I just love a story that ends in victory with justice prevailing. And I can’t decide which of the lines I underlined in this chapter is my favorite. First, I love the end of verse 14 where it says, “The Temple was finally finished, as had been commanded by the God of Israel and decreed by Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, the kings of Persia.” You’re probably thinking, what in the world is so special about this verse, but to me, this spells out teamwork and justice … and a bond between God and man that sometimes we just don’t understand. But I also love this verse simply because it exists. Think about it, this verse would have been perfectly fine and acceptable and understandable had it just ended with “… God of Israel.” There was zero need to give the kings of BABYLONIA – the world-renowned archenemy of Israel – any credit whatsoever for the return of the exiles and the rebuilding of the Temple. But it’s there in plain text that it happened. It’s there in plain text that God himself REQUIRED a union of both Babylonia and Israel to get things hopping again in Jerusalem. And it didn’t just take a word or two: it required discovery by government officials, back-and-forth communication, digging up a historical document and finally, a death threat to get all this in motion. The death threat was kind of a joke, but King Darius certainly didn’t mince words when he was decreeing compliance. And the whole scenario definitely is a fine example of how you never know where God is working.
And all that, led to the second thing I underlined and probably my favorite line, if I have to pick one. I put a bright orange line under the second half of verse 21, which reads in my NLT like this … “and by the others in the land who had turned from their corrupt practices to worship the Lord, the God of Israel.” This verse refers to the Passover celebration and who was allowed to participate. At first, after I read verse 20 where it says, “So they slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the returned exiles, for their fellow priests, and for themselves,” I thought, “Well, that was kind of selfish because they had a lot of help from the whole community.” But then I got to the end of verse 21, and I was like, “Awwww, there’s that team Spirit.”
Writing prompt: surprise ending
Were you surprised at how the rebuilding of the Temple came about? Write about an experience you’ve had that you feel took a long time to get through but in the end turned out better than you expected.