Today: [Ezra Five] The Work of the Temple Resumes. In this chapter we find the work of restoring the temple and the city has halted by command of the king. Then the prophets Haggai and Zechariah stand up and encourage the people to keep building. They are again accused before the current Persian king Darius. The 50,000 returnees took their lives in their hands because a prophet said “not by might, not by power, but by my spirit says the Lord…” The outcome was victory because they chose to listen to the prophets in their midst.
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[Ezr 5:1-17 KJV] 1 Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that [were] in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, [even] unto them. 2 Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which [is] at Jerusalem: and with them [were] the prophets of God helping them. 3 At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai, and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall? 4 Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building? 5 But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then they returned answer by letter concerning this [matter].
In the previous chapter we see that while the restoration of the temple is in progress that the people of the land (neighboring provinces) went to the current Persian king Darius and accused the Jews before him. Darius believes the evil report and orders that the building project in Jerusalem ceases. What happens next? The prophets Haggai and Zechariah rise up and prophesy – from their words we have the books of Zechariah and Haggai in our canon which we will study later.
Now we must understand that from the time that the work ceased by command of Darius and the time that the work recommences nothing has changed. The only difference is that the prophets stood up and encouraged the people with the word of the Lord. Those prophets were Haggai and Zechariah. Haggai was mentioned first because he was 90 years of age. Can you imagine it? To live out your whole life and not come on the scene until your 90th year? Haggai only prophesied for 3 months. Yet his words are so compelling that they have spoken to millions over many centuries. You may be frustrated that your purposes in God are not opening opportunities to you. Would you be willing to wait until you are 90 to have a 3 month ministry? Never sell yourself short. God works on a different time table than our own.
The prophets prophesy and the work continues now in defiance of the command of king Darius. In doing this the 50,000 returnees put themselves at great risk. The Persians were hard task masters. Their cruelty was well known. The builders at Jerusalem knew very well they not only put themselves at risk but their families as well.
6 The copy of the letter that Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai, and his companions the Apharsachites, which [were] on this side the river, sent unto Darius the king: 7 They sent a letter unto him, wherein was written thus; Unto Darius the king, all peace. 8 Be it known unto the king, that we went into the province of Judea, to the house of the great God, which is builded with great stones, and timber is laid in the walls, and this work goeth fast on, and prospereth in their hands. 9 Then asked we those elders, [and] said unto them thus, Who commanded you to build this house, and to make up these walls? 10 We asked their names also, to certify thee, that we might write the names of the men that [were] the chief of them. 11 And thus they returned us answer, saying, We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and build the house that was builded these many years ago, which a great king of Israel builded and set up. 12 But after that our fathers had provoked the God of heaven unto wrath, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house, and carried the people away into Babylon.
When the building resumes we read that the prophets of God were with them to help them. They didn’t just stand idly by waving their scrolls at the workers. The same men who accused the Jews before Darius now come to the city and demand an answer as to why and on what authority the work has resume. The accusers further demand the names of the conspirators who have recommenced with the forbidden building project. The Jews do not give them a direct answer but simply say “we are the servant of the God of heaven and earth…” This is an important lesson that many fail to learn. Be a gatherer of information and not a dispenser of information. Just because someone comes to you either in manipulation or flattery or anger and accusation doesn’t mean you have to tell them everything they want to know. I was reading this morning of a couple in New York who got a phone call about a wedding being performed on their farm. It was to be a lesbian wedding. The couple refused and gave explanation as to why. They were taken to court and that one phone call cost them $13,000 and the court ordered mandate that they must allow same sex marriages to be conducted on their land. We are in a day when the courts are encroaching upon the freedoms of people of faith. We are going to have to learn to answer people around us with the wisdom that the Jews answered their accusers.
The accusers try to stop the word but the “eye of God” was upon the builders so that they could not make them cease before a letter was written again to Darius. What we find out later in the chapter is that Persian law was written so that it could not contradict a prior edict. One king could not contradict a previous king’s command. For Darius to stop the work contradicted Cyrus command that the work continue. The Jews are standing on the first command and the governors who accused them of sedition understand this and now go back to Darius to attempt to incite him further against the returnees. During all this time the people are hearing the words of Haggai and Zechariah:
[Zec 4:9-10 KJV] 9 The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. 10 For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel [with] those seven; they [are] the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.
The city and the temple are built in opposition to a world power on the strength of a prophetic word. There are times you are going to be called on to obey God in the face of opposition from others. What has God said to you? How far are you willing to go to obey God? Are you pursuing your own course or are you following the mandate of the Father? The words of Zechariah are some of the most compelling words in the scripture:
[Zec 4:6, 9-10 KJV] 6 Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This [is] the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. … 9 The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. 10 For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel [with] those seven; they [are] the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.
They understood they didn’t have the power to resist Darius. They knew they could never manipulate the king to favor their cause. Their audacity was in their obedience. They were not looking to themselves but to God for their salvation. The answer of the Jews to their accusers contines in the next verse:
13 But in the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon [the same] king Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God. 14 And the vessels also of gold and silver of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that [was] in Jerusalem, and brought them into the temple of Babylon, those did Cyrus the king take out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered unto [one], whose name [was] Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor; 15 And said unto him, Take these vessels, go, carry them into the temple that [is] in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be builded in his place. 16 Then came the same Sheshbazzar, [and] laid the foundation of the house of God which [is] in Jerusalem: and since that time even until now hath it been in building, and [yet] it is not finished. 17 Now therefore, if [it seem] good to the king, let there be search made in the king’s treasure house, which [is] there at Babylon, whether it be [so], that a decree was made of Cyrus the king to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send his pleasure to us concerning this matter.
When the building commences again the accusers have now come. They are demanding a list of names of those who must be punished. Certainly the fear of the Jews was to see their accusers go again to Darius. But they didn’t try to talk them out of going again before the king. They didn’t try to say they were not doing what they clearly were doing in defiance of the king’s command. They actually encourage the governor to go back to king Darius with an additional request: They asks Darius to look back in the archives of the kingdom and see if there was not a decree by king Cyrus authorizing the work that they were about. In essence they were saying to Darius that they were not breaking the law – he was!
Where did all this boldness come from? They had initially stopped working. Their accusers had prevailed and there would be no city reconstruction and no temple. But the prophets spoke up. They not only spoke up but they stuck around to face the consequences of their own words. Many times prophets give a word and them move on and leave pastors to clean up the mess they created by their prophecies. Prophets need to stand by what they say. They need to believe their own prophecies. Many times a prophet will speak and when their words create a controversy they try to obfuscate and wiggle out of the words they claim God has given them. The prophets at Jerusalem were the opposite of this. They spoke, they encouraged and the work is moving forward to its completion.
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