Oct. 30. Picture of Restored Jerusalem

Zech. 7:1-8:23

About two years after Zechariah’s first vision, God spoke to him again regarding the people’s questions of ongoing fasting. He reminded them of their disobedience during the times of the previous prophets. That had resulted in the destruction of their land and seventy years of captivity in a foreign nation. He stressed the importance of justice, mercy and compassion for their brothers.

The Lord repeated His promise to return to Zion/Jerusalem. Jerusalem would return to its former glory. Men and women would grow old and children would play in the streets. “They shall be My people, and I will be their God.” The people and the land would prosper. Instead of being a curse among nations, they would be a blessing. Their fastings would be cheerful feasts. However, they had the responsibility to honor truth, justice and peace. How one treats his neighbor is a measure of his love for the Lord. With their obedience and dependence upon God, they would be examples that would lead others to desire to follow Him. This picture of the restored Jerusalem is an image of the splendor and drawing power of the church today.

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Oct. 29. Zechariah’s Visions

Zech. 1:1-6:15

Zechariah and Haggai both prophesied during the times beginning about sixteen years after the Babylonian exiles returned to their homeland in Judah. Haggai is thought to be much older than Zechariah and spoke more regarding finishing the rebuilding of the temple. Zechariah’s prophecy was revealed to him through visions. Those visions related to the restoration of Jerusalem/Zion.

“Return to Me.” Those words were calling for repentance of the people. Zechariah spoke as the deceased fathers would have, saying that as they had been punished, the freed Judah would suffer that same fate if they did not repent. The angels assured the prophet that God would be zealous and merciful with Jerusalem. His house, the temple would be rebuilt and Judah’s cities would prosper with Jerusalem being His choice. Their enemies would not be able to stop their progress.

It was necessary for cities to be surrounded by walls for protection. However, the newly constructed Jerusalem would have no need for walls as God would be their Protector. Only a fraction of His people had left Babylon at that time. The Lord urged the remainder to also flee back to their homeland. He would dwell among them as He dwells among His church today.

Priests were required to wear clean clothes when standing before God and performing their duties. Zechariah saw further in the fourth vision Joshua, the high priest wearing filthy garments representing the wretched condition of the Jews. The Lord commanded that they be removed and that the high priest be given clean clothing. At that point, Joshua seemed to represent the future coming of Christ who would provide for the removal of the sins of man.

The fifth vision consisted of a golden lampstand with a bowl on top and seven lamps on the stand. Two olive trees stood, one each on the right and left sides. Zerubbabel and Joshua, the anointed ones were identified as the two olive trees. Governors and priests would work together with God to spiritually nourish the people. The symbolic language indicated that the olive trees would provide an endless supply of oil to the lamp which is referred to as God’s Word. The foundation of the temple had been laid sixteen years earlier. Amid much discouragement, it seemed that it would never be completed. Zechariah’s vision was to encourage Zerubbabel to finish the project. It would not be accomplished by man’s power, but the Spirit of God would help them to finish.

Zechariah continued to see visions. The sixth in the series showed him a flying scroll that was sent as a curse against thieves and perjurers. He saw in the next vision a woman in a basket. She represented the sins of the people. A lead disc was placed to cover and seal her inside as the basket and sinful contents were carried to the land of Shinar/Babylon. That signified the removal of sinful Judah to their punishment as captives in the foreign country, Babylon.

The prophet was shown four horses pulling chariots. They represented four spirits of heaven or kingdoms sent by God, each having a duty from the Lord to execute His will. A crown of gold and silver was made and placed upon Joshua’s head. It signified the religious authority of the earthly high priest. The BRANCH represented the coming High Priest, the Messiah who had been called a Branch from the root of Jessie many years earlier by the prophet Isaiah. He would build the true spiritual temple/church of the Lord. Men could only build a physical temple.

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Oct. 28. Construction of God’s House Ordered; Blessings from Obedience

Hag. 1:1-2:23

About sixteen years later after Cyrus had died and Darius had begun his second year as king, the Lord spoke to Haggai and expressed His displeasure regarding their failure to rebuild the temple. With the opposition from the Samaritans discouraging their work, they concentrated their efforts upon restoring their homes, farms and lives. The temple work was forgotten by everyone except God.

God called for Haggai to make His feelings known. He informed them that their miseries and crop failures had been brought on because of their neglect of Him. “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” He told them to gather the materials and build the temple, “that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified.”

