prodical comes home September 7 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): 2Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1-2, Nehemiah 7:4-73a

God Answers Prayer; the Prodigal Comes Home

A prodigal might wonder if it is possible for him to return home. Perhaps he even committed crimes and was sent to prison. He identifies with the 1973 song, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” written by Irwin Levine and L.Russel Brown and sung by Tony Orlando and Dawn. Here is a good synopsis of the song according to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia:

The song is told from the point of view of a prisoner who has completed his three-year sentence but is uncertain if he will be welcomed home. He writes to his love, asking her to tie a yellow ribbon around the “ole oak tree” in front of the house if she wants him to return to her life. If he does not see such a ribbon, he will remain on the bus [taking that to mean he is unwelcome]. He asks the bus driver to check, fearful of not seeing anything.

To his amazement, the entire bus cheers the response – there are 100 yellow ribbons around the tree, a sign he is very much welcome.

This song is still popular because it gives the prodigal some hope that he might be forgiven and return home. Sometimes, God answers even the most impossible prayers when He is pleased to do so.

Do we understand God’s plans and purposes so we will get more answers to our prayers? Let's consider Daniel’s example from our last Bible study. He observed what the LORD was doing to punish Israel for her sins. He was also a student of the Scriptures. He read Jeremiah’s prophecy that in seventy years God will return the Jews to their homeland (Jeremiah 29:10). Daniel also knew the LORD would answer their prayers only if they were humble, willing to confess their sins, and turn from them. Daniel knew the LORD still has a future for the Jewish people (Daniel 9:24-27; 10:1-14). He claimed God’s promise and appealed to His mercy and grace to restore them to their land. Although their land is devastated and partially occupied by foreigners, it is still their home.

In today's Bible reading, we see The Sovereign LORD answers Daniel’s prayer. He forgives Israel’s sin and makes provision to restore her to her land. How does He do it? Perhaps, although we don’t know for certain, King Cyrus of Persia is told how God delivered Daniel from the lions’ den, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from a fiery furnace, and how Daniel’s prophecies were literally fulfilled, even the prophecies concerning Medo-Persia’s conquering of Babylon. Perhaps someone even shows him the prophecy that Cyrus (by name) will declare a decree for the Jews to return to their land (about 150 years prior, in the days of Isaiah, See Isaiah 44:28 and 45:13). For whatever reason, or simply because God puts it into his heart, King Cyrus of Persia issues an edict to allow the Jews to return to their own land, as many as wish to go.

Over 49,000 Jews are among the first to return. It is amazing that most have not lost their Jewish identity after all the years in exile, but records were kept. Families are important to God. Under the influence of Daniel and Ezekiel, many Israelites held onto the hope of their return according to Jeremiah’s prophecy. Now they act in faith to reclaim their promised land. In their company are some prominent individuals who will play an important part in the rebuilding of the temple and the wall around the city: Zerubbabel, Jeshua [Joshua], Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai [not the uncle of Esther], Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum and Baanah (Ezra 2:2, NIV).

King Cyrus makes provisions for the Jews to build the temple and sacrifice to their God. He even allows them to bring back the temple articles that Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had taken. He could have sent them back empty-handed or not at all. The grace of God is great.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21, NIV).

The leaders of the Jewish families, according to their ability, also bring with them many treasures that they contribute to the work (Nehemiah 7:70-73a). There contributions show faith and pride of ownership in the restoration of Solomon’s temple.

Lessons to Live by:

  • God can answer even the most unlikely, impossible prayers. He is merciful and gracious to those who are oppressed, who turn to God from their sins, and who believe His promises. He offers them and us forgiveness, peace and spiritual life (more...)
  • Families are important to God; everyone counts.
  • We must act in faith to claim what God gives us.
  • Although God may provide, we can each contribute to His work according to our ability. This allows us to act in faith and take ownership of the project or ministry.

Focus Verse

Psalm 20:6 (NIV) “Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand.”

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A Look Ahead: Israel must act with Courageous Faith when encountering opposition. In our Next Lesson, learn how we can do this.

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