Introduction: Without faith in God, it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6). The rebuilding of the Temple was not completed until the Jews put their faith in God’s Word (Ezra 5:1-2). The Temple foreshadowed Jesus (Jo. 2:20-21). The promises that Jesus offers also require faith (Jo. 3:16). With faith, He offers you several things. These include His: (1) protection, (2) provision, (3) fellowship, (4) completed work, (5) joy, (6) your new beginning, and (7) your transformation.
First, when the Jews trusted in God’s Word, God influenced a Persian king named Darius I to issue a decree to protect them as they completed the Temple. With faith in Jesus, He also offers to protect you as you serve Him. Second, because the Jews acted in faith, God influenced King Darius I to provide all the resources needed to finish the Temple. With faith in Jesus, He also promises to provide for all your needs. Third, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, Darius I revealed that the Temple was for God’s holy name or presence to dwell. This was the means by which God offered fellowship to the Jews. Jesus also provides a means for you to find fellowship with Him. Fourth, God allowed for the Temple work to be completed so that the Jews could offer animal sacrifices to atone for their sins. For those who have faith in Him, Jesus completed the sacrificial system with His one-time offering at the cross. Fifth, the Jews dedicated the Temple with joyful sacrifices. With faith in Jesus, He offers you the joy of the Holy Spirit. You can respond by making your life a joyful sacrifice to Him. Sixth, with the rebuilt Temple, the Jews celebrated the Passover. They were freed from their bondage in Egypt and, by God’s grace, given a new beginning in the Promised Land. With faith in Jesus, He also offers you by His grace a new beginning. He allowed for death to pass over you and to have a new beginning in the eternal promised land. Finally, the Jews celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread. They committed to leaving their old sinful lives behind. With faith in Jesus, He also offers to transform you. He in turn wants you to commit to living as a new creation. Like the Jews, this requires your commitment to leaving your old life behind.
King Darius I reaffirms King Cyrus II’s decree and orders the protection of the Jews. God showed that He is sovereign by causing the new King Darius I to issue an order reaffirming King Cyrus II’s order for the Temple work to proceed. He further went beyond King Cyrus II’s decree by issuing an order prohibiting any further interference: “1 Then King Darius issued a decree, and search was made in the archives, where the treasures were stored in Babylon. 2 In Ecbatana in the fortress, which is in the province of Media, a scroll was found and there was written in it as follows: ‘Memorandum— 3 In the first year of King Cyrus, Cyrus the king issued a decree: ‘Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the temple, the place where sacrifices are offered, be rebuilt and let its foundations be retained, its height being 60 cubits and its width 60 cubits; 4 with three layers of huge stones and one layer of timbers. And let the cost be paid from the royal treasury. 5 Also let the gold and silver utensils of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be returned and brought to their places in the temple in Jerusalem; and you shall put them in the house of God.’’ 6 Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the province beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai and your colleagues, the officials of the provinces beyond the River, keep away from there. 7 Leave this work on the house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site.” (Ezra 6:1-7). From approximately 521 to 485 B.C., King Darius Hystaspis I, aka the Great, ruled over the Persian empire. Like King Cyrus II, he was a friend of God’s people and continued to allow the Jews to return to Israel and rebuild the Temple. King Cyrus II hid the scroll decree authorizing the Jews to return and build the Temple in a fortress in the city of Ecbatana in the province of Media, 300 miles northeast of Babylon in modern day Hamadan, Iran (Ezra 6:2). This was a summer home for some of the Persian kings. King Cyrus II’s decree further permitted a Temple that was even larger in size than Solomon’s original Temple (Ezra 6:3; 1 Kgs. 6:2). The building of the Temple with huge stones originally set off suspicions that caused the Temple opponents to allege that the Jews were building a fortress (Ezra 5:8). Yet, the original decree included the express right for the Jews to build with “huge stones.” (Ezra 6:4). Although apparently never followed, King Cyrus II’s decree further called for the Persians to assume the building costs (Ezra 6:4). His decree in ordering the return of gold fixtures that Nebuchadnezzar seized (Ezra 6:5) further atoned for the sins of the Babylonian King Belshazzar, whom God judged for desecrating them (Dan. 5:2-3). In 520 B.C., during the second year of his reign, King Darius I issued his decree for the Temple work to continue. He further ordered governor Tattenai and other opponents to stay away from the Temple rebuilding (Ezra 6:6-7).