Zerubbabel, the governor, Joshua/Jeshua, the high priest and the people obeyed the words from Haggai. They began to work on the temple in just twenty-three days after receiving God’s directive. He was pleased and said, “I am with you.”

After only four weeks of construction, the restored temple seemed to be lacking much in size and glory compared to the destroyed temple of Solomon. Haggai speaking for God encouraged the people, especially those who had seen the former temple to be strong for He was with them. The inward glory and peace of the new temple would exceed the outer glory of the former structure. Zerubbabel, the governor of the small recovering nation of Judah would become strong among the kingdoms.

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Oct. 27. The Task of Restoration Begins

Ez. 3:1-4:5, 24-5:1

In order to worship God, it was necessary to rebuild the altar for offering burnt sacrifices. The seventh month was a time that three holy days were celebrated. That was accomplished even as they feared the people that were already there. A few months later, Zerubbabel and Jeshua, the high priest led the people in laying the foundation for the new temple of the Lord. That was a time of mixed emotions for them. They celebrated the progress of being reestablished as a nation, but the older men mourned the loss of what had been. It would not be as large and elaborate as Solomon’s temple had been. The temple was God’s dwelling place and was also the central point of Judah’s identification.

Major construction projects sometimes meet with major problems. The people (Samaritans) who had remained in the land and others who had been sent there by the Assyrians offered to “build with you, for we seek your God as you do…” Zerubbabel and Jeshua refused their help, stating that they would build it alone as Cyrus had commanded. From that point onward, the temple construction was discouraged and hindered until it was finally discontinued. The prophets, Haggai and Zechariah were called upon to encourage the people to resume rebuilding the temple.

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Oct. 25. A New Era Begins

II Chron. 36:22, 23; Ez. 1:1-2:70

For many years, God’s prophets had relayed His words to kings and to the common people as well. The prophecies regarding the fall of Israel and Judah had come to pass as had been predicted. Prophecies foretelling the return of God’s people to their homeland that He had provided for them in Canaan began to be fulfilled.

Cyrus, king of Persia overthrew Babylon. That event, including the name of Cyrus had been prophesied two-hundred years earlier by the prophet, Isaiah. Conquering kings would take the citizens of the defeated kingdom into captivity and enslave them. However, Cyrus would allow conquered subjects to remain in their land to continue with their normal lives. That encouraged loyalty to the new king. Remaining captives from other kingdoms would be allowed to return to their previous homeland.

Soon after defeating the Babylonians, Cyrus sent out a proclamation allowing the release of Israel/Judah from their exile and stating that God had commanded him to build Him a house at Jerusalem. With that decree given, all who desired began the move back home.

Nebuchadnezzar had taken the various articles from the temple and had placed them in the temple of his gods. Cyrus sent those items back with Sheshbazzar.

Genealogy was important to the Israelites. It was especially important that the priests have the proper family lineage from the original priest, Aaron. Census numbers were also important as the number of people choosing to return to Judah was documented according to families and cities. There were some who chose to return that could not determine their genealogy. They along with the other families who were not Levites were forbidden to be involved with the priesthood.

One may think of their return as being simply going home. However, they had left about seventy years earlier. Many of those people had been born during that period of time and would be strangers in a land about seven hundred miles from their birthplace. Their move with their cattle and other personal possessions would be a long and difficult adventure. Another problem facing them was the general condition of the destroyed cities after seventy years, even though they had been occupied by a remnant who had avoided the exile along with others. There would be conflicts with those who had remained because they had established themselves in the land during those years.

Upon arrival, a generous offering according to their ability was taken to support the rebuilding of the temple. God’s people had returned under the leadership of Zerubbabel.

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Oct. 24. Israel to be Restored to Peace and Abundance

Is. 54:1-55:13; 64:1-12

Israel was likened to a young childless woman estranged from her husband. It was considered to be disgraceful for a woman to be childless. However, the estranged Israel would be reunited with her merciful Husband, God and she would become the mother of many children. As Israel had been the bride of God, the new kingdom, the church would be the bride of Christ. The many who would obey the commands of the new covenant would become children of that bride. Like the promise made by God to Noah that the earth would not be destroyed by water again, He promised that His kindness and covenant of peace would not depart from them.

