When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, ‘Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.’ But Zerubbabel, Joshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, ‘You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.’ Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. Ezra 4:1-4 (NIV)
The incidents recorded in the book of Ezra speak of a group of God’s people who had a vision for the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Their ancestors had been taken into exile by king Nebuchadnezzar. Many years later at the start of the reign of King Cyrus they sought permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.
Having the permission of the king should have been enough. However, the people living in Jerusalem and its surrounding regions didn’t like what the returning exiles were doing. Their first tactic was to openly try to discourage those undertaking the work, so as to stop the building.
Reading the book of Ezra in its entirety will give you an impression of the other tactics used to stop the building. However, despite this, the temple was finally finished under the reign of King Darius. It may surprise you that the vision didn’t come to fruition during the reign of Cyrus. Two more kings had to reign (Xerxes and Artaxerxes) before Darius became king. The returning exiles had to face opposition over a protracted period of time.
What lessons can we learn from this? The first is don’t let discouragers influence your work for God. Concentrate upon the vision God has revealed to you. Secondly, don’t give up. As human beings we tend to see things from our timescale; God sees them from the perspective of eternity. It may take years, changes of government, changes of those in authority, but God will bring it about.
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