After the Jews had spent seventy years in Babylon, their release from captivity by the hand of Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, lifted their spirits and gave them opportunity to demonstrate how much their hearts had changed. Led by Zerubbabel and with the backing of Cyrus, they began to rebuild the temple, but these efforts came to a halt when opposition arose against them during the reign of Artaxerxes I. But gaining strength from the exhortations of the prophets, when Darius II came to the throne, they began again, challenging the previous stay of their efforts. King Darius, considering their position anew, searched for the previous decree, found it (Ezra 6:1-5), and reenforced it (Ezra 6:6-12). Needing no more word than this, the Jews returned to their work with vigor and completed the second temple, dedicating it with joy, though with fewer offerings than Solomon had at his disposal with the original (Ezra 6:13-17). Furthermore, they made all the proper assignments for the priests and Levites (Ezra 6:18), kept the feasts, and separated themselves from the people (Ezra 6:19-22). In short, they returned to all that they had previously neglected. They restored what should have been since the beginning.
The current situation we face in a world bent on evil and with many Christians apathetic and unengaged is no less challenging, but it can be overcome just as surely as a small contingent of Jews rebuilt the temple and restored worship in Jerusalem in the fifth century B.C. However, it requires the same kind of heart they demonstrated. Rather than expecting improvement from lackluster effort and only casual interest, we must give our all to live and work in a manner that will bring God’s Word to life for those who see only the depth of our commitment. Therefore, we must begin by taking a stand for truth (Ezra 6:1-2; Jn. 17:17), seeking it, living it, and speaking it with ever ounce of our being. We must seize each and every opportunity presented (Ezra 6:3-12), whether they be big and promising or small and unclear (Col. 4:2-4). Furthermore, we must diligently and consistently study God’s Word and submit ourselves to what it says, regardless of our previous choices, tradition, or pressure (Ezra 6:13-14a; 1 Pet. 2:2). But just as those who returned from captivity had to persevere and work hard to achieve their goals (Ezra 6:14b-18), so also must we (1 Cor. 15:58). God did not extend His grace so that we would sit still but so we could become busy doing the right things (Eph. 2:8-10). Finally, underlying all of this, we must regain and maintain a zeal that will sustain us regardless of what might happen (Ezra 6:19-22). We must have a zeal for personal purity (Mt. 5:8; Gal. 5:19-21), a zeal for worship (Jn. 4:24), a zeal for holiness (1 Pet. 1:16), and a zeal for the Lord’s work (Tit. 2:15) that not only shines for a moment but that also lives within us for a lifetime (Gal. 2:20). You cannot breathe new life into others until you have first revitalized your own heart.