It is God’s desire and purpose that all should come to Him. Salvation is free for the taking. However, it is not forced upon anyone. We must turn from wickedness and seek Him while we are living. After death, it will be too late. It is not for us to understand all that is involved in His plan nor to try to change it. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways…For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah’s message was two-fold. He concluded his thoughts of Israel’s return to Jerusalem by reflecting upon the joy that would be expressed as the land would be restored. There also would be joy in the hearts of those being freed from their sins.

When people suffer from the consequences of sin, there are two types who are sorry—the ones sorry that they got caught and the ones who are suffering a truly penitent godly sorrow. Isaiah described the separation that the exiles in Babylon felt as God had turned away from them. In penitence, they called for God to come down and renew His relationship with them as the Potter molding them as clay. They lamented over the condition of their destroyed homeland and the ruins of God’s temple and pled for His peaceful restraint.

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Oct. 23. Jerusalem’s Redemption; Suffering Redeemer

Is. 51:1-53:12

Isaiah continued to encourage the Israelites regarding their upcoming release from exile. He reminded them of their origin from Abraham and the many ways that God had helped them through their struggles in the past. Likewise, He would be with them in the future if they would abide with Him. Through His mercy, God would remove the cup of His fury from Judah and pass it to those who had oppressed them. As they would be released by Cyrus from the grasp of Babylonian captivity, sinners can be released by Christ from the bondage of their sins.

The prophet exhorted the captives to prepare for their departure from slavery to the freedom of being back home in Zion/Jerusalem. God’s name had been blasphemed and disrespected because other people assumed that He was unable to save His children from captivity. His name is likewise disrespected today by non-Christians when people claiming to be Christians, do evil deeds and live like the rest of the world. Freedom for the exiles would let the world know, “That I am He who speaks: ‘Behold, it is I.’”

It would be a joyful and happy occasion when the news of their deliverance would be proclaimed. Their departure would be orderly and without the confusion of haste that had occurred when they left Egypt hundreds of years earlier. One’s deliverance from the bondage of sin is also a joyful and happy experience.

When man, whom God had created, first sinned in the Garden of Eden, God revealed His plan to eventually redeem us from the consequences of our sins.

The prophet, Isaiah was very graphic in describing the appearance and sacrifice of the Savior of Israel AND the Gentiles. Instead of coming on a great white horse as one might imagine, the Messiah would appear as a Servant in humble surroundings and be rejected by His own people. One also might expect Him to have a regal and flamboyant demeanor. However, there would be no beauty in Him and He would be a man of sorrows and grief because of our sins.

Deserved or undeserved, punishment is not pleasant—especially if it is undeserved. Obviously, undeserved death would be even more tragic. The Servant would be, “bruised for our iniquities…And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Even through all of the unjust treatment that He would endure, He would not try to defend Himself.

At the end of His earthly life, the Servant; the Messiah; the King of kings; the Lord of lords; the Savior of mankind would not die the death of royalty. Instead, He would be, “numbered with the transgressors…”

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Oct. 22. Prayer for Deliverance and Restoration

Ps. 79:1-80:19

The dates and eras of many of the psalms are unknown. However, there was a period of prolific writing among the prophets during the periods leading up to, during and immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the children of Jacob/Israel.

These psalms appear to have been written during the captivity. The psalmist lamented over the condition of God’s holy temple, the city and His people. They had been slain to the extent that there were insufficient survivors remaining to bury them. God’s name was being dishonored because the nations perceived that He had been unable to protect His people. The writer appealed to the Lord to take vengeance against those nations who did not know Him. In repentance, he prayed for the merciful forgiveness of their past sins and for Israel’s salvation.

“Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel…Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; Cause Your face to shine, And we shall be saved!” The psalmist’s lament regarding Israel seemed to be referring to the northern kingdom, Israel since the tribes that he mentioned had occupied that area. He likened them to a vine that God had transplanted from Egypt to a land that had been cleansed of many nations. The vine had flourished and covered the land. However, the Lord had broken it down and allowed it to be devoured by wild beasts. It is easy when times are difficult to be like the psalmist in asking God, “Why?” He stated that if God would restore them, they would remain faithful to Him.

