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the people that they must accept the destruction
of Jerusalem as God's doing, and not rebel against
His will.

There are beautiful promises of a restored
Israel in this book, such as we have read of in
other prophets. And it is Ezekiel who first speaks
of God as the Good Shepherd, that tender image
which we find in the twenty-third psalm, and in
the Second Isaiah, and, of course, in St. John's
Gospel. In Ezek. xxxiv. we read

" As a shepherd seeketh out his flock ... so I will seek out My
sheep. ... I Myself will feed My sheep, and I will cause them to
lie down, saith the Lord God. I will seek that which was lost, and
will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which
was sick : they shall dwell securely in the wilderness, and sleep in the
woods . . . and none shall make them afraid. . . . And ye, My
sheep, the sheep of My pasture, are men and I am your God, saith
the Lord God."

There is one well-known vision of Ezekiel's
which must not be omitted (xxxvii.). He was
taken into a valley where there must have been a
great battle, and it was full of the dry bones of the
men who had been killed there. And in his vision

Ezekiel the Exile 1 1 9

Ezekiel saw that by God's command the breath
came into the bodies of the slain, " and they lived,
and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great
army." This was a sign to the house of Israel that
their nation would live again, by God's power,
and that He would place them in their own land.
And beyond the special sign to Israel, it has always
been looked upon as an allegory of the resurrec-
tion which God has promised to us all after death ;
and of the rising again, which, by God's Spirit,
is always possible, even to those who * are dead in
trespasses and sins.'

There is much that is comforting and sustain-
ing in Ezekiel's prophecies, and the last part of
his book is full of visions of the restored Jerusalem,
when the long captivity would be ended. The
name of the ideal city would be " The Lord is
there" (xxxviii. 35), and this name in itself was
an assurance of the peace and safety in which the
inhabitants would dwell. In our next chapter we
shall come nearer to the time of the longed-for
return from captivity.



THE last of Ezekiel's prophecies seem to have been
spoken about 570 B.C., sixteen years after the fall
of Jerusalem, and the final captivity. The other
great prophet of the exile began to give his
message perhaps thirty years later, within a few
years of the return. We know nothing about
him, not even his name. We find his writings
bound up with Isaiah's prophecies, and people
have therefore supposed that they were written by
Isaiah. This is now known not to be the case.
But though it would be very interesting to know
something of the life of one of the greatest of the
prophets, yet it is not of real importance. What
really matters is to know something of his message.
The writings of this Second Isaiah contain many


The Prophet of the Return 121

of the noblest and most beautiful passages in the
Bible, and some of them are among the best
known. We have not space to give long quota-
tions, and you will be able to read and enjoy
much of Second Isaiah for yourselves.

The opening words of the prophecy (Is. xl. i)
are a message of comfort and encouragement to
the exiles. The time of their trial and suffering
was nearly ended, and the release from captivity was
in sight. How was this to be ? The agent God
would employ was the Persian king, Cyrus, who,
after conquering other countries in the east,
marched against Babylon in 538 B.C., took the
city without difficulty, and became the ruler over
the Jewish captives as well as over the Babylonians.

The prophet's words break upon our ears like
the joy-bells on a festival morning. He is the
herald of the approaching deliverance. Those of
you who have heard Handel's oratorio, The Messiah,
can never forget the sound of the opening words

" Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God,
Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her,
That her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned :

1 22 The Work of the Prophets

For she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins.