King Darius issues a second decree permitting the Jews to rebuild the Temple1
God was faithful to protect the Jews, even during captivity. Through Jeremiah, God promised that He would judge the Babylonians (Jer. 25:8-13; 51:57-58) and then restore the Jews and their lands (Jer. 29:10-14). Thus, in 538 B.C., God influenced King Cyrus I to issue a decree that gave the Jewish captives in Babylon the right to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple (Ezra 1:1-4; 5:13-17). God promised that He will never forget His Covenant with His people (Dt. 4:31). He also would not forsake the Jews. Through Moses, He further promised to protect the Jews while they were in future captivity: “Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the LORD their God. But I will remember for them the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God. I am the LORD.” (Lev. 26:44-45). “Be strong and courageous, . . . He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Dt. 31:6). God will also never leave or forsake you (Heb. 13:5). Even when God disciplines you, never lose hope or feel that He has abandoned you.
Jesus will also place a hedge of protection around you when you have faith in Him. The Jews who resumed the building process acted in faith in God’s Word as given by God’s prophets (Ezra 5:1-2). The opponents of the Temple tried to stop the Jews on multiple occasions (Ezra 4:4-24; 5:3-17). Because the Jews responded in faith, God influenced King Darius I to issue a decree to protect the Jews and punish any who opposed them (Ezra 6:7, 11). God will also place a hedge of protection around you when you have the faith to serve Him. “Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? . . .” (Job 1:10). “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.” (Ps. 34:7). “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.” (Ps. 91:11). “He keeps the feet of His godly ones, but the wicked ones are silenced in darkness; for not by might shall a man prevail.” (1 Sam. 2:9). If you need a hedge of protection, are you stepping out in faith to serve Jesus?
The return of the gold vessels verified the Jews’ truthfulness and fulfilled a prophesy. The Jews previously invited King Darius I to test their claims that King Cyrus II gave them back the Temple gold vessels (Ezra 5:14-15). Even if King Cyrus II had allowed for the Temple rebuilding as a political act to gain the Jews’ support, he would not have parted with Persia’s conquered gold unless he truly believed God’s Word. The return of the gold vessels also fulfilled a prophecy that Jeremiah gave before the exile: “Yes, thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the vessels that are left in the house of the Lord and in the house of the king of Judah and in Jerusalem, 22 ‘They will be carried to Babylon and they will be there until the day I visit them,’ declares the Lord. ‘Then I will bring them back and restore them to this place.’” (Jer. 27:21-22).
The Temple gold vessels remained incomplete, awaiting the Messiah’s return. Although most of the gold vessels returned safely to the rebuilt Temple, the Jews were missing the most important piece: “One significant difference, however, between this temple and the earlier one was that there would be no ark of the covenant in the most holy place symbolizing the presence of God. It would be awaiting, in a sense, the Lord of the temple, the messianic ‘messenger of the covenant’ to make his presence known there (Mal. 3:1; cf., Matt 21:12-17; John 7:14). (Mervin Breneman, The New American Commentary, Vol. 10, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (B&H Publishing Group 1993) p. 116). Thus, the Jews had to have faith and be patient for God to fulfill His promises. Are you living patiently with the hope of Jesus’ return and the chance to dwell in His presence?
