three.  The children of Immer, a thousand fifty and two.  The children of Pashur, a thousand two hundred forty and seven.  The children of Harim, a thousand and seventeen.  The Levites: the children of Jeshua and Kadmiel, of the children of Hodaviah, seventy and four  Ezra 2:21-40

While families may be getting mixed up by place of residence, the Levites are still identified, as they often are today.  Have you seen family names like Levy or Levi?  Yes, the maker of our frontier blue jeans was Levi Strauss.  These records reflect God’s interest in the families and tribes, and he still knows who and where we are today.

The singers: the children of Asaph, an hundred twenty and eight.  The children of the porters: the children of Shallum, the children of Ater, the children of Talmon, the children of Akkub, the children of Hatita, the children of Shobai, in all an hundred thirty and nine.  The Nethinims: the children of Ziha, the children of Hasupha, the children of Tabbaoth,  The children of Keros, the children of Siaha, the children of Padon,  The children of Lebanah, the children of Hagabah, the children of Akkub,  The children of Hagab, the children of Shalmai, the children of Hanan,  The children of Giddel, the children of Gahar, the children of Reaiah,  The children of Rezin, the children of Nekoda, the children of Gazzam,  The children of Uzza, the children of Paseah, the children of Besai,  The children of Asnah, the children of Mehunim, the children of Nephusim,  Ezra 2:41-50

Was Asaph the writer of the Psalms not written by David?  Was Shallum a King of Judah also known as Jehoahaz?  Or was he a descendant of Levi, and one of the line of the high priests (1. Chr. 6:13)?  Was he one of the sons of Naphtali (1. Chr. 7:13)?  Or was he Shallum, son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, who repaired a section of the wall of Jerusalem with the help of his daughters (Neh. 3:12)?  Those who went into captivity while serving god came out still serving God.  They would see Jerusalem again.

The children of Bakbuk, the children of Hakupha, the children of Harhur,  The children of Bazluth, the children of Mehida, the children of Harsha,  The children of Barkos, the children of Sisera, the children of Thamah,  The children of Neziah, the children of Hatipha.  The children of Solomon’s servants: the children of Sotai, the children of Sophereth, the children of Peruda,  The children of Jaalah, the children of Darkon, the children of Giddel,  The children of Shephatiah, the children of Hattil, the children of Pochereth of Zebaim, the children of Ami.  All the Nethinims, and the children of Solomon’s servants, were three hundred ninety and two.  And these were they which went up from Telmelah, Telharsa, Cherub, Addan, and Immer: but they could not shew their father’s house, and their seed, whether they were of Israel:  The children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred fifty and two.  Ezra 2:51-60

The servants of Solomon were still known among the people of Judah after all these years.  But some were not known to be of Israel for sure.  Either way they were all to be among those returning to Jerusalem and the city of David.

And of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai; which took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name:  These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood.  And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim.  The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore,  Beside their servants and their maids, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and there were among them two hundred singing men and singing women.  Their horses were seven hundred thirty and six; their mules, two hundred forty and five;  Their camels, four hundred thirty and five; their asses, six thousand seven hundred and twenty.  And some of the chief of the fathers, when they came to the house of the LORD which is at Jerusalem, offered freely for the house of God to set it up in his place:  They gave after their ability unto the treasure of the work threescore and one thousand drams of gold, and five thousand pound of silver, and one hundred priests’ garments.  So the priests, and the Levites, and some of the people, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, dwelt in their cities, and all Israel in their cities.  Ezra 2:61-70

Records had been kept of the families, and the priesthood had to be confirmed.  When some were not found in the records they were forbidden to perform priestly duties.  A priest with the Urim and Thummim had a communion with God who could confirm who would be allowed to participate.  Altogether the families and their servants were nearly fifty thousand in number.

Some of the heads of families took up a fund to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.  They went on into the land and returned to their traditional home cities.  Judah had returned to their inheritance.  There was work to be done rebuilding the city, and enemies would challenge the effort.  Now at least they were free to live for God and they would do this even as they will today.  The enemies of Israel will not take them from their inheritance.

LIGHT AT THE BEGINNING OF THE END

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DOWN THE DRAIN; INTO THE LIGHT

While Judah and Israel are in captivity they are also comforted at times by word from God through his prophets.  They will record these and add some of the greatest messages in the time of greatest trials.  First up t bat is Ezra by biblical presentation, but this is actually near the end of Judah’s captivity.  Exra records a prophetic promise of a previous prophet.  Log before this god had revealed how and by whom Judah would be released from captivity.  Even the name of their helper was foretold long ago by Jerimiah.

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,  Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.  Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.  And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.  Ezra 1:1-4

It is possible that Cyrus knew of this because he may have descended from Queen Esther.  His mother may have named him Cyrus to fulfill the prophesy.  In any case, he knew he was called by God and did his job.

Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem.  And all they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, beside all that was willingly offered.  Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put them in the house of his gods;  Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah.  And this is the number of them: thirty chargers of gold, a thousand chargers of silver, nine and twenty knives,  Thirty basins of gold, silver basins of a second sort four hundred and ten, and other vessels a thousand.  All the vessels of gold and of silver were five thousand and four hundred. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up with them of the captivity that were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem.Ezra 1:5-11

After all the dark times of the kings and the Chronicles, this is the day of joy that had long awaited.  Temple furnishings were returned from the temples of idolatry and sent back to Jerusalem.  The people were released to go rebuild the temple and Jerusalem.  Cyrus provided the materials and funding and sent the people home. 

Let’s go on to learn about the fall and restoration through the eyes of the prophets who saw and wrote of these dark times.  Don’t be surprised to find a lot of light being offered in spite of the pain of these judgments.