So all Israel was enrolled by genealogies; and behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel. And Judah was carried away into exile to Babylon for their unfaithfulness. 2 Now the first who lived in their possessions in their cities were Israel, the priests, the Levites and the temple servants. (9:1-2).
In one breath, the writer moves from ages past to where they currently find themselves. With a slapping reminder of their unfaithfulness that led to their seventy-year captivity, the writer instantly redirects the emphasis back to the nation, Israel, as they are brought back to live again in their beloved Jerusalem.
- Now the first who lived in their possessions in their cities were Israel, the priests, the Levites and the temple servants. (9:2).
- Now the first to resettle on their own property in their own towns were some Israelites, priests, Levites and temple servants. (9:2 NIV).
- The first to live in their towns on their own property again were Israelites, priests, Levites, and temple servants. (9:2CSB).
And in the very midst of the painful recollection of their own guilt that had led to their demise, the words of the prophet, Jeremiah, must have also rushed their thoughts.
“For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place,’” (Jeremiah 29:10).
For here they were after all, after seventy years in captivity, brought back to this place just as the Lord had promised; for He Fulfills His Good Word.
Consider Him Who Fulfills His Good Word
Interestingly, this section of Chronicles details the first to return: the priests, Levites and temple servants. What makes this so intriguing is the fact that there was no temple to return to; it had been destroyed.
Now on the tenth day of the fifth month, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard, who was in the service of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. 13 He burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; even every large house he burned with fire, (Jeremiah 52:12-13).
And whatever wasn’t totally annihilated, was broken to bits and carried off to Babylon along with the smaller items that could be taken intact.
Now the bronze pillars which belonged to the house of the Lord and the stands and the bronze sea, which were in the house of the Lord, the Chaldeans broke in pieces and carried all their bronze to Babylon. 18 They also took away the pots, the shovels, the snuffers, the basins, the pans and all the bronze vessels which were used in temple service. 19 The captain of the guard also took away the bowls, the firepans, the basins, the pots, the lampstands, the pans and the drink offering bowls, what was fine gold and what was fine silver. 20 The two pillars, the one sea, and the twelve bronze bulls that were under the sea, and the stands, which King Solomon had made for the house of the Lord—the bronze of all these vessels was beyond weight, (Jeremiah 52:17-20).
But through His prophet, Jeremiah, God had pronounced the exact length of captivity. And through His prophet, Isaiah, some one hundred and fifty years prior, God had proclaimed His Good Word to rebuild the temple ruins; even calling out by name the future ruler of the Persian empire, Cyrus, who would in fact conquer Babylon and be used of God to return the exiles to Jerusalem, under the godly leadership of Ezra, the priest.
Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb,
“I, the Lord, am the maker of all things,
Stretching out the heavens by Myself
And spreading out the earth all alone…
26 Confirming the word of His servant
And performing the purpose of His messengers.
It is I who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited!’
And of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built.’
And I will raise up her ruins again.
27 “It is I who says to the depth of the sea, ‘Be dried up!’
And I will make your rivers dry.
28 “It is I who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd!
And he will perform all My desire.’
And he declares of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built,’
And of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid,’” (Isaiah 44:24, 26-28).
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah,” (Ezra 1:1-2).
Later, Nehemiah would come to repair the city walls, and later homes would be rebuilt, but first and foremost, the attention was to be directed towards the rebuilding of the temple in order to Fulfill His Good Word.
And I can’t help but be reminded of another Temple, one that would be savagely destroyed to be raised up again, this time in only three days. And when the skeptics questioned and doubted His power and ability, later His disciples would believe the Scriptures regarding Him Who Fulfills His Good Word.
The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken, (John 2:18-22).
How do we respond to Him Who Fulfills His Good Word?
The unfaithfulness and rebellion of mankind against Holy God has led to our captivity and bondage to sin. But He is faithful to Fulfill His Good Word; and when we place our faith in His grace given through the foundation laid in the blood of our Sinless Savior and His Resurrection, we are spiritually restored, to be raised and rebuilt, as His living temple, enabled and called to serve as a holy priesthood.
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit, (Ephesians 2:22).
And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 2:4-5).
As we consider those who paved the way for the exiles’ return, to first rebuild and repair the needs of the temple, let us turn our attention to repairs that may be needed in His temple today.
Am I purposely mindful of this mind-boggling reality: the Holy Spirit, the very Spirit of Holy God dwells in my body? Am I providing a suitable dwelling place for Him?
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are, (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
Do I fully appreciate the great cost He paid so I could live in communion with Him? Am I so profoundly undone with gratitude so as to intentionally glorify Him with my body?
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
It is His grace, and His grace alone, that has conferred upon us this enormous and prestigious privilege, to be built as His dwelling place for a royal priesthood. While we know, through our faith in Christ, we are secure for all eternity in Him, and the temple can never be completely annihilated; the enemy still seeks to break us bit by bit, to carry us back into bondage.
And while it is not the upholding of the law that set us free to be built up in Him, His grace is not a license to destroy His work.
All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything, (1 Corinthians 6:12).
Let us ask Him to examine our hearts, minds and actions. Is He alone our only Master? Being mastered by anything other than Him robs His temple of the glory due His Name. Are we so consumed with thanksgiving for His sacrifice that we selflessly and willingly serve Him in all that we do?
- Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God, (1 Corinthians 10:31).
- Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father, (Colossians 3:17).
As we trust and depend on Him, in faith and obedience, He Fulfills His Good Word to build us into His dwelling place for a royal priesthood, to serve for the good of others.
All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor, (1 Corinthians 10:23-24).
And while we are not expected to uphold the Law, the truth is, we have been called to fulfill His Law, through the perfect example of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit in us.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40).
…the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us, (Romans 5:5).
As we commit to love Him with our whole selves and others as ourselves, depending on the work of His Holy Spirit in us, He is faithful to do the building. May we be most concerned with what concerns Him most. Oh, that we would be found faithful to fulfill the Law of Him Who Fulfills His Good Word.
For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (Galatians 5:13-14).