King Darius I pledges Persian financial support for the Temple rebuilding. To rectify the improper delay, King Darius I further committed the Persian empire to paying the full rebuilding cost of the Temple: “8 Moreover, I issue a decree concerning what you are to do for these elders of Judah in the rebuilding of this house of God: the full cost is to be paid to these people from the royal treasury out of the taxes of the provinces beyond the River, and that without delay. 9 Whatever is needed, both young bulls, rams, and lambs for a burnt offering to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine and anointing oil, as the priests in Jerusalem request, it is to be given to them daily without fail, 10 that they may offer acceptable sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons. 11 And I issued a decree that any man who violates this edict, a timber shall be drawn from his house and he shall be impaled on it and his house shall be made a refuse heap on account of this.” (Ezra 6:8-11). Although King Cyrus II’s original decree recorded: “And let the cost be paid from the royal treasury” this was apparently never followed (Ezra 6:4). King Darius I ensured that the funds would be made available for the Temple rebuilding by ordering that all the building costs be paid out of taxes that were collected from the Jewish province (Ezra 6:8). King Darius I further went beyond King Cyrus II’s original decree by ordering the Persians to pay for the ongoing costs of animal sacrifices and other provisions (Ezra 6:9-10). These animals were used for burnt offerings (Lev. 1:2) and to express the Jews’ gratitude toward God (Lev. 2:1; Ex. 29:38). He further showed that he cared about Yahweh when he stated: “10 that they may offer acceptable sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons.” (Ezra 6:10). This showed that King Darius I was doing more than reaffirming a prior decree. Instead, he was personally moved by the prophecies showing God’s providence in using King Cyrus II as His instrument to punish the Babylonians. Thus, he threatened horrific punishment on any who opposed his order, including the Samaritans (Ezra 6:11).
God used the Temple opponents' appeal to the Persian King for His glory. The Jews who lived through the endless attacks on God’s Temple might have felt as though Satan was winning the battles. Yet, God used Satan’s attacks to allow the Jews to win the war by causing the Persians to pay all the building costs of the Temple: “In this, we see the wonderful hand of God at work with the objections raised by Tattenai and Shethar-Bozenai as recorded in Ezra 5:3. The end result of these objections was to further the work of God instead of hindering it. This is an example of God working all things together for good for His people (Romans 8:28).” (David Guzik on Ezra 6).2 Jesus “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,” (Eph. 3:20). Do you trust that God is in control of your life and using the tragedies and difficulties that you face to mold you into a better person?
God is sovereign over the hearts of kings and world leaders. God was able to influence the heart King Darius I to go beyond the prior decree by ensuring that tax revenues would be used to finish the rebuilding. “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (Prov. 21:1). King Darius I was no doubt struck with awe after learning why King Cyrus II issued the decree that he did. The prophet Isaiah foretold of King Cyrus II of Persia’s future victory over Babylon 1505 years before he was even born (Is. 44:28-45:5). Daniel explained: “It is He [God] who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding.” (Da. 2:21). “He makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away.” (Job 12:23). “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.” (Is. 40:15). “All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.” (Is. 40:17). “The LORD is King forever and ever; nations have perished from His land.” (Ps. 10:16). “You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; . . .” (Is. 9:3(a)). “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Dan. 4:35). Even when evil surrounds you, do you trust that God is in control?
Where God guides, He provides. During the first exodus, God also promised to provide for them from the gold that the Egyptians had acquired through their labors: “But every woman shall ask of her neighbor and the woman who lives in her house, articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and you will put them on your sons and daughters. Thus you will plunder the Egyptians.” (Ex. 3:22). When the Jews left in obedience, God was faithful to keep His promise: “2 Speak now in the hearing of the people that each man ask from his neighbor and each woman from her neighbor for articles of silver and articles of gold.” (Ex. 11:2). “and the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.” (Ex. 12:36). From the amount of gold that they had to build the Tabernacle, God gave them the equivalent of millions of dollars in gold. During the first exodus, God also provided for all of the Jews’ other needs. He provided both manna and quail after the Jews grumbled about their food (Ex. 16:1-8). He later again provided meat when the Jews grew tired of God’s manna (Nu. 11:4-6, 32-33). He transformed the waters of Marah to provide drinking water (Ex. 15:22-27). He made water come out from a rock at Horeb (Ex. 17:6). He also caused the waters to gush out of a rock at Meribah (Nu. 20:10-11; Ps. 81:16; 106:41; Isa. 48:21). He also guided the Jews by a visible pillar of light both by day and by night (Ex. 13:21-22; 14:19). Thus, the Jews could trust God.
