Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” (Ezra 8:22)
We believe Our God is in complete control on everything that we see and know. Only is our God who truly opens and closes doors of our lives. After the long capability in Babylon, God opened up a door to Israelites. The Babylon, who made the Israelites (precisely speaking, the Judah) captive falls under Persia. In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the LORD stirred up the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom:
“This is what King Cyrus of Persia says:
“The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you! Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:2-4)
Yes, God moved the heart of Cyrus, King of Persia. The king acknowledged the LORD, as the God who gave the king all the kingdoms of the earth. He ordered the remnants of the Israelites under the exile to go back to Jerusalem, and to rebuild the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel. Additionally, he also encouraged his people to provide silver and gold to support their journey, and offering to the God. When God opens up his door, He provides everything that is necessary for us to serve and worship Him. The Israelites got their freedom in writing from Cyrus, the new king of Persia, who conquered Babylon.
The Israelites, thus, returned their home land. The first thing that they did was rebuilding an alter. As soon as they settle in their towns, all the people assembled in Jerusalem with a unified purpose. They started building the alter of God of Israel. They wanted to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, as instructed in the Law of Moses, the man of God. However, there were local residents, who did not like rebuild the altar. This was the first challenge. Of course, the Israelites were afraid of the local residents, but they were not deterred by the opposition. With faith, they built the altar, and they began to sacrifice burnt offerings on the altar to the LORD each morning and evening. This was the faith of the Israelites returning from their captivity. Only made the faith them complete building the alter despite of the opposition from the local residents. They were all full of thanksgiving to God, and rejoiced in the LORD. Some of them started lay the foundation of the LORD’s Temple.
The actual construction of the temple was started in the 2nd year after they arrived in Jerusalem. Soon the builders completed the foundation of the LORD’s Temple. The priests put on their robes and took their places to blow their trumpets. And the Levites, descendants of Asaph, clashed their cymbals to praise the LORD, just as King David had prescribed. With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the LORD:
“He is so good!
His faithful love for Israel endures forever!” (Ezra 3:11)
Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the LORD because the foundation of the LORD’s Temple had been laid. The people was one in God, and in the great joy with God. They shouted and praised because finally the foundation of the temple was laid.
However, many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance. I believe we will see a similar scene when we return to our eternal home where our God, Ever-Loving and Eternal Father is. Some would be in tear in the presence of Him, and others in joy of shouting. It is true that both are in the greatest joy that we cannot experience on earth, and we all believers are waiting for.
The enemies who were jealous of rebuilding the temple were not idle. They wrote an opposition letter to the King. This letter made the king stop the building of the temple. The Israelites had to fight for a rather long battle of building the temple. Some of us already experience this kind of great setback while doing God’s work. Suddenly, our enemies put a brake on our work for God. Back to the temple rebuilding, the battle was not an easy one and really tedious. In fact, it took another twenty years before the resuming the rebuilding of the temple. Although they resumed the rebuilding in their faith, the reality was harsh. Immediately, the governor of the region came to Jerusalem, and asked “Who gave you permission to rebuild this Temple and restore this structure?” (Ezra 5:3b)
The Israelites faithfully answered, “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the Temple that was built here many years ago by a great king of Israel. But because our ancestors angered the God of heaven, he abandoned them to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who destroyed this Temple and exiled the people to Babylonia. However, King Cyrus of Babylon, during the first year of his reign, issued a decree that the Temple of God should be rebuilt. … The people have been working on it ever since, though it is not yet completed.’ (Ezra 5:11-13, 16b)
Upon hearing the Israelites, te governor sent a letter to King Darius while asking clarification of this issue. Upon receiving the letter, King Darius searched and could locate the record of the order of King Cyrus. (Of course, God did to King Darius.) After learning the history, King Darius let the Israelites rebuild the temple. The rebuilding effort continued, and the temple was completed in the sixth year of King Darius. That is, it took another four years to finish rebuilding of the temple. As a result, the temple construction took 24 years, and the actual rebuilding period was about only 6 years. For the rest of the time, i.e., 18 years, they had to pray and defend against the oppositions from the enemies, while waiting for God’s timing.
Rebuilding the temple despite of the strong opposition was a great victory of the Israelites and their faith. Yes, this is and should be a great example to all believers. One greatly noticeable part of the book of the Ezra can also be found: “I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king, “Our God’s hand of protection is on all who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him.” (Ezra 8:22) Ezra confessed his double minded heart before God. He was even shameful about his split heart between God and the world. How honest Ezra was before God! It was clear that God provided the victory in Him not because of their faith, but because of God’s grace and mercy in His unconditional love. We also should wonder how many of us actually shameful about their double minded heart – relying on what we see on earth although we pray and even declare God’s sovereignty. Also it is equally rare to meet an authentic, humble, and honest servant leader like Ezra.
Oh, God, we are also weak in our faith. Although God prepares all things, such as softening the above great kings’ hearts, we rely on our wisdom while praying to you. In our heart, we still wants protection from earthly kings. Please help us to fix our eyes on You, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, while authentically and earnestly confessing our lack of faith in you. Oh, God! When we humbly lift up our hands for your help, please hear us, and answer to us according to your infinitely good will. Thanks to God, and praise Your Name forever!
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps. (Proverbs 16:9)