old city of rubble September 8 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Ezra 3:1-13; Psalms 92, 126

Courageous Faith

What would you do if your church were destroyed and burned because people in your neighborhood did not like you? Would you go back? You might rightly say, “That all depends on the circumstances. Perhaps there is a better place for our church where we will not be harassed.” That is true enough, but what would you do if you were convinced God wanted you to go back there and rebuild? Anytime we do God’s will when facing opposition we express courageous faith.

Moving back to Jerusalem was not easy for the Israelites to do. Seventy years earlier Jews who had been living in and around Jerusalem were exiled to Babylon. For those in the former northern kingdom of Ephraim (Israel) the time of exile was much longer and they were more scattered. The exiles settled down and got used to the culture of Babylon. Even if they were freed as the prophets predicted, there was not much to return to but rubble and hostile neighbors. Still, it was their homeland. During the latter part of their exile there were many Jews that repented and wanted to obey God. Finally, under a decree by King Cyrus of Persia, they were allowed to return to their former land, and 49,000 responded. When you are with God, God is with you.

In 538 B.C. God caused the Persian king, Cyrus, to issue a decree allowing all Jewish exiles who were willing to return to their hometown of Jerusalem and rebuild the temple and the city. He even issued an order that the people in the neighboring cities of the Trans-Euphrates (a large area of Persian territory west of the Euphrates River that included Israel and Judah) to supply the gold, silver, goods, and the animals used for sacrificing. Even the articles of the temple were returned, which Nebuchadnezzar had placed in the temple of his god. The king’s purpose was to gain the favor of the gods of the land by being gracious (Ezra 1:3; 7:23), but God moves the hearts of the kings of the earth (Proverbs 21:1).

“Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites-- everyone whose heart God had moved-- prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem,” (Ezra 1:5). In the seventh month, after many Israelites and their servants returned to the land and had built themselves dwellings in their former towns, they gathered together in unity to build an altar to the LORD. They did this despite their fear of the nations around them. Courage is not a lack of fear; it is the will to do what is right in spite of it.

Israel’s neighbors were not happy that King Cyrus was helping the Jews and that they had to actually contribute to their cause. God has a sense of humor; those who were their enemy nations now had to help them get a start in rebuilding their temple and city. They hated the Jews, but what could they do? They, too, were vassal nations under the powerful rule of Persia.

After building the altar to offer sacrifices to the LORD, the Jews ordered their building supplies from Sidon and Tyre, and hired masons and carpenters to rebuild the temple. In the second month of the second year after their arrival in Jerusalem, the foundations were laid and there was much rejoicing, but the elders who remembered the first temple wept. The priests and appointed Levites played trumpets, clashed symbols and led the congregation in songs of praise to God.

Do we have faith to act in spite of our fears? If God wants us to do something big, he will enable use to do it. God specializes in doing things only He can do.

Lessons to live by:

  • Only God can give us courageous faith. More than that he gives us forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...).
  • Do not be discouraged from following God’s will because of your circumstances.
  • Courage is not a lack of fear; it is the will to do what is right in spite of it.
  • If you are obedient to God, He will be in your midst doing things you could never dream. Oh, what joy and laughter and singing will come of that - what praise and glory to God!

Today’s Bible memory verse: Matthew 19:26 “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” (NIV)

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