Jesus will also provide for all your needs when you serve Him. Today, Jesus promises to provide for your every need when you first seek to serve His kingdom and His righteousness: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33; Lk. 12:31). If you are lacking anything that you need, seek to serve Jesus and trust Him to provide. Are you seeking to serve Him?
King Darius I declares that Yahweh’s name resided in the Temple. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit, King Darius I stated that God’s holy name or His Shekinah glory would dwell in the Temple: “12 May the God who has caused His name to dwell there overthrow any king or people who attempts to change it, so as to destroy this house of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, have issued this decree, let it be carried out with all diligence!” (Ezra 6:12). King Darius I went beyond King Cyrus II in calling on Yahweh to overthrow any people who opposed the rebuilding of the Temple. He further put his personal name on the line by ordering that his officials ensure quick completion of the Temple. His words of judgment upon the Temple opponents repeated a prophecy that Daniel had given. Jesus will one day destroy the kingdoms and people who oppose Him, and He will establish His Kingdom of everlasting righteousness on Earth (Dan. 7:23-27).
God is sovereign, and He caused the pagan King Darius I to glorify His holy name3
God was unlike any pagan god that the Persians worshiped. God spoke through King Darius to reveal that the Temple was for God’s “name to dwell there” (Ezra 6:12). Unlike the pagan gods, He did not physically reside on any structure on Earth: “Thus says the LORD, ‘Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest?” (Is. 66:1). We worship God in spirit and in truth (Jo. 4:23-24). His spirit is powerful enough to deliver you from any challenge. Are you turning to Him for your deliverance?
The promised restoration of God’s broken fellowship with the Jews. During the first exodus, God’s glory came to Israel when Moses completed the Tabernacle (Ex. 40:34-38). His glory then left Israel when the Philistines captured the ark (1 Sam 4:22). The Jews then collectively lamented their loss of fellowship with God: “2 . . . and all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.” (1 Sam. 7:2(b)). After Solomon built the Temple, God allowed His Shekinah Glory to fill the Temple (2 Chr. 7:1). The later looting of the gold items in the Temple symbolized the Jews’ broken fellowship with God (2 Kgs. 24:13). God made a promise that His eyes would forever be placed on the Temple Mount: “The LORD said to him, ‘I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.’” (1 Kgs. 9:3; 2 Chr. 33:7). Ezekiel also prophesied that the Shekinah glory would return with the Messiah (Ez. 43:1-5). Thus, the Jews desired to rebuild the Temple for the Messiah’s arrival. They had to wait in hope for the arrival of the Messiah. We wait in hope for His return so that we may reside with His presence in heaven.
Jesus loves you and died so that He could dwell in eternal fellowship with you. Out of love for mankind, Jesus first came and dwelled with us as a human. The Temple foreshadowed Him (Jo. 2:21). The glory of God was also revealed through Him: “And the Word became flesh . . . and we saw His glory, glory as the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jo. 1:14). Yet, many could not comprehend His light because they loved evil (Jo. 3:19). Only those with faith could see that Jesus was and is the true light of the world (Jo. 8:12) He then died at the cross so that any who believe could live: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (Jo. 3:16). “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Ro. 5:8). “He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.” (Ro. 4:25). Like the Jews, you too are called to seek fellowship with Jesus: “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9). Jesus also offered to believers the enjoyment of spiritual intimacy with Him, symbolized by dining together with Him: (Rev. 3:20). After Jesus returns, His Shekinah glory will again be present on a rebuilt Temple (Micah 4:1-8; Zech. 14:3-9). In heaven, you will also see the Shekinah glory of God the Father and Jesus Christ without a veil (1 Jo. 3:2). You “will see His face. . . [and] the Light of God (“Shekinah glory”) will illumine them forever and ever.” (Rev. 22:5). Jesus offers His fellowship so that you could find peace and fulfillment through Him (Jo. 16:33). Without His fellowship, your peace will be only temporary and easily broken (Eph. 2:13-15; Ro. 5:1). When you are in fellowship with Him, He offers the “peace that surpasses all understanding.” (Phil. 4:7). Sadly, many believers have been led to believe that being saved is the end all be all of being a Christian. Yet, it is only the first step in a person’s walk with Christ. If you want fellowship with Him, you must accept His knock on the door of your heart. Are you seeking out Jesus’ fellowship?
