The prophet Jeremiah wept over the fall of Jerusalem and prophesied the judgment and exile of Israel. They would spend seventy years in Babylon. It was the decree of Cyrus, after seventy years of captivity, that the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem. This decree was to return and build the temple. The first exiles returned under the leadership of Zerubabel and spiritual leadership of Joshua. Haggai and Zechariah were the prophets of God to these people at this time. About 50,000 people returned to Israel. Imagine what that was like. Anyone younger than 70 had never been in the land. Only those older than 75 or so would even recall any memories of te land. Many of the Jews were very happy in Babylon.
The returning exiles set out to rebuild the temple and worked at it for six years when the oppositions began to strengthen. They, in turn, lost their resolve and the temple rebuilding was moth-balled for ten years. The Lord sent Haggai and Zechariah to minister and prophecy to the people. Haggai told them, "Consider your ways". The people were building houses for themselves. They were settling in, seeking comfort instead of being obedient. Zechariah came along just a few months after Haggai and prophesied a message of repentatnce; "Return to Me," says the Lord of hosts, "and I will return to you," says the Lord of hosts. This was the core of his message and ministry.
It was a difficult time for God's people. They were feeling threatened. Even though it may have been in their heart to be obedient, it seemed it would cost them their happiness, their freedom, their time and maybe even their lives. The situation seemed hopeless, discouragement set in.
- The land was a mess; desolate and neglected
- There was nothing easy about this work
- They had very little money and very few people.
- Their crops had failed, they were suffering from a drought.
- The enemy was diligent in resisting their work.
- In the back of their mind, they remembered how easy things were back in Babylon.
Where was God? Why did He seem so far away? Surely He didn't expect them to lay everything down? Surely He didn't expect them to lay down their very life? Did He?
The coming KIng
Restoration of Judah & Israel
Desolation of Israel
Idolatry cut off
The Shepherd Savior
The Day of the Lord