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    May 7, 1902

    “Restoration from Babylon. The Second Return” The Signs of the Times 28, 19, pp. 3, 4.

    BY ALONZO TREVIER JONE

    FROM the time of Satan’s master-stroke by Haman the Amalekite against the people and the work of God in the earth, unto the next recorded event in their history, was fifteen years—from the twelfth year of Xerxes to the seventh year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, Esther 3:7; Ezra 7:1-7. Yet it must not be supposed that in all these years Satan had been idle or had in any wise slacked his efforts; he only changed his tactics, and plied his efforts in another and more insidious way. He insinuated himself, his spirit, and his ways, into the individual life of the Jews in Palestine.SITI May 7, 1902, page 3.1

    When the people of Israel came up first from the captivity, the Samaritans and other people of the land sought alliance with them. By the faithfulness of Zerubbabel and Joshua, that proposed alliance was rejected and prevented. By the faithfulness of these devoted men, and by their noble example, the people were held in faithfulness and devotion to God, and so to the rejection of all form of alliance with the mixed peoples around them. But when these devoted men had passed away, they were not succeeded by men of equal devotion. As a consequence the people, not having before them a good example in the men in chief responsibility, drifted into looseness of life: faithfulness and integrity were forgotten; and the alliance which the mixed peoples sought with them was secured, and by that Satan accomplished his purpose of putting a stop to the work of God in the rebuilding of Jerusalem.SITI May 7, 1902, page 3.2

    The alliance of the mixed peoples with Israel was accomplished by the new leaders in Israel forgetting their integrity and true responsibility, and intermarrying with the mixed peoples around them. “The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites,” and “the princes and rulers,” did not keep themselves separate “from the people of the lands;” but didaccording to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.” For they took “of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.” Ezra 9:1, 2.SITI May 7, 1902, page 3.3

    As a natural and very easy consequence the work of rebuilding the city, the streets, and the walls of Jerusalem was neglected, and finally was left off entirely, and even the temple that had been built and dedicated was neglected, and allowed to fall into decay. But thank the Lord, in captivity down in Babylon there were yet some faithful ones whose hearts were seeking the law of the Lord to do it. Of these Ezra was the chief; for “Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” Ezra 7:10. This right spirit and true example drew others to the right way; and in the seventh year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, B. C. 457, a decree was issued by that king of Persia in favor of Ezra and whosoever was minded to go with him, for the building of the city and wall of Jersualem, and the repair of the house of God; and commanding all the people beyond the Euphrates to pay toll, tribute, and custom for the work of the Lord in Jerusalem. This decree is recorded in Ezra 7:12-26.SITI May 7, 1902, page 3.4

    In gratitude for this blessed favor, Ezra wrote:—SITI May 7, 1902, page 3.5

    “Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem: and hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counselors, and before all the king’s mighty princes. And I was strengthened as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me.” Ezra 7:27, 28.SITI May 7, 1902, page 3.6

    The number of those who went up from Babylon with Ezra was about six thousand, as enumerated in the Scriptures. On the first day of the first month in the year 457 B. C., they started from Babylon. When they had reached the river of Ahava, about a day’s journey from Babylon, Ezra reviewed the people, and found that in all the company there was not a single Levite. As the Levites were essential to the ministry of the house of God when they should reach Jerusalem. Ezra was obliged to send messengers back to the Jewish colony at Babylon to find some Levites who would come with them to Jerusalem. In response to Ezra’s call, there came two hundred and fifty-eight men. When those had arrived, “then,” says Ezra,—SITI May 7, 1902, page 3.7

    “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance. For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God [is] upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath [is] against all them that forsake him. So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was entreated of us.” Ezra 8:21-23.SITI May 7, 1902, page 3.8

    This reviewing of the people, the sending back to Babylon for the Levites, and the time of fasting and prayer, occupied eleven days. “Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go unto Jerusalem: and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way.” And “on the first day of the fifth month” they arrived safely at Jerusalem, “according to the good hand of God” upon them. On the fourth day after their arrival at Jerusalem, the gold and silver and the vessels for the house of God which they had brought as offerings, were weighed into the house of God and entered in writing; they offered burnt-offerings according to the twelve tribes of Israel; “and they delivered the king’s commissions unto the king’s lieutenants, and to the governors on this side the river; and they furthered the people, and the house of God.” The temple was immediately repaired, and beautified, and caused once more to stand worthy of the divine purpose to which it was devoted, and to which it had been dedicated. Ezra 6:14, last clause.SITI May 7, 1902, page 3.9