The Jews complete the Temple. Under King Darius I’s decree, his officials and the Jews ensured that the Temple was completed after four additional years of work: “13 Then Tattenai, the governor of the province beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai and their colleagues carried out the decree with all diligence, just as King Darius had sent. 14 And the elders of the Jews were successful in building through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they finished building according to the command of the God of Israel and the decree of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. 15 This temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar; it was the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.” (Ezra 6:13-15). Governor Tattenai ensured that tax revenues were used to support the expeditious completion of the building process (Ezra 6:13). Because of God’s blessings, the “Jews were successful” and prospered (Ezra 6:14; Hag. 1:7-11). In March of 516 B.C., during the sixth year of Darius’s reign, the Jews completed the Temple (Hag. 1:1, 15; 2:10; Zech. 1:1, 7; 7:1; Ezra 4:5-6). From the time that the Jews laid the Temple foundations until the work was completed, the process lasted approximately 23 years. For most of this time, nothing happened. Yet, the final 4 years and 5 months after Haggai and Zechariah preached, were filled with great activity. Although a pagan king signed the order, the Jews built according to “the command of the God of Israel.” (Ezra 6:14). He was sovereign and influenced the Persians to support it.
The prophets Haggai and Zechariah used God’s Word to exhort, encourage, and rebuke. The prophet Haggai urged the Jews and their leaders Zerubbabel and Jeshua, to “take courage” and finish God’s calling to rebuild the Temple (Hag. 2:4). He rebuked those who used the devil’s opposition to allege that it must have been God’s will to delay the Temple rebuilding process (Hagg. 1:2-6). The prophet Zechariah also rebuked the Jews and their leaders for their disobedient hearts (Zech. 1:3-5). In response to God’s Word, the leaders had the faith to obey God in the face of opposition and complete it.
The timing of the rebuilt Temple closely matched prior prophecies. The completion of the Temple “was seventy-two years after the destruction of the temple in 587; therefore it corresponds closely with the seventy years of captivity Jeremiah prophesied (Jer 25:21-14; 29:10; see Zech 1:12-17) [fn] Different ways of calculating the seventy years have been used. No doubt the figure ‘seventy years’ was intended as a round number; it is not necessary to find an exact seventy years in order to recognize the fulfillment of the prophecy.” (Breneman, The New American Commentary, p. 119).
Jesus completed the need for further animal sacrifices. The Temple foreshadowed Jesus (Jo. 2:20-21). Jesus came to fulfill the sacrificial laws of the Temple, which required the use of animal sacrifices to atone for sins (Matt. 5:17). His death was a one-time sacrifice for all who have faith: “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Heb. 10:14). Have you given thanks that you no longer need to make blood sacrifices? You can show your gratitude by being a living sacrifice for Jesus (Ro. 12:1).
The Jews dedicate the Temple. After the Jews finished rebuilding the Temple, they dedicated the Temple with blood offerings to atone for their sins. They further appointed priests to ensure that the Jews properly worship God in the manner ordained in His Word: “16 And the sons of Israel, the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. 17 They offered for the dedication of this temple of God 100 bulls, 200 rams, 400 lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel 12 male goats, corresponding to the number of the tribes of Israel. 18 Then they appointed the priests to their divisions and the Levites in their orders for the service of God in Jerusalem, as it is written in the book of Moses.” (Ezra 6:16-18). To protect the Temple from idolatry and other forms of defilement, the Jews reinstituted the rotating division of Levites (Ezra 6:18; 1 Chr. 24). But the number of priests was far smaller. Moreover, although the Persians funded the dedication costs, the Jews’ resources were still far more modest than those available to Solomon. With his great wealth of the full 12 tribes, his Temple dedication included 142,000 animal sacrifices, two hundred times greater in number than the 712 animals offered here (1 Kgs. 8:63 (22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep)). In the Bible, the goat symbolizes the sin of the people (Lev. 16:9). The 12 goats symbolized the sins of the 12 tribes of Israel (Ezra 6:17). Even with the smaller sized dedication, the more modest Temple and the smaller nation, the Jews were still joyful (Ezra 6:16).
