The RestorationIntroduction The Restoration of which Biblical historians were referring to whenever they allude to the last phase of Old Testament period, are those events mentioned by Ezra and Nehemiah in their books; of which events, contemporary prophets such as Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, among others, also bear witness in their records (Merrill, 1991). The events covering this period were not occurrences separated and different from what God intended for His people to go through.
Remember that from the very beginning, in the book of Genesis, God promised His salvation to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:16) immediately after they fell. This salvation was not exclusive to the first couple, but belonging to all of God’s people of all generations which then were Adam’s and Eve’s future descendants. And so, as the whole story of God’s redemptive plan unfolds in Genesis, the focus shifted more and more to Abraham and the people that would come from him – the people of Israel. Indeed, Genesis closes with the Hebrew people slowly being established firmly in the land of Egypt. There, God would form and make His people. God’s promise of salvation as expressed to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) included political and economic stability.Thus, specifically, God promises a land for Abraham and his descendants, and it (the land of Israel) would become one of the dominant themes of the Old Testament history (Merrill, 1991).
In fact, the Promised Land is crucial to the understanding of the period of restoration. As His people, Israel should learn how to live a life that was totally dedicated to the only one true God. The whole nation’s dedication should be clearly seen in their keeping of the Law of Moses.
God even had given them promises of blessings if they would remain faithful in their covenant with Him, and warning them of severe curses if they would abandon God by rejecting His Word (Merrill, 1991). One remarkable warning against choosing to abandon God for the idols of the inhabitants of Canaan was the Hebrews’ expulsion from the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 28:36, 64). It was clear then that God warned about withholding His political salvation from His people when they are found in deliberate violation of their covenant with Him.
They would lose their land if they disobey.The destruction of the Jewish land and their temple, and their scattering to other nations of the world are all symptoms of the people of God’s spiritual bankruptcy. Restoration then has to do with spiritual reformation of God’s people and their restoration to their own land (Ironside, 1972; Merrill, 1991).
God’s Purpose That God has His faithful remnants is clear during the time of Elijah the prophet. During times when it was difficult for this faithful servant of God to detect other true servants of the living God, God was in fact preserving seven thousand Israelites who have not bowed to Baal (1 Kings 19:18) (Merrill, 1991). This issue of “remnant” was even tackled by Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans (Romans 11:1-6) in the New Testament.
Throughout the ages, God always has been preserving a people for Himself. This truth could be seen again and again even among the backslidden people of Israel. Prophet Jeremiah wept for his people during those dark days under King Zedekiah. In exile, there was Daniel and his three friends, and the groups of returnees under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. In bringing back God’s people to their own land, it is apparent that God’s intention was to refresh to the remnants His promised economic and political salvation. God wanted them to enjoy afresh His presence. And for all these to come true, He had to restore them to the land promised to them; the Temple had to be restored, and they had to return to true worship of God, and be ruled once again by a Faithful King like David.
Of course, this juncture of Israel’s history was the nearing the brink of the new era in God’s economy – the coming of the Messiah King(Merrill, 1991).Important Tasks for the Returnees Reading the accounts provided in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, two important tasks have become consuming to the hearts of the remnants: rebuilding of the Jewish temple, and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Their eagerness to rebuild their temple signified their longing to worship the one true God according to the instructions in the Law of Moses(Merrill, 1991). It was a true indication of their repentant heart. Their concern for the walls around Jerusalem to be rebuilt reveals their apprehension towards hostile neighboring countries. After 70 years of Divine discipline, at last, they are free to worship God in their own country with a temple built on its original sight. It was an awe-inspiring prospect to a people who at last have learned the hard lessons of exile (Feinberg, 1962).
Haggai & Zechariah For the post-exilic prophets like Haggai and Zechariah, this period of restoration meant something that was grand and magnificent. For example, Haggai (inspired by the Spirit of God) said: “This latter temple’s glory will be greater than its former glory” (Haggai 2:9) (Merrill, 1991). Prophet Zechariah’s prophecy is quoted (Zechariah 13:7) in several places in the New Testament.
Both of these prophets saw beyond their times to the times of the Messiah. Looking at the New Testament, the coming of Jesus was viewed as the God’s dwelling among men. He was the Immanuel – God living and dwelling among His people. He was the Shepherd who was stricken for His sheep.
And when it happened in its actual fulfillment in the New Testament, the disciples were scattered. Thus, post-exilic prophets saw the period of the Old Testament restoration as grander in its magnificence than the former times (Merrill, 1991; Escalona, 2009).References:Ironside, H.A. (1972). Notes on Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.
Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux Brothers.
Feinberg, Charles (1962). Haggai, The Wycliffe Bible Commentary. Chicago: Moody Press.
Escalona, Alan (2009). The Way Christian Church Weekly Program (article).Merrill, Eugene H.(1991). “A Theology of Ezra-Nehemiah and Esther.
” In A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament. Edited by Roy B. Zuck. Chicago: Moody Press..
The Holy Bible (1982) New King James Version.. Published by Thomas Nelson, Inc.