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Ezra 5:1–6:22 (LEB)

Temple Restoration Resumed

5 Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and in Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak set out and began to build the house of God that is in Jerusalem. And with them the prophets of God were helping them.

At the same time Tattenai, governor of the province Beyond the River, and Shethar-bozenai, and their associates came to them and spoke to them thus: “Who issued you all a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?” Then we asked them this: “What are the names of the men who are building this building?” And the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until the report came to Darius, and then answer was received.

The copy of the letter that Tattenai, the governor of the province Beyond the River, and Shethar-bozenai and his associates the envoys who were in the province Beyond the River sent to Darius the king. They sent to him the report in which was written as follows: “To Darius the king, all peace. May it be known to the king that we went to the province of Judah, the house of the great God. It is being built with stone blocks and timber is being put in the walls. This work is being done with diligence and is making progress in their hands. Then we asked those elders and said this to them, ‘Who issued forth to you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?’ 10 We also asked them their names to make them known to you, that we might write down the name of their leaders. 11 And this is the answer they returned to us: ‘We are servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are building the house that was built formerly many years ago, which a great king of Israel had built and finished. 12 But because our ancestors angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hand of the Chaldean King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. He destroyed this house and carried away the people to Babylonia. 13 But in the first year of King Cyrus of Babylon’s reign he issued forth a decree to build this house of God. 14 Also, the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took away from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to the temple in Babylonia, King Cyrus removed them from the temple in Babylonia and they were given to Sheshbazzar, whom he appointed governor. 15 He said to him, ‘Take these vessels. Go put them in the temple in Jerusalem and let the house of God be built on its site.’ 16 Then this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundation of the house of God in Jerusalem. And from that time until now it is being built, but not yet finished.’ 17 And now, if it seems good for the king, let it be investigated in the house of the treasury of the king in Babylonia to see if a decree was issued forth from King Cyrus to build this house of God in Jerusalem. And let the king send to us his desire on this matter.”

Darius’ Search for the Decree

6 Then King Darius issued forth a decree, and they searched the house of the treasury of scrolls being stored in Babylonia. But it was in Ecbatana in the province of Media, in the citadel, that a certain scroll had written on it, “A record. In the first year of King Cyrus, he issued forth a decree concerning the house of God in Jerusalem. Let the house be built, the place where sacrifices are offered and let its foundations be raised. Its height shall be sixty cubits and its width sixty cubits, with three layers of great stones and a layer of timber. Let the new expenses be paid from the house of the king. Also, let the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to Babylonia, be returned and brought to the temple in Jerusalem to its place. Put them in the house of God.”

The Decree of Darius

“Now then, Tattenai governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and your associates, the envoys who are in the province Beyond the River—keep far away from there. Leave this work of the house of God alone. Let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God on its site. And I issue forth a decree for what you should do for these elders of the Jews to build this house of God. The full expense will be paid to these men from the riches of the king from the taxes of the province Beyond the River, without delay. Whatever may be needed—young bulls, young rams, sheep for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil for the priests in Jerusalem—let it be given to them day by day with no negligence, 10 that they may offer incense offerings to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and his children. 11 Furthermore, I issue forth a decree that if any person violates this decree, let a beam be pulled out from his house and let him be impaled on it. And let his house be made a pile of rubble on account of this. 12 May the God who has set his name there overthrow any king or people who sets his hand to alter or to destroy this house of God in Jerusalem. I, Darius, issue forth a decree. Let it be done with diligence.”

Temple is Dedicated and Completed

13 Then Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River, Shethar-bozenai, and their associates consequently did with diligence what Darius the king ordered. 14 So the elders of the Jews were building and prospering, through the prophecy of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah son of Iddo. They finished building by the command of the God of Israel and by the decree of Cyrus, Darius, and King Artaxerxes of Persia. 15 This house was completed on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.

16 And the Israelites, the priests, the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. 17 And they offered during the dedication of this house of God one hundred young bulls, two hundred young rams, four hundred lambs, and twelve male goats as a sin offering for Israel according to the number of the tribes of Israel. 18 Then they set the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their sections for the work of God in Jerusalem, as it is written in the book of Moses.

