This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and his associates, the governors who were in the province Beyond the River, sent to Darius the king. They sent him a report, in which was written as follows: “To Darius the king, all peace. Be it known to the king that we went to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God. It is being built with huge stones, and timber is laid in the walls. This work goes on diligently and prospers in their hands. Then we asked those elders and spoke to them thus: ‘Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?’ We also asked them their names, for your information, that we might write down the names of their leaders. And this was their reply to us: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the house that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished. But because our fathers had angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house and carried away the people to Babylonia. However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, Cyrus the king made a decree that this house of God should be rebuilt. And the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple that was in Jerusalem and brought into the temple of Babylon, these Cyrus the king took out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered to one whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor; and he said to him, “Take these vessels, go and put them in the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its site.” Then this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and from that time until now it has been in building, and it is not yet finished.’ Therefore, if it seems good to the king, let search be made in the royal archives there in Babylon, to see whether a decree was issued by Cyrus the king for the rebuilding of this house of God in Jerusalem. And let the king send us his pleasure in this matter.” Ezra 5:6-17 ESV
We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God. Psalm 78:4-8 ESV
Roosevelt and his family were migrant workers. Once his Mamma and Papa had lived on a farm, but now they didn’t have a home and traveled around the country picking crops for other farmers. Roosevelt had two sisters and a brother, and they always asked Mamma to tell them the same stories. They wanted to hear about the farm that Mamma and Papa used to have, with cotton fields and a dog run and pigs and chickens and a garden. They also wanted to hear the story about Mamma’s wedding day, and how Papa had said he couldn’t decide what was more beautiful, Mamma or the blossoming magnolia tree. They wanted to hear about how tractors had taken over the cotton fields and caused them to lose their farm. And Roosevelt talked to his mother about a secret the two of them had together, the hope that someday the family would find a home where they could stay for always and Roosevelt and his brother and sisters could go to school. Mamma’s stories helped the children understand where they had come from, and who they were, and they helped Roosevelt understand his mother’s hope for the future.
When Governor Tattenai wrote his letter to King Darius to find out if the Jews had permission to rebuild their temple, he asked them to tell their story. This story was very important to them, and it helped them remember who they were, and where they had come from, and what their hope for the future was. They told Governor Tattenai about Solomon’s wonderful temple, and how their sins had angered the holy God they served, and how God had allowed Nebuchadnezzar to take them into exile, destroy their temple, and take away the temple vessels. They also told how King Cyrus had given them permission to come home again and had given the decree that they should rebuild their temple, and had also given the gold and silver vessels back so they could be put into the new temple and used again. This story gave the Jews the strength and courage to go on with their work.
We also have a story that helps us understand who we are and what our hope is. God’s story of salvation is our story, because he has made us part of his people. Our story is all about Jesus, and how he came into the world as the promised Savior, and lived and died on the cross for us. Jesus rose again from the dead, and because of what he’s done we have eternal life. The story of Jesus is our story, a story that gives our lives meaning, and a story to share with others. The best thing is that all people everywhere are invited to make this story their own.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to be our Savior, and for making us a part of your story. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Shotwell, Louisa R. Roosevelt Grady Cleveland: World Publishing Company, 1963.