The voice of one that crieth,

Prepare ye in the wilderness the way of the Lord,

Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be exalted,

And every mountain and hill shall be made low :

And the crooked shall be made straight,

And the rough places plain :

And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,

And all flesh shall see it together :

For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

O Zion, that bringest good tidings,

Get thee up into the high mountain ;

O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings,

Lift up thy voice with strength ;

Lift it up, be not afraid ;

Say unto the cities of Judah, Behold, your God ! "

We can picture to ourselves a little of what
the Jews felt when they first heard these words. In
Babylon they had heard of the conquering monarch
who was subduing the nations before him, and
their hearts beat high with hope that here was to
be the deliverer who would set them free from
the Babylonians. We must not think that the
prophet's message was only or chiefly the promise
of return. What he teaches is the same lesson
that Isaiah had enforced upon Ahaz and Hezekiah,

The Prophet of the Return 123

the greatness and majesty of the One True God,
Who has made heaven and earth, Who controls
and directs all human affairs. It is He who has
now raised up Cyrus to carry out His Divine
purpose in the deliverance of His people. This
is how the prophet speaks of Him

" To whom then will ye liken Me,
Or shall I be equal ?
Saith the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high, and behold
Who hath created these things,
That bringeth out their host by number :
He calleth them all by names by the greatness of His might,
For that He is strong in power ; not one faileth."

This great God of all the universe has not
forgotten the people for whom He has done so
much in the past. The yearning exiles are to
return to their own country, and it is God who
will take them back.

" Hast thou not known ? hast thou not heard
That the everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is

weary ? . . .
Behold the Lord God will come with strong hand,

124 The Work of the Prophets

And His arm shall rule for Him :
Behold, His reward is with Him,
And His work before Him."

And now we have the tender personal care of
which Ezekiel had already taught the people, ex-
pressed in words which dwell in our hearts like a
strain of gentle music

" He shall feed His flock like a shepherd :
He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His

And shall gently lead those that are with young."

This great prophet is a poet too ; with his
insight into the true meaning of things, he unites
another great gift, the power of expressing his
thoughts in harmonious and beautiful language.
His wide vision sees the great God exalted over
all the universe, and also the one people whom He
has specially blessed and endowed with a peculiar
mission. Israel is now to return to her own land,
and she has a great future before her. This
Second Isaiah has learned, and now proclaims un-
falteringly the great truth that, as God is the God
of all nations, His purpose for them is that all

The Prophet of the Return 125

should come to know and serve Him. And who
is to be the evangelist, the missionary, to all other
nations ? The people of Israel. This is why
they were chosen, set apart by their peculiar
history, and taught by the great succession of
prophets of whom we have read. They are to
bring the knowledge of God to the Gentiles.
Israel is to be the servant of the Lord in a special
sense. And it is the passages which describe the
mission of the Servant on which we ought to
dwell. As we know, Israel had not been faithful
to her high calling in the past. The prophet
begins sadly enough (xlii. 19, 20)

" Who is blind, but My Servant ?
Or deaf, as My messenger that I send ? . . .
Thou seest many things, but thou observest not ;
His ears are open but he heareth not."

This is speaking of the nation as a whole, but the
" faithful remnant " would be true to the Lord, and
would be the means of spreading true religion
throughout the world. The prophet continues
(xlii. 1-4)

" Behold My Servant, whom I uphold ;
My chosen, in whom My soul delighteth :

126 The Work of the Prophets

I have put My Spirit upon him ;

He shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles."

Judgment does not here mean a u sentence of
justice," as we read in some passages, but the
" true religion; " and this was to be taught by the
Servant to all the nations.

" A bruised reed shall he not break,
A dimly burning wick shall he not quench :
He shall bring forth judgment in truth.
He shall not fail nor be discouraged,
Till he have set judgment in the earth :
And the isles shall wait for his law."

In fulfilling his mission the Servant will have
much suffering to endure. But he knows that
it is God who sends him, and will give him
strength (1. 5-7).

" The Lord God hath opened mine ear,
And I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.
I gave my back to the smiters,
And my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair ;
I hid not my face from shame and spitting.
For the Lord God will help me :
Therefore shall I not be confounded :
Therefore have I set my face like a flint,
And I know that I shall not be ashamed."

