The book of Ezra is an historical account of events which transpired between 538 B.C. and 458 B.C. The text before us most likely took place in 516 B.C. The completion and dedication of the temple is an event that was prophesied by Zechariah. Unlike incidents in which the keeping of God’s promises require His direct intervention as in the release of the children of Israel from Egypt and their preservation in the desert for forty years, the rebuilding of the temple did not involve a miracle. It could be argued that the rebuilding of the temple is an event that could have happened with or without input from God. The fact is, however, is that God knows the future and chose to make the future known through the prophet Zechariah. Zechariah stated that the temple would be rebuilt in Zerubbabel’s time and under Zerubbabel’s direction (Zech 4:9). The Lord of yesterday is the Lord of today.
One can look at the prophecy which was fulfilled in the twentieth century and argue that the events could have just happened. The most significant event of the 20th century is not the advent of undreamed of technologies or the world wars and cold war which have shaped the present political boundaries. The most significant event of the century is the advent of the Jewish nation in the land which God promised to the seed of Abraham through Isaac. Israel’s existence in the promised land like the rebuilding of the temple can be explained away by skeptics.
Looking at verse 14, we see that the Jews prospered during the prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah. Haggai told the people that prosperity had been withheld from them because they had put their material needs before their spiritual need. They had delayed in rebuilding the temple because of poor economic circumstances. By coincidence or divine design, the economy prospered after they set out to rebuild the temple. Virtually every fundamentalist Christian would declare that God’s hand was evident in directing the rebuilding of the temple. The world may argue that Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes had a big role in making it happen. The world will also deny the word of God (Proverbs 21:1) which declares that the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water, God turns the king’s heart in what manner he chooses.
Verse 15 states that the temple was completed in the sixth year of Darius. This is less than one third of the time that was required to complete the building under Solomon. Zerubbabel completed the task in a fraction of the time that the building of the original required and with far fewer resources than were available to Solomon.
A comparison of the sacrifice offered at the dedication of the original temple with the sacrifice offered when Zerubbabel completed the temple underscore just how few resources that Zerubbabel had. At the dedication of Solomon’s temple 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep were sacrificed. The second dedication involved the sacrifice of one hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and twelve he goats. Was it by coincidence that Zerubbabel was able to rebuild with less and more quickly than was Solomon able to do? Or do we see the hand of God who is the author of all history?
Similar questions can be asked of the unfolding of history in the 20th century. Was it by coincidence that Hitler’s attempt to wipe out the Jewish people actually resulted in their establishment in the promised land? Was it coincidence that in World War II the Allies were able to produce a devise that could break an unbreakable enemy code?
In verses before us, temple worship is once again established. Temple worship ended with the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. A look at the prophetic words of Jesus in Matthew 24 indicate that temple worship shall once again be in place in Jerusalem during the last days.
With the technology of today, the few would marvel at the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem in a fraction of the time that Zerubbabel required. Zerubbabel was able to do that which he did because the Lord “. . . turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them” (v. 13, 22).
The study of the verses before us confirm that God is the author of history. God’s word has already recorded what is to come, but far too many fail to receive His message. Believers know Christ shall return and reign from the throne of David. We also know that there shall be a falling away from the faith that shall precede His return (II Thess. 2:3). Let us not be distressed or grow weary. Let us do as He has instructed. Let us declare His truth to others.