|Uzbekistan's flag and Ukraine's flag|
A radio news segment caught my attention last week. The story featured a man who shared his struggle. This was a total ah-hah, I get it, moment for me.
The man lived in Uzbekistan ( possibly Ukraine. To be honest, I heard this report while driving and could not take notes for you. I went back to the station's archive, even sent an email to the station to confirm which country but did not find or receive the answer. The point is, while the two countries are individual and important, the story could have easily happened in both.)
The man said he struggled because for seventy years communism ruled his country. Now that his fellow countrymen were able to return to their own culture and restore what was a way of life years ago, they simply didn't know how...or what used to be. Recipes. Celebrations. Clothing styles. Traditions. Normalcy. You name it. All of this had been taken away from them for seventy years.
That single comment was more powerful than I believe the man imagined.
I have been doing a series of stories about the Jews returning from Babylon to Jerusalem. To say the Jews messed up more than once after returning to their homeland would be to sorely understate. Babylonian soldiers forced waves of Jewish citizens to walk miles to a foreign country and pressed them into servitude.
For seventy years Jews served under various ruling kings of the empire. Then, the king sent a group back to rebuild the city. This first group rebuilt their houses, planted their crops, and that's about it.
Some time later, a Babylonian king sent Ezra and another group back. The king told Ezra to teach those living in Jerusalem and Judah the law of Moses. For a time the people listened. Repair began on the temple. Then everything fizzled again.
God sent Nehemiah's brother to him with a report. Nehemiah, the Babylonian king's cupbearer, told the king what his brother said. Jerusalem and Judah were a mess. Many repairs simply were not getting done. The king sent Nehemiah with another group of Jews to Jerusalem to rebuilt the city walls.
The Jews had lived under Babylonian rule for seventy years.
I thought, at last, they're free! They should have been excited to go back to their own homeland where they had the freedom to live their culture? Why didn't they rebuild, renew, restore, restart?
This man's report enlightened me with an answer from today's world. An answer I could understand.
The Jews almost refusal to return to the ways God had taught their fathers wasn't because they didn't want to or didn't have the energy or money. It was because they no longer knew how.
Many of those returning to Jerusalem had never lived in their homeland or were only small children when they left. They didn't know. Perhaps some couldn't speak the language, knowing only what the Babylonians spoke.
And that is why God sent Ezra with the law of Moses and Nehemiah with the skills to rebuild the walls...to push start the restoration. That is why the Jews just didn't know how to live their culture right away.
Now I get it.