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Oct. 21. Israel’s new Freedom Prophesied; Future Servant

Is. 48:1-50:11

Isaiah reviewed with Israel the events that would lead up to their release from captivity. Those things were related beforehand in order that they would know that it was from God and not from their reliance upon any power from idol gods. God would allow their delivery for His own name’s sake in order to remove previous defamation of His name. (Non-believers had stated that Israel’s God was unable to prevail against their gods.) Israel was reminded that it was through their disobedience that they would be placed in the position of being delivered from their captivity. However, the same God who had led, fed, watered and protected His people through the desert to the Promised Land would provide for their needs during the return to their home in Jerusalem/Judah.

The Lord turned Isaiah’s attention to thoughts of the Savior and to the salvation of Israel; also, “you peoples from afar” (Gentiles) who would hear the Savior’s words. God, in His mercy stated that it was not enough that only the house of Jacob would be restored and preserved. “I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.” There would be many obstacles in the path of the Savior. He would be despised by men and abhorred by the nation. Israel had been His servant for hundreds of years. The Gentiles would become a new servant. With Gentiles included in God’s plan, the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that all nations of the earth would be blessed through their seed would then be fulfilled.

Isaiah addressed the concerns of the exiles who felt that they had been forgotten. A mother may possibly forget her child. God will never forget His

children. The prophet reminded them of the great promises that the Lord had made to them. Their destroyers would go away. They would become so mighty that their land would be too small to contain them. Israel would become a great nation under God’s protection. “All flesh shall know That I, the Lord, am your Savior, And your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”

Divorce is final separation. Israel was asked about the existence of a divorce certificate from God. Obviously, there was none. Neither had He sold them to a creditor to repay a debt. It was only their sins that had caused their separation from God. His withdrawal from His “wife, Israel” was only temporary. The Messiah would come to redeem Israel and reunite them with their “husband” God. Christ, the submissive Servant would not resist the beatings, insults and shame that would be heaped upon Him. Instead, He would “steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.” (Lk. 9:51)

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Oct. 20. Defeat of Babylon’s Gods

Is. 46:1-47:15

Bel and Nebo were prominent gods of Babylon. They had been seen by the Babylonians as victors over the Assyrian gods. However, Isaiah pictured them as being carried into captivity on the backs of beasts and cattle. Instead of being carried by the people, God stated that it was He, the incomparable One, who had carried them from the womb and would continue to carry them from bondage. One of the most striking differences between God and idols was His ability to declare the end from the beginning; whereas idols are lifeless, burdensome and useless pieces of metal or wood.

Proud Babylon was facing humility. They would no longer be called “The Lady of Kingdoms.” Instead, they would sit in the dust and it would be necessary for them, instead of their slaves to work with their hands for their sustenance. The once proud city would be like an elegant lady brought down into slavery. To the victor go the spoils and the authority of command. Babylon had been unmerciful in their treatment of the exiled Judeans. In their pride, they had stated in their heart, “I am, and there is no one else besides me.” That statement can only be uttered by the Lord. The prophet declared that they must pay the price for their pride and arrogance. Their gods and sorcerers would be unable to prevent their impending doom. The allies in whom they had depended would desert them.

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Oct. 19. Foolishness of Idolatry; Cyrus to Free Israel

Is. 44:1-45:25

Isaiah foretold that after a period of punishment, God would free His people. Temple servants of various gods were branded with the name of their god. He used the expression of, “I am the Lord’s” to indicate Israel’s ownership by God. They were indeed God’s servants even while being disobedient.

The Lord is King of Israel; his Redeemer; the Lord of hosts; the First and the Last. Isaiah pointed out the folly and futility of worshipping idols. A blacksmith may make a molten image or a craftsman may carve a wooden god, but they are useless. The god’s maker may become hungry and tired, but his god cannot relieve his discomfort. After falling down to worship the idol, nothing happens because it cannot see or hear the pleas of its worshipper.

Only God can predict the future and see His prediction fulfilled. Many years before Cyrus’ birth, Isaiah had prophesied that Cyrus would divert the river and capture Babylon by traveling on the dry riverbed. God’s people would be freed to return to rebuild Jerusalem and His temple.

Isaiah continued his prophecy regarding the release of the Israelites from their Babylonian captors. He had predicted earlier that Babylon would be punished for the evil that they had done against Judah/Israel. God had chosen Cyrus and had raised him up to lead the Persians in His purpose to set His people free. The prophet outlined God’s plan for Cyrus that would make the Lord known to the Persian king and how He would use him for His purpose. Ultimately, Cyrus would know that God is, “A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me.” Jews and Gentiles alike would be able to experience salvation through the blood of Christ under His New Covenant that would come hundreds of years later.

