1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: 2 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ” ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Anyone of his people among you–may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’ ” 5 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. 6 All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings. 7 Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god.
God kept his promise. The first part of it anyway. After 70 years the exiles were allowed to return home.
Not everyone chose to return though. Many, many people stayed in Babylon. They were comfortable there, they had good lives now. They didn’t want to return to a ruined city and rebuild it and the temple of God.
But a remnant returned. God moved some of the people who had been faithful to him while they were gone to return.
That in itself is amazing! Think about it. The most of the time Israel was in the land they worshiped other gods and disobeyed God’s rules. But during the exile there were many stories of people who remained faithful to God, and trusted him and refused to worship the God’s of Babylon and Persia. There were people who loved God and wanted to be faithful.
Those people went back to the land once they could.
They rebuilt the temple, and the wall. They settled their with their families. They worked hard to keep all God’s laws.
They settled in to wait for the rest of the promise. They waited and watched for the sign of God’s forgiveness to come. They looked for the sign of God’s blessing, God’s presence. They dedicated the temple. Nothing happened. Well, no cloud of smoke and pillar of fire like when they had dedicated the first temple.
Still they waited.
When would God come to live with them again, to show them they were forgiven, and bring the promise to write his law on their hearts and make them his people again?
They would wait hundreds of years.
Do you know what the sign will be?