The apostle Paul wrote concerning the Old Testament Scriptures, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning…” (Romans 15:4). While the specific commands of the Old Testament are no longer in effect, there are many valid principles and lessons that can be applied to our lives today.
Late in the history of the kings God used the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar to discipline and correct his people because they had turned from God and no longer followed in his will. The Bible says that Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem, taking the king, the people and valuables into Babylonian captivity, among which were “the articles (vessels) from the house of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 36:5-7), and “Then they burned the house of God…” (2 Chronicles 36:18-20). For seventy years the people of God became servants or slaves in Babylon because of their lack of genuine faith and obedience, and although Nebuchadnezzar was evil God used him to accomplish his purpose of bringing God’s people to their spiritual senses.
The process of returning to Jerusalem began when Cyrus, King of Persia, made a proclamation that the house of the Lord would be rebuilt in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-2) which was in accordance with a prophesy made years ago by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:11-12, 29:10). There are some important spiritual lessons and principles to be found in this event that are applicable today.
First, the rebuilding of the nation began by reestablishing the spiritual life of the people and putting in order the things that pertained to God. The book of Ezra tells of the return to Jerusalem from the 70 years of exile and the first step of that return was to set the spiritual things in order, and King Cyrus initiated this by counting and sending back to Jerusalem all of the articles (5,400) that had been taken from the Temple (Ezra 1:7-11) so that they could begin the work of rebuilding the Temple (Ezra 3:10). The rebuilding of the Temple first would send a clear reminder to the people of God that he must reign within their hearts and they must follow his will for there to be peace within their lives.
Second, the rebuilding of the nation began by returning to the Word of God. The articles of gold and silver from the Temple were counted and returned, and 42,360 returned to Jerusalem and Judah, not counting the servants and singers. Finally, “the people gathered in Jerusalem” and the priests offered a burnt offering “as it is written in the Law of Moses…” (Ezra 3:1-2). The phrase “as it is written in the Law of Moses” is key to understanding that the intent was not just to establish some religion based upon their own ideas, but upon the Word of God. This principle is still valid today and should be applied to the church, the family and nations around the world. If there is any rebuilding to take place within a congregation or the church in general it will be by laying aside the traditions of men and putting into practice the Word of God.