Reading your Bible and coming across a verse that lists “thirty gold dishes, a thousand silver dishes, twenty-nine duplicates, thirty gold bowls, 410 silver bowls of a second kind, and a thousand other articles” (1:9, 10) might not garner a lot of your attention. Like a list of begats, we might quickly pass over the list.
However, Ezra’s detail, consuming five out of the eleven verses of chapter one (7-11), should make a purposeful Bible student pause and ask why he was concerned with meticulously detailing this part of Israel’s story.
The story of these dishes carries us back many years earlier. When King Hezekiah ruled over Judah (before she fell to Babylon), he was a man of stern obedience and faithfulness. In fact, on his deathbed, he even reminded God that he had always been faithful. In response, God healed him and then promised to add fifteen years to his life. As a sign of His promise, the Lord even made the sun move backward (2 Kings 20).
When the Babylonian king heard about Hezekiah’s miracle, he sent officials to visit him and take him gifts. Apparently, despite God’s grace, Hezekiah had developed a sense of pride about the miracles God performed in his life. Rather than bragging to them about God’s grace and faithfulness, to impress the Babylonians, he showed off his personal wealth, including the Temple’s treasures. Isaiah chastised Hezekiah for being so foolish, warning him his actions would soon cause the loss of Judah’s entire treasury; Hezekiah compromised Israel’s safety because he believed sin’s lie.
Daniel’s book describes the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy when Babylon invaded Jerusalem, robbed the Temple, and took God’s entire treasury into the house of their gods (Dan 1:1, 2). Years later, we see God’s holy vessels used to toast false gods at a drunken feast given by Babylon’s King Belshazzar (Dan. 5:4).
Hezekiah’s lack of gratitude resulted in the robbery and profane misuse of God’s holy vessels; he compromised God’s treasures because He believed the lie that it was his faithfulness and not God’s grace that wrought the blessings in his life.
The temple treasures Hezekiah lost are the items Ezra enumerated in his first chapter. There was a purpose in detailing the items; Ezra’s meticulously detailed list reminds His readers that when God redeems, He also restores everything lost to compromise.
Hezekiah compromised God’s holiness for some unnamed foreign officials’ to satisfy his vanity before them. He pridefully traded away God’s treasures for less than the cup of soup Esau traded for his inheritance.
God knows compromise is still to our detriment. Redeemed by God, He offers us incredible promises including, perfect peace, rest from burdens, wisdom, amazing grace, protection, enduring hope, forgiveness, renewing strength, unconditional love, and pure joy. We were made for these promises, not the compromises our enemy offers. Nonetheless, we often listen to his lies, reject God’s truth, and compromise the blessings associated with truth.
Consider where you experience your greatest spiritual struggles and see if it might be that you grapple in an area where you have compromised? Have you traded peace for fear, doubt, or anxiety? Have you compromised real love for promiscuity or a healthy, God-given sexual desire for lust and pornography? Have you traded the beauty of a settled heart for unforgiveness? Maybe you traded the hope of God for a myriad of addictions – alcohol, drugs, food, gossip, or man’s approval. Perhaps you compromised a Godly place of leadership in your family for a career, temporary fame and wealth, or prideful confidence in self-achievement.
The wonderful news Ezra details in chapter one with his list is that God can restore everything that we compromise away. When we follow God in the restoration journey (sanctification), He will restore what sin robs from us. Ezra’s list shows us that God kept a record of everything Hezekiah traded away, and he not only had his enemy return them, he also made him count them out one-by-one!
Can you see Persia’s king Cyrus counting out all those temple treasures? One, two, three…167… 410 bowls. One, two, three, four …777…1,000 silver dishes, and on and on. I truly hope Zerubbabel, the leader who brought the exiles back, grasped the glory of God’s faithfulness in that moment. I hope he shouted for the world to hear, with a mouth filled with laughter, “Look what the Lord has done for us!” (Ps. 126).
I know Ezra got it; that’s why he devoted five out of eleven verses in chapter one to detail a list of dishes. Never doubt that every word of Scripture is relevant; God has a purpose in everything he leads the authors to write, and the purpose is always to teach us something about our Lord. We learn here that God kept a record of everything Hezekiah traded away; the temple vessels weren’t lost because nothing is ever completely lost when it belongs to God.
Judgment, loss, or destruction is never the end of the story that God is writing; God’s redemption story includes His promise to restore everything sin steals from us. And He’s been known to have our enemy count them out one at a time!