Many thousands of people make the long trip from Babylon to Jerusalem. But
when they arrive, Jerusalem is just a big ruin. Nobody lives there. The
Israelites have to build everything all over again. One of the first things
that they build is an altar. This is a place where they can make animal
offerings, or gifts, to God. A few months later the Israelites begin building
the temple. But enemies living in lands nearby don’t want the Israelites to
build it. So they try to frighten them to make them stop. Finally, these
enemies get the new king of Persia to make a law to stop the building work.
Years pass. Now it has been 17 years since the Israelites came back from
Babylon. God sends his prophets Haggai and Zechariah to tell the people to
start building again. The people trust in God’s help, and they obey the
prophets. They start to build again, even though a law says that they are not
to do it. So a Persian official named Tattenai comes and asks the Israelites
what right they have to build the temple. The Israelites tell him that when
they were in Babylon, King Cyrus told them: ‘Go, now, to Jerusalem and build
the temple of God, your God.’
Tattenai sends a letter to Babylon and asks if Cyrus, who is now dead,
really said that. Soon a letter from the new king of Persia comes back. It
tells that Cyrus really said it. And so the king writes: ‘Let the Israelites
build the temple of their God. And I command you to help them.’ In about four
years the temple is finished, and the Israelites are very happy. Many more
years pass. It is now almost 48 years since the temple was finished. The people
in Jerusalem are poor, and the city and God’s temple do not look very pretty.
Back in Babylon, the Israelite Ezra learns about the need to fix up God’s
temple. So do you know what he does?
Ezra goes to see Artaxerxes, the king of Persia, and this good king gives
Ezra many gifts to take back to Jerusalem. Ezra asks the Israelites in Babylon
to help him carry these gifts to Jerusalem. About 6,000 people say they will
go. They have a lot of silver and gold and other precious things to carry with
them. Ezra is worried, because there are bad men along the way. These men might
take away their silver and gold, and kill them. So Ezra calls the people
together, as you can see in the picture. Then they pray to God to protect them
on their long trip back to Jerusalem.
God does protect them. And after four months of traveling, they arrive
safely in Jerusalem. Doesn’t this show that God can protect those who trust in
him for help?