Ezra chapter 5
In Ezra chapter 5 we are at the place where the temple in Jerusalem had been started, but had then been stopped. The summary of events is as follows:
Chapter 1 King Cyrus instructs the Leaders of the Israelites to build the temple
Chapter 3 The building of the temple commenced
Chapter 4 King Artaxerxes commanded the building to stop
Chapter 5 The building of the temple restarted.
The characters are:
Zephaniah son of Berechiah, son of Iddo
|Jewish leaders:||Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel
Jeshua son of Jozadak
With the encouragement of the prophets, Zerubbabel and Jeshua start to build the temple again. See Haggai chapter 1 – “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your panelled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” (v 4). “Thus says Yahweh of hosts: ‘Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified,’ says Yahweh.” (vs 7, 8).
The Persian Governors of the ‘region beyond the river’ (i.e. the area west of the River Euphrates as far as the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea) came to Zerubbabel and Jeshua and asked them who had instructed them to start the work again. Armed with this information the governors then sent a letter to King Darius. However this time, “the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they (the Persian governors) did not stop them until the report should reach Darius and then an answer be returned by letter concerning it,’ so they were able to continue to build until they received a reply from King Darius.
The Jews found themselves in this predicament because they had turned away from Yahweh to participate in idolatry and corruption, and ignored God and His laws. Even though God had warned them through His prophets, they would not listen, and consequently they were captured by the Babylonians, and many of them were deported to Babylon. The temple was destroyed and the city of Jerusalem was demolished. Eventually Babylon became part of the Persian Empire. But God had greater plans than this. Jerusalem was to be rebuilt, including the temple in Jerusalem. And God used foreign monarchs to fulfil His purposes.
Zerubbabel and Jeshua initially started with great gusto to build the temple, but when they were forced to stop by the edict of King Artaxerxes, they settled into normal life, building their houses, tending their flocks and bringing up their families. King Artaxerxes died, and the throne was taken by King Darius. The Jews were getting comfortable, and the progress of the temple was not very high on their priority list. So God sent not one but two prophets to them. They needed to be stirred up to lay hold of the opportunity of restarting building. They were a bit slow to react to the word of Yahweh.
I wonder if sometimes we can be so comfortable in our situation that we do not think of ‘getting out of the boat’. Or perhaps we are so busy with the ‘important’ jobs we are doing that we lose sight of the simple things that God wants us to do.