The Jews dedicate the rebuilt Temple4
The foreshadow of Hanukkah. In Hebrew, the word “dedication” is “Hanukkah”. After the Seleucid King Antiochus IV defiled the Temple, the Jews led the “Maccabean revolt” against the Seleucid Empire (circa 167 to 160 B.C.). “Hanukkah” celebrated the rededication of the second Temple. Yet, even though observed as the Jewish equivalent to Christmas, this is a minor Jewish holiday that does not appear in the Torah. It is only referenced in the apocrypha book called “Maccabees”, found only in Catholic Bibles (1 Macc. 4:52-59). In the New Testament, it is referenced in passing as “the Feast of the Dedication” (Jo. 10:22). Catholics believe that this passing reference was enough to canonize the book. There is also nothing in it that contradicts other Scripture.
God’s Messianic promise of an even greater Temple. Many Jews celebrated the Temple dedication “with joy.” (Ezra 6:16). Yet, unlike the dedication of the first Temple, the dedication of the second Temple did not see the return of God’s Shekinah glory. Thus, the prophet Haggai warned those who failed to celebrate not to despise the Temple’s humble beginnings (Haggai 2:2-5). From its humble beginnings, God promised that His Shekinah glory would one day return: ‘“I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts.” (Haggai 2:7). In a Messianic prophecy, Haggai revealed that the future Temple would exceed even the glory of Solomon’s day: ‘“The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘and in this place I will give peace,’ declares the LORD of hosts.” (Haggai 2:9). Yet, believing this required faith.
With faith in Jesus, He offers you the joy of the Holy Spirit. When you have faith in Jesus, He offers you the Holy Spirit. With the Holy Spirit, you receive His joy (Gal. 5:22). Even if tribulation, He offers you joy: “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit,” (1 Thess. 1:6). Is the joy of the Holy Spirit evident in your life for others to see?
Be filled with joyful praise. When God delivers you, you should also give Him praise: “To you I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the Lord, I shall pay my vows to the Lord.” (Ps. 116:1, 17-18). “ . . . I will render thank offerings to You. For you have delivered my soul from death.” (Ps. 56:12-13; 116:8). “. . .Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His works with joyful singing.” (Ps. 107:1, 2, 22). “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18). “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;” (Eph. 5:20). Are you giving God praise for His deliverance?
The Jews observe the Passover celebration. After the Temple dedication, the Jews purified themselves and gave thanks for their deliverance with a Passover celebration: “19 The exiles observed the Passover on the fourteenth of the first month. 20 For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves together; all of them were pure. Then they slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the exiles, both for their brothers the priests and for themselves. 21 The sons of Israel who returned from exile and all those who had separated themselves from the impurity of the nations of the land to join them, to seek the Lord God of Israel, ate the Passover.” (Ezra 6:19-21). The requirement for the Jews to observe the Passover was part of the Torah (Lev. 23:4-8). It was one of three festivals when they were required to come together and worship God collectively (Ex. 23:14-17). Yet, the Jews frequently failed to celebrate it. Thus, the great spiritual reformers all included celebrations to observe the Passover. This included both Hezekiah (2 Chr. 30:1-22) and Josiah (2 Chr. 35:1-19). Every aspect of this festival foreshadowed Jesus.
