Bible Narratives Devotional, Week 35: Return from Exile
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Week 35: Return from Exile
Weekly memory verse:
Romans 8:5 – For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. “
“Spirit of God, Descend upon My Heart” (free download)
What does the Holy Spirit do for you?
The Holy Spirit unites me to Christ, convicts me of sin, comforts me, and sanctifies me.
Day 171: Daniel and the Lion’s Den
Reading: Daniel 6; Psalm 92
Daniel 6, Verse 1. Darius. Probably a title for king Cyrus. God calls Cyrus his “shepherd” and “anointed” who would fulfill God’s purposes (Isa 44:28, 45:1). Satraps. Administrators of Cyrus’s kingdom.
Verse 8. The law. According to Medo-Persian law, not even the king could revoke a decree that he made.
Verse 10. Prayed. The practice of praying three times a day had been established by David (Ps 55:16–17), and praying toward Jerusalem was according to Solomon’s desire (1 Kgs 8:44–45).
God continued to protect and honor Daniel, even with his new captors in Persia. God apparently used Daniel and his faithfulness to motivate Cyrus around the same time as this event to allow the people to return to Jerusalem. Even in the face of death, Daniel remained loyal to God and his commandments.
- Why was Daniel made an important leader in Persia?
- Why were the other officials jealous of Daniel?
- Why did God protect Daniel from the lions?
Day 172: The Exiles Return and Rebuild the Temple
Reading: Ezra 1–3; Psalm 93
Ezra 1, Verse 1. Cyrus. According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, Daniel read Isaiah’s prophecy that Cryus would allow the people to return to Jerusalem (Isa 44:28) to king Cyrus himself, which motivated Cyrus to make the proclamation. Jeremiah. Jeremiah had prophesied that Israel would return from exile after a 70-year captivity in Babylon (Jer 25:11; 29:10–14).
Ezra 3, Verse 1. Came up. The people return to Jerusalem in three waves. The first is in 538 bc under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua (Ezra 1–6), the second is in 458 under the leadership of Ezra (Ezra 7–10), and the third is in 445 under the leadership of Nehemiah (Neh 1–13). The first return is during Cyrus’s reign, and the latter two are during Artaxerxes’s reign.
Verse 12. Wept. The old men who still remembered Solomon’s temple, which had been destroyed 50 years earlier, recognized that this second temple did not compare in splendor to the first.
In the sovereignty of God and in fulfillment of promises he had made through his prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, God moves king Cyrus to allow the people to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. He had preserved all of the sacred worship impliments, and a group returned to begin rebuilding. God remains faithful to all of his promises, including promises of judgement and blessing.
- What does the fact that God used Cyrus to fulfill his promises reveal?
- What shows that the returning exiles learned lessons from God’s judgment?
- How does God display his steadfast love in this account?
Day 173: The Temple is Dedicated
Reading: Ezra 6; Psalm 94–95
Ezra 6, Verse 2. Ecbatana. A city 300 miles NE of Babylon where Cyrus had a summer home.
Verse 3. Sixty cubits. This was bigger than Solomon’s temple (see 1 Kings 6:2).
Verse 10. Pray for the life of the king. This reveals that Cyrus’s motive was self-serving.
Verse 15. Adar, in the sixth year. This would have been February or March of 516 bc. The book of Esther fits in the period between the completion of the temple and the second return of God’s people under Ezra (Ezra 7–10) in about 458 bc.
Psalm 95. According to Hebrews 4:7, this psalm was written by David, likely for a celebration of the Feast of the Tabernacles, in which the people remembered God’s provision during their wilderness wandering.
God kept his covenant with his people by protecting them and sovereignly arranging for their return to their land, including the rebuilding of the temple. Even though Cyrus had his own selfish motivation for allowing the people to return, it was God who truly turned the king’s heart to accomplish his purposes.
- What does Cyrus’s self-serving decision to allow the people to return to their land reveal about the sovereignty of God?
- Why was it important that the first thing the people did was to rebuild the temple?
- What does this event reveal about God’s faithfulness to his promises?
Day 174: Ezra Restores Israel’s Worship of Yahweh
Reading: Nehemiah 8–9
Chapter 8, Verse 1. Ezra. This is the first reference to Ezra the priest in the book of Nehemiah, but he had been serving since 458 bc (see Ezra 7–10).
Verse 3. Early morning until midday. This would have taken approximately six hours.
Verse 8. Gave the sense. This reading and explanation of Scripture provides the foundation for expositional preaching of God’s Word.
Verse 18. Solemn assembly. This is the most common phrase used in the Old Testament to describe corporate worship services in the temple.
The people of Israel responded to God’s faithfulness toward them by obeying what he had commanded them. They read his Law, the leaders explained what it meant, and the people responded with confession and worship. This is a great model for corporate worship: it is based on God’s revelation, it leads to confession of sin and commitment to God, and it is filled with the reading and explanation of the Word of God.
- In what ways had the people of Israel learned their lesson for why they had been in exile?
- How does this passage serve as a model for expositional preaching?
- How does this passage serve as a model for corporate worship services?
Day 175: Worship the Lord in the Splendor of Holiness
Reading: Psalm 96–98
Psalm 96. Much of this psalm, along with Pss. 97, 98, and 100, are found in 1 Chronicles 16 at the dedication of the tabernacle on Mt. Zion. It anticipates the time when God’s temple will cover the whole earth (see Isa 25:9; 40:9–10).
Verse 1. New song. A “new song” is the song of the redeemed (see Rev 5:9; 14:3).
Verse 9. Splendor of holiness. Beauty finds its foundation in the nature of God himself.
Psalm 97, Verse 1. Reigns. Although the Lord reigns sovereignly over all things now, the psalmist anticipates the time when he will rule directly on the earth, which will happen at the Second Coming of Christ (see Matt 24; Rev 19).
Psalm 98. This psalm joyfully anticipates the time when God will rule over all the earth.
God sovereignly rules over all things, but we still anticipate the day when he will rule perfectly on earth. This will happen when Christ comes again in glory to judge the living the dead. All sin and unbelief will melt before him, and his people will gather to worship him in the beauty of his holiness in the temple of his presence, which will cover the whole earth.
- What does the rule of God on earth mean for the wicked?
- What does the rule of God on earth mean for the righteous
- How might these psalms apply to us you still await the coming of the Lord?
About Scott Aniol
Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.