Israel’s Threefold Exodus – Part 2

Arno Froese

At the first Exodus out of the land of Egypt, God the Father proved Himself over and again by supernatural intervention on behalf of His people. When they arrived in the Promised Land, everything was made ready for them. They took possession of houses they did not build, of water wells they did not dig, and fruits of the field, which they did not plant.

At the second Exodus, they came to a totally deserted land. The most precious building, the temple, was destroyed. This time they had the government on their side. King Cyrus, inspired by God the Holy Spirit, gave the order for the Jews to return to Jerusalem for one specific purpose: to rebuild the temple.

A Government-Supported Exodus
“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” (Ezra 1:3).

The second Exodus was initiated by Cyrus, king of Persia. However, the originator was the Lord Himself, for we read in Ezra 1:1: “…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…”

Clear instruction is given in verse 2b: “…and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.”

The motivating factor was fulfillment of prophecy, with the very clear instruction to build the temple in Jerusalem. Please keep that fact in mind as we analyze Israel’s second Exodus in relationship to God’s command, through the mouth of Cyrus king of Persia, “…go up to Jerusalem…and build the house of the Lord God of Israel.”

Rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem
Doubtless, many Jews prospered under the rulership of Cyrus, king of Persia. But, to go from Persia to the land of Israel, to Jerusalem, was an extremely difficult task.

King Cyrus comes to the rescue: “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 1:4). Amazing; the king of Persia instructs his citizens to give to the Jews silver and gold, goods and animals, and most importantly, a “…freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”

Security Issues
The Jews were loaded with valuables, on the way to Jerusalem, some 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) away. But there was a problem: security. As the word went out that the Jews were carrying precious items, enough ill-minded people would be ready to take these valuable goods by force. Remember, the Jews had to go across the Euphrates River, then through the desert all the way through today’s Iraq. This doubtless was a very risky journey, with innumerable unexpected difficulties. There is no evidence in Scripture that the Jews had their own defense force. They were at the mercy of the people whose land they traveled through.

Trusting in God
Now the question was, what to do next? Here is the testimony of Ezra: “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance” (Ezra 8:21). Seeking God’s way for Israel was the right step.

The Adversaries
The Jews took their long journey to Jerusalem. When they arrived, they first built an altar to offer burnt offerings; they thanked God. Next, the foundation of the house of God was laid. Apparently, everything went well. But then came the adversaries, “… the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel” (Ezra 4:1). During the time frame of the adversaries’ actions, the target had shifted from building the house of God to building the city. That was the great mistake the Jews made.

From that point on, the enemies of Israel had a legal right to complain to the king of Persia—and that is exactly what they did.

“The Rebellious City”
They sent a letter to the king, defining the work that was going on in Jerusalem: “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” (Ezra 4:12-13).

Interestingly, the enemies do not mention anything about the building of the temple, but rather the building of the city.

What was the result of the Jews building the city? We read the shocking statement in Ezra 4:24: “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.”

Again: Build the Temple
God challenges His people:

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD” (Haggai 1:7-8).

He is simply telling them to do first things first: “build the house.” Not your house, not your security, not your well-being; the house of God in Jerusalem was Israel’s task, but they neglected it: “Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house” (verse 9).

Message to the Church
Here we have a prophetic message for the Church. What is the task of the Church of Jesus Christ on earth? To be witnesses unto Him, thus glorifying God. Ephesians 1:5-6 reads: “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

Most of Christianity has changed this calling to an earthly one. Although noble and well-meaning, literally millions of Christians have taken on tasks the Lord has not given them. What are they doing that they should not? They are trying to change the world; they are attempting to change their country. But this world is not to be changed by the Church; rather, the Church should be changed into His body, glorifying Jesus our Lord: “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men” (2 Corinthians 3:2).

Response to Prophecy
Now comes the prophetic Word: “Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD” (Haggai 1:12).

From being rebellious, Israel now turns to hear the prophet Haggai. Something happened when they heard the prophecy; amazingly, they obeyed the words. We read more details in the book of Ezra, chapter 5, verses 1-2: “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.” Finally, they did what they were told in the first place: build the house of God.

The Jews’ Defense
While the enemies still opposed, this time the Jews testify, in a letter to the king: “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…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 5:11, 17).

Adversaries Silenced
The end result was that the king wholeheartedly supported the project of building the house of God in Jerusalem, and threatened anyone that dared to oppose. “And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not. And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment” (Ezra 7:25-26).

Good Old Days
What a lesson for us today. Many of us have experienced the working of God in our midst; some have participated in revivals, where the Spirit of God took hold of sinners and they cried out for salvation. Often, one hears or reads testimonies of the elder generation and exclaims, “Those were the good old days.” Not so, I say; what’s past is past. Today we serve the Lord, and tomorrow has not yet come.

The apostle Paul admonishes us: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

“Forgetting those things which are behind” is needful for many, because what was will not come again. We—the Church of Jesus Christ, His body, the temple of the Holy Spirit—are in the process of being completed. The foundation was laid 2,000 years ago. Paul writes in Ephesians 2:20-22: “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

(This is an abbreviated message from the book Israel’s Threefold Exodus, Item #1088.)

Midnight Call - 03/2019

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