    This work of repairing and building the temple occupied about eight months. When that work was all done, and Ezra turned his attention to restoring and organizing the full worship and service of God in the temple, there was made the discovery of the mixed marriages and other abominations into which had entered the Jews who had first returned from Babylon. The princes who had come with Ezra, and who were his assistants, discovered this deplorable condition, and came to Ezra, saying:—SITI May 7, 1902, page 3.10

    “The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken of their daughters for themselves, and for their sons: so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands: yea, the hand of the princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass.”SITI May 7, 1902, page 292.1

    This was so fully true that no fewer than four of the very sons of Joshua the son of Jozadak “had taken strange wives.”SITI May 7, 1902, page 292.2

    When the full truth of the dismal situation burst upon the devoted Ezra, he was so overcome that he was utterly speechless all the remaining part of the day.SITI May 7, 1902, page 292.3

    “When I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied [like stone, petrified]. Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonied until the evening sacrifice. And at the evening sacrifice I arose up from my heaviness; and having rent my garment and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God, and said:—SITI May 7, 1902, page 292.4

    “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens. Since the days of our fathers have we been in a great trespass unto this day; and for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, and to a spoil, and to confusion of face, as it is this day. And now for a little space grace hath been showed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage. For we were bondmen; yet our God hath not forsaken us in our bondage, but hath extended mercy unto us in the sight of the kings of Persia, to give us a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to repair the desolations thereof, and to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem. And now, O our God, what shall we say after this? for we have forsaken thy commandments, which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying, The land, unto which ye go to possess it, is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness. Now therefore give not your daughters unto their sons, neither take their daughters unto your sons, nor seek their peace or their wealth for ever: that ye may be strong, and eat the good of the land, and leave it for an inheritance to your children for ever. And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this; should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping? O Lord God of Israel, thou art righteous: for we remain yet escaped, as it is this day: behold, we are before thee in our trespasses: for we cannot stand before thee because of this.SITI May 7, 1902, page 292.5

    “Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore.”SITI May 7, 1902, page 292.6

    Then spoke one for all,—SITI May 7, 1902, page 292.7

    “We have trespassed against our God, and have taken strange wives of the people of the land: yet now there is hope in Israel concerning this thing. Now therefore let us make a covenant with our God to put away all the wives, and such as are born of them, according to the counsel of my lord, and of those that tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Arise: for this matter belongeth unto thee: we also will be with thee: be of good courage, and do it.”SITI May 7, 1902, page 292.8

    This proposal was accepted by all. Then Ezra arose up from before the house of God, and went into one of the chambers of the priests, but “he did eat no bread, nor drink water; for he mourned because of the transgression of them that had been carried away.” Then a call was sent throughout Jerusalem and all the land, that all should assemble at Jerusalem; “and that whosever would not come within three days, according to the counsel of the princes and the elders, all his substance should be forfeited, and himself separated from the congregation.”SITI May 7, 1902, page 292.9

    Within the three days all were assembled in Jerusalem. “It was the ninth month, on the twentieth day of the month; and all the people sat in the street of the house of God, trembling because of this matter, and for the great rain.” Ezra addressed them:—SITI May 7, 1902, page 292.10

    “Ye have transgressed, and have taken strange wives, to increase the trespass of Israel. Now therefore make confession unto the Lord God of your fathers, and do his pleasure: and separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives.”SITI May 7, 1902, page 292.11

    The people answered, “As thou hast said, so must we do.” But since the people were many, and it was a time of much rain, and they were not able to stand without, neither was this “a work of one day or two; for we are many that have transgressed in this thing,” they advised that portions of the people come respectively at appointed times, until all who were in the transgression had cleared themselves. This suggestion was adopted. And the time required to accomplish the work was two whole months—from the first day of the tenth month until the first day of the first month.SITI May 7, 1902, page 292.12

    By this record there is made plain at least one very important lesson. Looseness in the individual life of the people of God gives to Satan advantage and victory over the people and cause of God, which it is impossible for him, by any possible power or machination, to gain, while they maintain integrity and true devotion to God. In the day of the false Smerdis, all that Satan, in possession of imperial power, could do against the work and people of God was, in reality, to produce a condition which only the more helped it forward. In the day of Haman the Amalekite, all that Satan, in possession of the very supremacy of worldly power, could do against the work and people of God, was only to demonstrate the absolute impotence of it all. And all this, simply because the people of God were walking in singleness of heart before Him, in true faith and integrity. But when they neglected all this, and so gave place to Satan in the individual life, then Satan gained the victory for which he had so long striven, and which, with all the power of earth in his hands, he had utterly failed to gain.SITI May 7, 1902, page 292.13

    Individual faithfulness is the victory of the people of God; individual unfaithfulness if the victory of Satan over the people of God.SITI May 7, 1902, page 292.14

    [The next article is “The Third Return.”]SITI May 7, 1902, page 292.15

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