The Passover foreshadowed the new beginning that Jesus offers you. Few Christians observe the Passover. Most believe that it is a “Jewish” holiday that Jesus made “irrelevant”. But that view is a mistake. The New Testament states that the Old Testament holy days reveal the “shadows” of Jesus (Col. 2:16-7; Heb. 10:1). These “holy convocations” or “miqras” can also be translated as “rehearsals” (Lev. 23:2). While celebrating the Passover, the Jews unknowingly rehearsed and prepared for the arrival of Jesus. The Passover celebrated that, during the final plague, the shed blood of the lamb allowed each family who acted in faith to have death “pass over” their firstborn child (Ex. 12:12-13, 22-23). While celebrating these festivals, the Jews gave thanks for God’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt. They also unknowingly rehearsed for Jesus’ deliverance of all believers from the bondage of sin. God gave the blood of His firstborn son to allow judgment to “pass over” His believers: “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”’ (Jo. 1:29; Is. 53:7). The Passover lamb had to be without blemish or it could not be used in the sacrifice (Ex. 12:5). Jesus also was unblemished (1 Pet. 1:18:19). God further specified that the sacrifice could have no broken bones (Ex. 12:46). This again foreshadowed Christ. He died on the cross without any of His bones being broken (Ps. 22:17; Jo. 19:32-36). To make sure that the lamb was unblemished, it was observed between the 10th and the 14th of Nisan / Abib. During this time, Jesus was tried by the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. But Pontius Pilot could find no fault in Him (Lk. 23:4; Jo. 19:6). He lived as a holy sacrifice for you. In turn, He wants you to lead a holy life without blemish or sin for Him (Ro. 12:1; 1 Pet. 1:16; Lev. 11:45; 19:2). The Jews took for granted what God did for them in Egypt. Have you taken Jesus’ sacrifice for granted?
Jesus took your punishment to give you a new beginning. Jesus paid the ultimate price to give you a new beginning. The Passover sacrifice was roasted over a fire (2 Chr. 30:13). The fire represented God’s judgment of sin: “for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12:29; 10:27; Ex. 24:17; Dt. 4:24; 9:3; Ps. 97:3; Is. 33:14; 2 Thess. 1:7). ‘“Is not My word like fire?’ declares the LORD, . . .’” (Jer. 23:29). The roasting of the lamb over the fire represented the judgment that Jesus took for everyone: “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (1 Pet. 2:24). Further, His sacrifice was the only means of escaping God’s judgment (Ex. 12:12-13). The shedding of the blood at the altar symbolized the exchanging of His life for yours (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22). “God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in His blood.” (Rom. 3:25). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, . . .” (Gal. 3:13). How are you giving thanks for the price that Jesus paid for you?
God’s deliverance was available to everyone. The Passover was not limited to people who could prove a pure Jewish bloodline. It included “The sons of Israel who returned from exile and all those who had separated themselves from the impurity of the nations of the land to join them,. . .” (Ezra 6:21). The blood of the lamb was available to all. Jesus was the door upon which the person must place the blood in faith to be saved (John 10:7-9). It is only through your faith in Him that you are saved. If you believe that your good works make you eligible to go to heaven, His blood is not on the doorposts of your heart. Jesus’ death also would have been for nothing (Gal. 2:21).
The eating of the Passover sacrifice foreshadowed the Communion that Jesus offers. Not without coincidence, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with the disciples during the Last Supper. During the Last Supper, “Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.”’ (Matt. 26:26; 1 Cor. 11:24). The bitter herbs reminded the Jews of their suffering in Egypt. They also remind us of Jesus’ suffering in having His blood spilled as part of the New Covenant (Mk. 14:24; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; 2:24; Is. 53:4-12). Before being nailed to the cross, He was brutally whipped (Matt. 27:26; Jo. 19:1). He did all this so that we could live in communion with Him. Are you seeking out His communion and His fellowship?
Don’t delay in accepting the new beginning that Jesus offers. The Jews promptly ate the Passover meal, called the Seder, before morning (2 Chr. 35:13). When Moses first commanded the Jews to flee Egypt, he ordered them to not delay in eating the Passover sacrifice (Ex. 12:10-12). Thus, the Jews could not delay in parting with their old lives. Jesus also does not want you to delay in consuming what He offers you. No less than seven times, this commandment appeared in the Torah (Lev. 19:6-8; 7:14-15; 22:29-30; Ex. 23:18-19; 34:25(b)). Jesus rose before the third day so that His body would not be corrupted (Acts 2:27; Ps. 16:10). We can therefore eat the Communion that He offers from His body because it is holy. By telling believers not to delay until morning, Jesus was also telling them not to delay in giving the best of their time, talent, and treasure for Him. When a seeker asked Jesus “‘Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father,’” before following Him (a metaphor for closing down his father’s business), Jesus responded “‘Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.’” (Lk. 9:60; Matt. 8:22). This meant that the man could not delay in his commitment to follow and serve Him. If your desires for your old life of the flesh are delaying your service, you are not ready to receive what He offers (Lk. 9:62). Your life could end at any moment. Jesus could return at any moment (Lk. 12:40). Thus, you cannot assume that you will have decades or even years to decide whether to follow after Him (Jam. 4:13-14; Heb. 3:12-13, 15). Jesus gave us the parable of the ten virgins to illustrate that some will foolishly wait until it is too late to accept Him (Matt. 25:1-13). Are you waiting to follow Jesus?