Both these passages speak of the Servant as a

The Prophet of the Return 127

person, but this is what many of the prophets do
in speaking of the nation, and here the Second
Isaiah, perhaps, had in mind the ideal Israel, the
faithful few who would understand and carry out
God's purpose. But there is one more passage
which speaks even more fully of a Person who will
suffer many things for the iniquity of others. We
find this in the fifty-second and fifty-third chapters
which are read in Church on Good Friday. You
should read this passage (from chapter Hi. 13), and
in the description of the suffering Servant you will
recognize the work and suffering of our Blessed
Lord. No prophecy in the Old Testament has
been so exactly fulfilled as this. And it is partly,
or perhaps chiefly, these chapters that make the
writings of the Second Isaiah so dear to the hearts
of all Christian people. There are many other mag-
nificent passages in this book. We read of the
tender care of the Father for His children, of the
joyous return when the ransomed of the Lord

" Come with singing unto Zion ;
And everlasting joy shall be upon their head."

128 The Work of the Prophets

There have been pictures of this peace and joy
in earlier prophets, but no prophet has so many or
in such detail. But through all these chapters our
hearts go back to the suffering Servant ; and as we
read of His silence, His meekness, and above all
of His bearing the sin of many, and of His making
many righteous, we know that there has only been
One who perfectly fulfilled all this, which the
Second Isaiah was inspired to see and reveal to
others. It is quite true that Israel was God's
servant, and was commissioned to hold up the
light of the true faith to the nations. Quite
true, too, that the faithful remnant endured much
innocent suffering caused by the sin of others.
But it was not until our Saviour Jesus Christ came
to earth that men knew all the meaning of the
prophet's words. There is one verse which per-
haps more than the rest brings home to us the
meaning and depth of these passages. It is where
the prophet says

" He shall see of the travail of His soul,
And shall be satisfied"

Our Lord was willing to endure, and He knew,

The Prophet of the Return 129

and knows, that His suffering will not be in vain.
His work will be accomplished, and the world will
be redeemed.

Perhaps you may ask what the Jews them-
selves understood by these words about the Servant.
We cannot quite tell. But they may have learnt
part of the lesson, if not all. If the people were
to be used by God as His servant, they must be
prepared to suffer much, and to be an example to
others, and in that way they would turn many to
righteousness. These are thoughts on which we
cannot now dwell. As the years go on you will
be able to enter more fully into the deep teaching
of the unnamed prophet of the restoration.
Perhaps to have read even these few words about
him may make the lessons you hear read in Church
from his writings more real and interesting.



AND now the end of the exile has come. After
taking Babylon in 538 B.C., Cyrus gave permission
to the Jews to return to their own land, and those
who wished to do so set forth in the spring of
537 B.C. Not a very large number of the captives
went back after all. Fifty or sixty years had passed
since the captivity had begun. Most of the original
exiles must have died. Many were too old, or
too firmly established in Chaldaea to wish to under-
take the long journey. Not more than forty-two
thousand, if so many, made their way back to
Judaea, to find their city and temple in ruins, and
the whole country only a poor outlying province
of the great Persian empire. There is a very


The Temple Builders 131

great contrast between the splendid hopes and
descriptions of the restoration, which we read in the
Prophets, especially in Second Isaiah, and what
really happened. The returned exiles were poor,
and had not energy enough to begin to rebuild the
temple ; then various misfortunes fell upon them
bad harvests, drought, and the like. Some may
have been more prosperous, as they seem to have
built good houses for themselves ; but for the
most part they were poor, discouraged, and dis-
appointed of their hopes. Perhaps the foundations
of the new Temple were laid, but the rebuilding
was strongly opposed by the Samaritans, who were
descended partly from some of the original ten
tribes of northern Israel, and partly from the
settlers from Assyria, whom the Assyrian king
had sent to occupy the land after the Israelites
had been carried away captive long before.

Seventeen years passed away, and no prophet's
voice was uplifted to cheer or exhort the dis-
heartened people. But God had not forgotten
them, and in the autumn of 520 B.C. (we know
the very month and day on which the message was

132 The Work of the Prophets

sent) the Word of the Lord came to them by
Haggai the prophet. It was a short message, but
it startled them into energy at once (i. 4, 5).

" Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your ceiled houses,
while this house lieth waste f Now therefore, thus saith the Lord of
hosts : Consider your ways."

This is what God calls upon them to do to
look back upon the past years, and the way in
which they had acted. Their first duty on return-
ing to their country was to rebuild their Temple ;
to have once more an " outward and visible sign "
of God's " inward and spiritual " presence with
them. The kingdom was to be the Lord's ; that
is what the prophets had told them. They had
no earthly king ruling over them. They were
subjects only of a distant over-lord. Henceforth
their mission was to hold forth to all other nations
the example of true religion.

But they had not considered all this. They
had allowed themselves to be disheartened by
difficulties, and had only thought of their own
homes and occupations, while God's house was

The Temple Builders 133

allowed to lie waste. So He sent them troubles,
drought, and bad harvests to remind them of their
neglected duty. Haggai is very practical in his
directions. He says (i. 8)

" Go up to the hill country, and bring wood and build the
house ; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified,
saith the Lord."

The message had an immediate effect. The
people, with their two leaders at their head,
Zerubbabel, the prince of the house of David,
and Joshua, the high priest, " obeyed the voice
of the Lord their God." The further message
which stirred up their spirit was the one which
inspires all our work for God.

" I am with you, saith the Lord/'

They set to work on the building, and in a few
weeks they had another message through Haggai.
Those who remembered the glory of the former
temple were not to be discouraged at the sight of
this humbler building. Haggai cries to them with
words of encouragement, which we, too, must lay
to heart (ii. 4)

134 The Work of the Prophets

" Be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord : and be strong, O
Joshua ; and be strong, all ye people of the land, and work, for I am
with you."

It was the same God who had led them
through all their past history. They were to do
their best, with God's blessing, remembering that
all that they put into the building was really
the Lord's. He promised them to fill the house
with glory, and to give peace in that place.

This is a short prophecy, but it teaches us
much. Few words spoken by the prophets have
been so promptly acted upon. It is an inspiring
thought that God is watching over all our lives,
and will send us just the word we need to recall us
to our neglected duties. However the message
comes, whether by trial and sorrow, or by the direct
encouraging word of one of God's messengers, we
shall find our strength and happiness in responding
to the call. And in our appointed work we shall find
God is strengthening our hands, and leading us on
to better and better things.

We can picture the scenes of their activity
some of the men up in the hill country cutting

The Temple Builders 135

down the wood, others carting it to Jerusalem,
others digging foundations, or sawing planks ;
and the figure of the prophet looking on, now at
this group of workmen, now at that, with his
words of cheer and encouragement. This bit of
our story is full of living human interest to us
all, and may often come to our minds with a
message of hope in the days which lie before us.

Our next prophet, Zechariah, lived at the same
time as Haggai. The book to which he gives his
name was not all written by him. We must only
think now of the first eight chapters of that book.
Much of this prophecy is of a different kind to
those of the older prophets. They had visions
occasionally ; but more often they received their
message directly from God. Zechariah is taught
chiefly by visions. Again, the older prophets
were very conscious of God's immediate pre-
sence with them. Zechariah receives his in-
spiration for the most part from an angel sent
by God.

We cannot dwell long upon the eight Visions ;

136 The Work of the Prophets

but some part of what Zechariah learned from
them must be made clear.

When he saw horsemen on different coloured
horses riding through the world, he learned that
God would destroy the heathen nations, and that
Zion would be restored to independence. When
he saw four horns of iron, and four smiths ready
to shatter them, he learned the same lesson. When
he saw a man with a measuring line, measuring
Jerusalem, this taught him that Jerusalem would
be so thickly populated that it would be like
country villages without walls. The Lord Him-
self would be the only wall the city would need.
From other visions he learned that all the sins of
the people would be taken away, and that they
would be supplied with grace and strength from
the Lord.

