The Review and Herald

1518/1902

December 26, 1907

The Return of the Exiles—No. 8

Days of Anxiety

EGW

Stirring were the times during which Israel worked by faith to restore the temple of Jerusalem. Through the messages delivered by Haggai and Zechariah, the people were roused to put forth every possible effort to build. As they labored, they were sadly harassed by the Samaritans and others who feared not God. RH December 26, 1907, par. 1

The enemies of the faithful builders devised many discouraging hindrances. The provincial officers of the Medo-Persian realm visited the returned exiles, and requested them to state the name of the one who had commanded them to rebuild. If the Jews at that time had not been trusting the Lord for guidance, this inquiry made by men high in authority might have resulted disastrously to the builders. “But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius.” The officers were answered so wisely that they decided to write a letter to Darius Hystaspes, king of Medo-Persia, directing his attention to the original decree made by Cyrus, commanding that the house of God at Jerusalem be builded, and that the expenses for the same be paid from the king's treasury. RH December 26, 1907, par. 2

Darius searched for this decree, and found it, whereupon he directed those who had made inquiry, “Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place. RH December 26, 1907, par. 3

“Moreover,” Darius declared, “I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king's goods, even of the tribute beyond the river, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered. And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt-offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the appointment of the priests which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail: that they may offer sacrifices of sweet savors unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons.” RH December 26, 1907, par. 4

The king further decreed that most severe penalties be meted out on any who should in any wise alter the decree; and he closed with the remarkable statement: “The God that hath caused his name to dwell there destroy all kings and people, that shall put to their hand to alter and to destroy this house of God which is at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed.” RH December 26, 1907, par. 5

Thus the Lord, in his providence, prepared the way for an early completion of the temple. But for months before this decree was made, the Israelites had kept on working by faith, “the prophets of God helping them.” RH December 26, 1907, par. 6

Just two months after Haggai's last recorded message was delivered, Zechariah had a most encouraging series of visions regarding the work of God in the earth. These messages, written out in the first six chapters of the book of Zechariah, were given in the form of parables and symbols. They came at a time of great uncertainty and anxiety, when it seemed as if the permission granted the Jews to rebuild was to be withdrawn. The future appeared very dark. God saw that his people were in need of being sustained and cheered by a revelation of his infinite compassion and love. His testimonies at this time were of peculiar significance to the men who were advancing in the name of the God of Israel. RH December 26, 1907, par. 7

After an introductory view of the nations having universal dominion in the earth, Zechariah hears “the angel of the Lord” inquiring, “O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years? And the Lord answered the angel that talked with me,” Zechariah declares, “with good words and comfortable words. RH December 26, 1907, par. 8

“So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction. RH December 26, 1907, par. 9

“Therefore thus saith the Lord: I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the Lord of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem.” RH December 26, 1907, par. 10

The prophet is now directed to cry out saying, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts: My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.” RH December 26, 1907, par. 11

Next the prophet sees the powers that had “scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem,” symbolized by “four horns.” Immediately afterward he sees “four carpenters,” representing the agencies used by the Lord in restoring his people and the house of his worship, as decreed by Cyrus and his successors, as well as by God himself. RH December 26, 1907, par. 12

“I lifted up mine eyes again,” says Zechariah, “and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then said I, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof. And, behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him, and said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein: for I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire around about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.” RH December 26, 1907, par. 13

God had commanded that Jerusalem be rebuilt, and the measuring of the city was a symbol that he would give comfort and strength to his afflicted ones. His protecting care, they were assured, would be like “a wall of fire round about.” O, how compassionate is our Heavenly Father! What comfort and hope there are in his promises! RH December 26, 1907, par. 14

The prophet is now inspired with an earnest message to the children of Israel who are still in Babylon, the land of their captivity. At the time the decree of Cyrus was given, nearly a score of years before, only a comparatively small number, a mere “remnant,” had returned to Judea. By far the greater portion had failed of discerning the opening providence of God, as revealed in the decree of King Cyrus. They had chosen to remain behind, in a heathen land, rather than to return to Jerusalem. RH December 26, 1907, par. 15

And now, many years later, the Lord was preparing the way for these thousands who had lingered, to return. A chain of circumstances was rapidly leading to the confirmation of the decree of Cyrus and the issuance of a second decree by Darius Hystaspes. The Lord foresaw the troublous times that would soon follow in the reign of Xerxes—the Ahasuerus of the book of Esther. And so, in a time of special favor and opportunity, the message was given through Zechariah: RH December 26, 1907, par. 16

“Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the Lord: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the Lord. Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon. For thus saith the Lord of hosts: After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. For, behold I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me.” RH December 26, 1907, par. 17

How sad it is to contemplate that this touching appeal met with so little response! Had this entreaty to flee from Babylon been heeded, how different might have been the condition of the Jews in the trying times of Mordecai and Esther! RH December 26, 1907, par. 18

The Lord's purposes for his people have ever been the same. He desires to bestow on the children of men the riches of an eternal inheritance. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. When those who choose to become obedient subjects of the Most High are finally saved in the kingdom of glory, God's purpose for mankind will have been fulfilled. RH December 26, 1907, par. 19

To us who are praying and longing for the coming of this most glorious kingdom, as well as to the children of Israel in the days of Zechariah, are spoken the words: “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord. And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee. And the Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again. Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.” RH December 26, 1907, par. 20