God’s promise of Exile and return of Israel to the land of their fathers was complete Ezra 2:1-2:
Now these are the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away to Babylon, and returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his city. 2 These came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum and Baanah.
The names recorded of the sons of Israel who returned to the land is worthy of note. It first reminds us of individuals who actually experienced this discipline from the LORD and consequent return by His mercies. These individuals did not go unnoticed by God (as we so often think when hard times befall us), but were personally accounted for (2:2-64). Still yet, something amazing took place—the LORD God remembered the promise given to His people that they would be in captivity for 70 years.
When scripture talks about God remembering it does not mean that He had an actual moment of “forgetfulness”, He’s the all-knowing, all-wise, self-existent God. Instead it considers how God in time works out the wise counsel of His will toward his covenant children that have been given His assured promise. In a cold and ruthless world, the tender mercies of God bring here great solace and fortitude to the lonely, broken and wearied heart. You have not been forgotten.
Possessing the land God had given to Israel was not going to be realized without opposition. The rebuilding of the temple is instructive for it points to the way a city and its inhabitants come to flourish—by worshipping the Creator and not the creature as ultimate. And yet, obstacles had to be overcome the ground of which was a lie. This lie fabricated came to king Artaxerxes ears by those who surrounded the land of Israel.
Through lies and intimidation (which is the field where spiritual warfare is fought) the work God commanded the people to engage was delayed. Often lies and fear for our personal welfare go hand in glove. These keep believers from trusting God’s purposes and plans, and that because the word of the creature seems more ominous (4:1-5; 6-24):
The delay refers to the decree of Cyrus that allowed the temple to be rebuilt (5:6-6:14), but ultimately it was God’s protection that emboldened Israel to continue the labor (5:5). In fact, through the words of the prophets Haggai and Zachariah, God strengthened His people in spite of the threats.
Here I notice the following principles: God always keeps His promises; obedience to God is always costly; and God often uses His enemies to accomplish His purposes. The apostle Paul notes the reason for why these accounts have been inscripturated in Romans 15:4:
For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
He who began a good work in us will complete until the day of Christ Jesus. It is He who calls us to persevere to the end so that we may be ultimately delivered, saved. So may we look to You, LORD, today for our strength in the midst of difficulties, and may we Your People run with perseverance the race that is set before us looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.