“In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest.”
The book of Daniel closes with the offspring of Jacob still exiled from their homeland but knowing that God would one day deliver the faithful from captivity and bless them (Dan. 12). These exiled Jews also clung tightly to the promise that upon the return from exile, the Davidic king would be restored to his throne in Jerusalem (Amos 9:11–15). We can imagine, then, the joy the old covenant community felt when Cyrus conquered the people’s Babylonian captors and sent the Jews back to their land to rebuild their temple (Ezra 1:1–4). In this decree to return we see the doctrine of concurrence in action. Concurrence tells us that both God and human beings can be thoroughly and concurrently active in every human activity without necessarily having the same motivations and intent. When Cyrus told the Jews to go back to the Promised Land in 538 BC, he was not out to advance the interests of God’s kingdom or to show true, undivided worship to Yahweh, the one Lord of all. Instead, he was just following wise domestic policy. After the Medo-Persian Empire conquered the Babylonians, they controlled the territory that Babylon once ruled, including the land of Canaan. The Persians wisely saw that keeping the peoples they ruled out of their homelands was not likely to win them any friends and might encourage unrest. So, they allowed the Jews and the other peoples whom Babylon had taken into exile to go back to their lands of origin. Those of faith, however, saw God’s hand working in this policy for a different end. After all, Isaiah had promised that when Cyrus came to power, God would use him to bring His people home, all for the sake of his glory (Isa. 45). Persia divided its empire into provinces known as “satrapies.” Yehud, or Judah, was a sub-province of the satrapy Abar Nahara, which means “beyond the river.” The initial territory of Judah was very small, including only Jerusalem and the area extending out from the city for about fifteen miles in every direction. This inauspicious beginning and Persia’s control over Judean affairs fulfill Daniel’s vision that the exile was being extended because the people, as a corporate body, did not truly repent while they were in Babylon. We see this lack of repentance and obedience in the failure of the returned exiles to make rebuilding the Jerusalem temple a priority (Hag. 1:1–6). This brings us to our next book in our chronological study of the Old Testament prophets. Haggai, along with Zechariah, was raised up to call the people to rebuild God’s house in Jerusalem (Ezra 5:1–2).
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
Only if God is thoroughly active in everything that ever happens can we be confident that He has an actual purpose for everything that occurs. From the acts of the greatest generals in history to the seemingly inconsequential casting of a stone into the sea, all that we see and experience occurs according to God’s perfect plan and wise governance. The little details of life really do matter. Why? Because they matter enough to the Lord for Him to work in and through them.