The Jews joyfully observed Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Jews also celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread, where they symbolically left the sin of their old lives behind: “22 And they observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy, for the Lord had caused them to rejoice, and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them to encourage them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.” (Ezra 6:22). The Feast of Unleavened Bread followed immediately after the Passover (Ex. 12:15-20; Lev. 23:6; Nu. 28:16-17). It lasted for seven days. Yet, it is so closely related to Passover that it is referred to as a single holy event (Ex. 12:15). The Jews celebrated this festival with joy. They also gave thanks that God had turned the heart of the king, referred to here as the “king of Assyria” to support them (Prov. 21:1). Even when all seemed lost, God had not left them. They therefore committed not to make the same mistakes as their fathers.
Let Jesus purify you and remove sin from your life. The Jews who returned in the second exodus purified themselves from the sins that led to their captivity. This also included their defilement while living in pagan lands (Ezra 6:20). With his prior revival, Hezekiah gave a similar command for the priests to consecrate themselves (2 Chr. 29:5). You are also called upon to be holy in serving Jesus (1 Pet. 1:15; 2 Cor. 7:1). The Jews purified themselves with the ritual washing of water (Ex. 29:4; Nu. 8:7). After you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you can cleanse yourself of your daily sins through the reading of His Word: “so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,” (Eph. 5:26). When His Word exposes your sins, you are called upon to repent of your sins. Is there any hidden sin in your life that you need to repent of?
As a transformed believer, commit to removing sin from your life. The quick departure of the Jews did not give them the time required to bake leavened bread (Ex. 12:34, 39). No yeast was used because leaven is a symbol of sin (1 Cor. 5:6-8; Gal. 5:9). The “matzo” or bread was also without yeast (which normally adds to the taste) to remind the Jews of their “affliction” while in bondage (Dt. 16:3). For the Jews, the bread without yeast over seven days symbolized a prolonged attempt to make a break from the sins of their past. It also symbolized the importance of acting quickly upon God’s calling in one’s life. Jesus was in the grave during part of this festival. Through Christ, we are freed from our old sins. On the first day (Palm Sunday), believers were to purge their houses of leaven (Ex. 12:15). By tradition, this was done by the wife of the family. Again, leaven is a symbol of sin (1 Cor. 5:6-8). If we leave any hidden sin in our lives, it will rise like leaven in bread. The rabbis taught that if a Jew had to wait for the bread to rise before they could join God’s people, their heart was still in bondage of Egypt. Today, believers are the bride of Christ (Rev. 22:2, 17). The house or temple where the Holy Spirit dwells is in your body (1 Cor. 3:16-17). Through Jesus’ death, your body has also been bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19-20). If you were once a slave to sin, you have now become a slave to righteousness (Rom. 6:17-18). As a slave to righteousness, you cannot follow the morals of the world (Lev. 18:1; Ezek. 20:18-19). You should therefore be looking to purge sin from your body to celebrate the festival of unleavened bread (1 Cor. 5:7; 6:13-15; 18-20). If you long for the things of the world, this is the time to remove those things from your life. Look at the things you do or watch to see where to remove the leaven. Are you making an effort to keep the yeast out of your life?
Don’t look back to the sins of your old worldly life. Like the Jews, every person is called to leave their old sinful lives behind to serve God: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17; Ro. 6:4; Eph. 4:22, 24). Are you holding on to any of your old sins?