Rebuilding anything is a challenge. It is the strenuous work of deconstructing the past to reconstruct a preferred future.
The Book of Ezra is a contemporary history alongside Nehemiah. Each book chronicles different aspects of the Israelites return from Exile to Judah. The return from exile was prompted by the Lord, specifically with the intention of rebuilding the Lords temple.
Numerous miracles had to to occur in the hearts of the Persian officials, and in the timing of the people’s return. However, I want to focus on several key factors about the rebuilding project, and opposition to the Lord’s desire to rebuild his temple that arose shortly after construction begins.
- The Lord put it into the Mind of King cyrus to issue a decree for the rebuilding of his temple. (Ezra 1:1)
- Upon issuing the decree the Lord motivated select individuals to return for the rebuilding projects Ezra 1:2, totaling 42, 360 people Ezra 2:64.
- The Lord supplies complete funding for his rebuilding. (See Nehemiah)
- The people then gave a “freewill offering”. Meaning they were not motivated by God to do, but acted out of a desire to participate financially in the action that God called them to physically. (It was already provided for). I would say this was an act of heartfelt obedience to God as they noticed his hand in the project. This people gave “What they could” totaling 61,000 pieces of Gold.
- Some were able to celebrate what God was doing. Others mourned the new work because they compared it the previous temple (Ezra 3:12). The older priest were sad at the work they had lost, and missed out on celebrating what God was doing.
- Immediately after the Israelites celebrate the first phase of completion they now face opposition from the surrounding countries to hinder their building process. They faced discouragement and were afraid of the people. They had obstacles in getting new permits issued and continually had frustrated plans. (Ezra 4: 3-4) this detained the project 21yrs.
- Under a new government leader, King Darius, The building is resumed, and the original decree of Cyrus stood. The supplies were reissued, the Israelites completed the project because it was God’s desire for them to do so.
A few things to take note of.
First, the Lord God of Israel wanted to rebuild for himself a holy place in Jerusalem. He then motivated, but did not force 42,360 people to join in the efforts. This was not the entire exile, but a portion he called to the work.
Second, he supplied the resources for rebuilding of the temple.
Third, An interesting thought: When the people finally laid the foundation, many cried with joy, while others wept and mourned. we see often that People weep at the outward glory of the temple, but God is rejoicing at the hearts of his people. God could have given the same exact resources used to build the temple the first time, and restored it to its original building specification. Instead, he allows it be built differently. (It’s a new work, and God is not mourning the previous temple.
Fourth, when God calls his people to complete a project we should be reminded that each project is new, and will accomplish God’s intended purposes. We should not mourn what we do not have, or lost. Instead, we should be like the first group of people rejoicing that God has a new work, and is faithful despite of faithlessness. Unlike the second group who mourned a temple they knew, they were not able to fully appreciate the celebration of what God was doing.
Fifth, Amidst the celebration of God’s new work we see a new struggle arise. There should never be a surprise to anyone that when People set upon the work of building God’s temple, and in our case, the church, that opposition will come from many corners. However, despite the opposition of the government, God used the government of babylon to complete his project.
Reflection: To what work has God motivated you to be a part of? How have you seen God’s hand move to make this work possible? How have you participated of your own free will in this work? What obstacles have you faced in completing this work? Are you willing to be faithful to the work for more than a temporal season, but for many years to come? Even 21-30 years?
Too often we fall pray to believe that the immediate fruit of the work (The laying of the temple foundation) is the intended fruit of the project once opposition comes. Then we abandon the work because there is no or little fruit. However, when we commit even in times of low yielding seasons we are preparing our hearts, and eyes to see a completed work. The true intended fruit of the project (The completion of the temple).
Have you finished laying the foundation and then seen it through to completion?
Even if it takes 21 years.
Prayer: Lord, you have motivated me to build the Alliance Youth Office. To make something that is sustainable, and long lasting. That produces years of fruitful ministry. Lord, this may not result for 21yrs. However, as I commit to this project would you help me to celebrate the seasons of success as a new project. To not mourn what was, but instead keep my eyes on what is. Lord, in the times of supreme difficulty and opposition that I would maintain faithfulness to the project before me, and Lord that my heart and eyes would see the completion of this project. Lord, that even though others will come after me, allow them to worship you in the house you are using me and my team to build. Lord, continue to provide the resources of people, time, and money to accomplish this work. Amen.