1. Exposition

What is the focus of the return from exile?

Ezra 2:1–70 (ESV)

1 Now these were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town.

The list of returning exiles does not tell us about any builders, stonecutters, architects, cement mixers or woodworkers; none of the jobs and skills you need to build a temple are mentioned. The only people who are mentioned according to their jobs are the priests, the Levites, and the temple servants. They are not builders; they are the people who do the work of ministry in and around the temple. This goes to show that the focus of the return is not so much on the temple building itself, but on the worship that is going to take place once the temple has been rebuilt. That’s why we have 4,000 priests coming back. Worship of God is at the heart of the peoples’ identity. Worship of God is the reason why they have come back to Jerusalem.

The worship of God is not just about what will take place at the temple, but includes obedience in all areas of life. Because the people want to obey God, they are eager to make sure that only priests who can prove their heritage are allowed to serve as priests (Ezra 2:62–63). Because the people are thankful to God for bringing them back to Jerusalem, they are eager to use their resources to rebuild the temple (Ezra 2:68–69).