The Celebration of Passover

19 On the fourteenth day of the first month the returned exiles observed the Passover feast. 20 For the priests and Levites together had consecrated themselves; all of them were clean. And they slaughtered the Passover sacrifice for all of the returned exiles, for their brothers the priests, and for themselves. 21 The Israelites who returned from the exile and all those who separated themselves from the uncleanness of the nations of the earth to seek Yahweh the God of Israel, ate. 22 With joy they celebrated the festival of unleavened bread for seven days, because Yahweh had made them joyful and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them in order to help them with the work of their hands on the house of the God of Israel.

1 John 3:19–24 (LEB)

19 By this we know that we are of the truth and will convince our heart before him, 20 that if our heart condemns us, that God is greater than our heart and knows all things. 21 Dear friends, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God, 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what is pleasing in his sight. 23 And this is his commandment: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he commanded us. 24 And the one who keeps his commandments resides in him, and he in him. And by this we know that he resides in us: by the Spirit whom he has given to us.

Psalm 106:30–48 (LEB)

30 Then Phinehas stood up and intervened,

and so the plague was stopped,

31 and it was reckoned to him as righteousness

throughout all generations.

32 They also angered God at the waters of Meribah,

and it went badly for Moses on account of them,

33 because they rebelled against his Spirit,

and he spoke thoughtlessly with his lips.

34 They did not exterminate the peoples,

as Yahweh had commanded them,

35 but they mingled with the nations

and learned their works,

36 and served their idols,

which became a snare to them.

37 They even sacrificed their sons and daughters

to the demons,

38 and they poured out innocent blood,

the blood of their sons and daughters,

whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,

and so the land was defiled with the blood.

39 And they became unclean by their works,

and were unfaithful in their deeds.

40 So Yahweh’s anger burned against his people,

and he abhorred his inheritance.

41 Then he gave them into the hand of the nations,

and those who hated them ruled over them.

42 And their enemies oppressed them,

and they were subdued under their hand.

43 Many times he delivered them,

but they rebelled in their counsel,

and were brought low by their iniquity.

44 Yet he looked upon their distress

when he heard their cry.

45 And he remembered his covenant with them,

and relented based on the abundance of his loyal love.

46 And he let them find compassion

before all their captors.

47 Save us, O Yahweh our God,

and gather us from the nations,

so that we may give thanks to your holy name

and boast in your praise.

48 Blessed is Yahweh, the God of Israel,

from everlasting and to everlasting.

And let all the people say, “Amen!”

Praise Yah.

June 18: What Is Love? (Rebecca Van Noord)

June 18

I find it easy to talk about myself. I like to get to the root of why I act the way I do. Sometimes this is helpful—it helps me nail down where I struggle. But this tendency also reminds me that I’m geared inward.

The danger is that I often filter others through the sieve of my experience. Our culture encourages the mindset that other people ought to make us feel good about ourselves and help us fulfill our dreams. In this mindset, our relationships ultimately become about self-fulfillment.

John squashes this idea. He tells the recipients of his letter, “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). He’s not saying we should refrain from expressing love and care through words. But displaying love—putting others’ needs before our own—requires much more of us.

John doesn’t go on to define love. However, he does describe the ultimate example of love: “We have come to know love by this: that he laid down his life on behalf of us, and we ought to lay down our lives on behalf of the brothers” (1 John 3:16). Love is best displayed in the cross, not in poetry and with eloquent words that demonstrate more about ourselves than actual, concrete care for others.

The love displayed on the cross is a reminder that we aren’t meant to lead comfortable, self-focused lives. Jesus’ actions show us that love isn’t merely emotion—it’s sacrifice and self-denial. We live to love both God and others, and that’s best done with actions that serve.

Are you really loving the people around you? How can you love them better?

Rebecca Van Noord is editor-in-chief of Bible Study Magazine. She has developed content for several Bible reference products, including Lexham Bible Dictionary and Faithlife Study Bible.

Connect the Testaments: A Daily Devotional

Author: John D. Barry & Rebecca Van Noord

Publisher: Lexham Press

Publication Date: 2012

This 365-day devotional walks you through the Bible in a year, following a custom reading plan that delves into the stories of the Bible from five unique perspectives.