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Oct. 18. Messianic Prophesies

Is. 42:1-43:28

Isaiah is often referred to as the Messianic prophet because of the many times that he wrote regarding the Christ who would come to suffer and die to save spiritual Israel—His church. Gentiles would also be included in the new kingdom. The prophet spoke numerous times regarding God’s Servant. At times, collective Israel is His servant and at other times, the Savior is the subject of his message. Instead of carved images, the Messiah would bring forth justice and mercy to Israel. (The word Messiah is rarely used in the Scriptures. However, it is a Hebrew term defined as the Anointed One. The same word in the Greek language is Christ.) In humility and tenderness, the Messiah would do for Israel what they had been too blind and deaf to do for themselves.

Israel had turned their backs upon God and had refused to obey Him. In His anger, He used other nations to render justice in punishment of them. The prophet could foresee a time when God’s mercy would allow the Israelites to come from all directions of the earth to be restored. They had dishonored Him in many ways, even from very early times, but with their repentance and obedience, He would blot out and forget their sins.

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Oct. 17. Comfort for God’s People

Is. 40:1-41:29

The previous writings of Isaiah contained prophecies of judgment, doom, disaster and captivity in a foreign land for God’s people. Even the same consequences would befall those nations who would be inflicting God’s punishment. However, brighter days began to be predicted for the future of Israel/Judah. Much was prophesied regarding the coming Savior and His kingdom.

“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” The prophet could visualize the end of their physical captivity. He could also see the end of spiritual captivity from sin as the voice in the wilderness cried out, “Prepare the way of the Lord…” Many years later, John the baptist was the one who prepared the way of the Lord.

In contrast to the temporary nature of man, God’s word will last forever. When man turns to God, he reaps the reward that has been promised to him. God’s gentle care for man was compared to the care that a shepherd has for his sheep. However, nothing can be adequately compared with the greatness and power of our God, the creator of all things.

The prophet asked a redundant question regarding who had performed all things and was over them. God’s answer—“I, the Lord, am the first; And with the last I am He.” He reaffirmed His commitment to Israel that they had been chosen and that He would strengthen them. Those who had been against Israel would be as nothing.

“Fear not, I will help you.” Israel would be renewed and God would provide for their needs. He reminded them of the futility of following heathen idol gods. They can neither tell events of past nor show the things that are to come. “Indeed they are all worthless; Their works are nothing; Their molded images are wind and confusion.”

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Oct. 16. Handwriting on the Wall

Dan. 5:1-30

Babylon was in a period of political unrest. Nabonidus had become king, but was living in the Arabian desert. His son, Belshazzar became a regent over Babylon, but served the duties of king.

While serving as regent or substitute king, Belshazzar hosted a great feast at which he called for the gold and silver vessels that had been plundered years earlier from the temple of God.

As the king and his guests drank wine from those vessels and praised their various gods, a strange event occurred. Fingers of a man’s hand appeared, writing upon the plaster wall. After his astrologers, Chaldeans, soothsayers and wise men had failed to interrupt the writing, the terrified Belshazzar, at the suggestion of the queen called for Daniel.

The aged prophet read the words, “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.” They pronounced bad news to the wicked Belshazzar. “MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.”

Even though the news was bad, Belshazzar ordered that Daniel be clothed with royal purple with a golden chain around his neck and pronounced third ruler in the kingdom.

Belshazzar was slain that very night and the kingdom was received by Darius, the Mede.

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Oct. 15. Various Prophecies Regarding Zion and Others

Is. 33:1-35:10

Isaiah continued to speak against the evil nations. Those who had plundered and dealt treachery against Israel would become recipients of that same treatment. However, the righteous are humble and submissive to God. They will be forgiven for their iniquity.

The prophet described the vengeance that God would take upon the nations that had been in rebellion against Him. Edom was named as a representative of those nations. They would die in a great slaughter and their land would grow up in thorny weeds and be occupied by wild animals.

The blessings of the righteous were likened to the freshness and new life of a desert after a refreshing rain. Jesus, several hundred years later opened the eyes of the blind, unstopped the ears of the deaf, gave strength to the lame and put words into the mouths of the dumb/mute. There would be a highway for the righteous to travel in safety. “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, And come to Zion with singing…sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

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