Zechariah's prophecies, like Haggai's, en-
couraged the people to go on with the building
of the temple. This word of the Lord came to
Zerubbabel (iv. 6, 9)

" Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord
of hosts. The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this
house : his hands also shall finish it."

The Temple Builders 137

This prophecy, when it was fulfilled, would
prove that God had really sent Zechariah as His
prophet. Both Haggai and Zechariah look for-
ward to the time when the Messiah, the righteous
ruler, should be established over the nation.
Haggai says that when God shall have overcome
the kingdoms of the nations (Hag. ii. 23)

" In that day will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, My servant . . .
saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet : for I have chosen

Zechariah is also bidden to take silver and
gold, and make crowns for Zerubbabel and for
Joshua, in token that they should both be anointed
rulers over the people ; one king and the other

" And the counsel of peace shall be between them both."

This prophecy was not literally fulfilled, but, like
the other promises of a Messiah, it helped to keep
alive in the hearts of the people the hope of a
righteous ruler of the house of David who would
come some day, and be the true representative of
God's unseen government. When our Lord came

138 The Work of the Prophets

on earth, His disciples saw in Him the true
Messiah, of Whom " Moses in the law, and the
prophets did write " (St. John i. 45).

In the Visions, and in the explanations of them
by the mouth of angels, Zechariah learned much of
the future fortunes of the nation, which must have
encouraged them very much. And in the constant
promises that it would be God Himself who would
be with them, and give them grace and His Spirit
to help them in their future life, Zechariah shews
himself a true prophet.

There are two other passages in which he
has no outward Vision, and in which his message
recalls the teaching of Amos and Hosea, of
Isaiah and Micah, who had prophesied, as
you know, in the eighth century, two hundred
years before this. You will remember how
those earlier prophets were always repeating the
truth that God wanted men to repent, and leave
their sins behind them, and strive to obey Him,
and walk in His ways. So when Zechariah first
begins his prophecy, God's message through
him is this (i. 3-6) the people are to return unto

The Temple Builders 139

the Lord : they were not to be as their fathers,
unto whom the former prophets cried, saying

"Return ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil
doings : but they did not hear, nor hearken unto Me, saith the

The disobedient people had passed away ; the
former prophets too had passed. Only God's
words and statutes had not passed. They were
abiding ; and, like the other prophets in the
eighth century, Zechariah, in the sixth century
B.C., was to remind his hearers, the returned
exiles, of those words and statutes. This we
read in the first chapter.

Again, when some of the Jews had sent to
Zechariah to ask if it was still their duty to keep
the different fasts which had been customary
during the exile, in remembrance of the siege and
fall of Jerusalem, his answer is just like a word
from one of the earlier prophets ; the fasts were
no good in themselves ; only were they of value if
they helped the people to remember God, and to
serve Him better. This was what God had always
wished of His people (vii. i 10)

140 The Work of the Prophets

" Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassion every
man to his brother : and oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless,
the stranger, nor the poor j and let none of you imagine evil against
his brother in your heart."

It is the old lesson. True religion makes
people just and kind and merciful. Outward
observances are good if they help us to be good.
The more you read of the prophets, the more
you will feel that this was what God taught
through them.

Zechariah has one beautiful picture of
Jerusalem as God hoped to see it (viii. 25)

" Thus saith the Lord : I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell
in the midst of Jerusalem : and Jerusalem shall be called the City of
Truth j and the mountain of the Lord of hosts the Holy Mountain.
There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of
Jerusalem, every man with his staff in his hand for -very age. And
the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the
streets thereof."

When any place can be called a City of Truth
and of Holiness, then we are sure that God is
dwelling there, though unseen. And it is beau-
tiful to think of the old people, living out their
days in peace and contentment, and the children
at their happy play, with all their lives before them.

Malachi the Messenger 141

We must not forget that it rests with us to make
the places where we live such as Zechariah saw
the ideal Jerusalem to be.

The teaching of the two prophets so en-
couraged the people that the temple was built

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