Today we begin the book of Ezra, which details the return to the land by the exiles as predicted by Isaiah (see Isa 44:28) and Jeremiah (see Jer 25:12-13). The book picks up where 2 Chronicles left off: the decree of Cyrus (1:1-4 – see 2 Chr 36:22-23). Here, we see that Cyrus calls for his people to give to the returning exiles as an offering to God (v. 4). We are told that God stirred up the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, along with the priests and Levites, to go (v. 5). Remember, these were the only remaining tribes after Assyria sent the northern kingdom into exile. Cyrus also returns the vessels of the Temple that Nebuchadnezzar took (vv. 7-11).
Chapter 2 offers details of the returning remnant. Zerubbabel was the Jewish appointed governor (2:2). Jeshua (or Joshua) was the High Priest. Nehemiah we will meet in the book named for him This Mordecai is not the uncle of Esther (both of whom we will meet in the book of Esther). Note in verses 59-63 that some of the exiles are unable to prove their lineage. In verse 68, we see that freewill offerings are given for the rebuilding of the Temple (as they had been for the first Temple – see 1 Chr 29:1-9). In verse 70, we see the returning remnant is called Israel, not Judah.
Psalm 85 appears to have been written after the return to the land, which the Psalmist praises God for (85:1-3). But the land is not what the Psalmist wants, ultimately. YHWH is. He prays that God would restore the people to His good favor (v. 4) and forgive them (v. 5). His prayer is that God would restore Israel to where they once were: alive in God (v. 6) and saved in Him (v. 7). The Psalmist then waits on God, confident that He will not only restore His people, but preserve them from repeating their past mistakes (v. 8). He prays that God would put His presence back in the land and be with His people (v. 9), and again expresses confidence that God will restore and preserve His people (vv. 10-13).
Psalm 126, again likely written after the return to the land, echoes the prayer of Psalm 85: that God would return Israel to where they once were (concerning their standing with God). The Psalmist declares that the restoration of His people was like a dream (126:1). God restored gladness to His people (vv. 2-3). Yet there is more the Psalmist prays for. He wants Israel returned to her former glory (v. 4). The metaphor of sowing and reaping refers to the chastisement of Judah through the captivity (vv. 5-6). They will now reap with joy. They have learned their lesson and have been made more holy because of the rod of the Lord, and are now ready to be what He calls them to be.