Thanks to the decree from King Darius, the people of Judah are able to complete the new Temple. They dedicate it with great joy.
It took four more years of building before the Temple was complete. It is amazing how much difference having support instead of hindrance can make. In 20 years the people had not been able to complete the work because of their neighbors’ interference. Now the neighbors were actually supporting the work for fear of the king.
NONE of this would have been possible without the favor of the Lord. He is the one who acted on Cyrus’ heart in the first place to let the people go. I have no doubt that God also acted on Darius’ heart to complete the work started by Cyrus. And God acted on the neighbors’ hearts when they first came to Jerusalem when the rebuilding started again.
The neighbors were to supply the animals for the sacrifices under Darius’ decree. I’m sure that the two a day was not an issue but 100 bulls, 200 rams, 400 lambs and 12 goats was a lot to ask for. Did it all come from the neighbors or did Israel pull some from their own herds? Was it a struggle for the neighbors to provide so much?
One thing that really impressed me about this sacrifice is the sin offering of the goats. When the people returned from captivity we are told that they were from Judah, Benjamin and Levi. The other tribes were somehow lost in the shuffle. But their brothers didn’t forget them. Yet ALL the tribes were represented in this sacrifice. Judah didn’t offer sacrifices for themselves alone but for their absent brothers.
That is amazing in my eyes! Israel had distanced themselves from Judah as much as possible, before they were captured. After the leaders of Israel were gone, Hezekiah reached out to the people who were left and invited them to the Passover supper. The people of Judah tried involving them in several other activities too but there was still some resentment between the two camps. But Judah didn’t forget about its missing brothers during this auspicious occasion. I wonder if this too is God working on the hearts of the people. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least.
In all this though can you imagine the joy of the people when the Temple is finally complete and ready to be put into service. It has been more than thirty years in the making. Many probably wondered if they would ever see it done.
Something that just occurred to me is that the old men who were disheartened when the foundation of the new Temple was laid are probably dead by this time. There are still stories of the original Temple but none of the eye witnesses left to compare the two. Seventy years in captivity plus thirty plus years of construction would make any survivors of it all a miracle. Maybe that is why God allowed the project to be delayed. He didn’t want there to be tears over the new or rejection because it ‘wasn’t the same’ as the old.
Clinging to the old and rejecting the new is what the Jewish religion has done with God. His old covenant of the Law is still what the Jewish people cling to as their hope. They reject the new covenant written in Jesus’ blood. God tried to tell at the time of Jesus’ death that it was now void by tearing the veil in the Temple in two but the leaders held fast to the old. When they wouldn’t listen He allowed the last Temple to be completely demolished to try and pry their hands from the old covenant. But they still cling tightly to the old.
The saddest part is that the old covenant was never meant to be a solution of completion but a place holder until the ultimate Solution was in place. Even if man were able to keep the WHOLE Law, it wouldn’t give his soul life. Only Jesus can do that. It only covered the sins of the people with the blood of animals where Jesus’ blood washes us clean of our sin. Jesus was the Sacrificial Lamb that knew what His death meant. And He made that sacrifice willingly! You MUST let go of the old and embrace the new. Old Temple, old covenant and old self. And old expectations.
Father God, help me turn loose of anything I’m holding onto that prevents me from fully accepting ALL You have for me now. I want to walk with You in all the fullness of Your new covenant. Thank You for letting me read the stories of the old and learn from them. Keep me clinging to You in all I do!