Read Ezra 5
Tattenai’s Letter to Darius
Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. 2 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.
3 At that time Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates went to them and asked, “Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and to finish it?” 4 They“ also asked, “What are the names of those who are constructing this building?” 5 But the eye of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they were not stopped until a report could go to Darius and his written reply be received.
6 This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates, the officials of Trans-Euphrates, sent to King Darius. 7 The report they sent him read as follows:
To King Darius:
8 The king should know that we went to the district of Judah, to the temple of the great God. The people are building it with large stones and placing the timbers in the walls. The work is being carried on with diligence and is making rapid progress under their direction.
9 We questioned the elders and asked them, “Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and to finish it?” 10 We also asked them their names, so that we could write down the names of their leaders for your information.
11 This is the answer they gave us:
“We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished. 12 But because our ancestors angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, king of Babylon, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon.
13 “However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God. 14 He even removed from the temple“ of Babylon the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to the temple“ in Babylon. Then King Cyrus gave them to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he had appointed governor, 15 and he told him, ‘Take these articles and go and deposit them in the temple in Jerusalem. And rebuild the house of God on its site.’
16 “So this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God in Jerusalem. From that day to the present it has been under construction but is not yet finished.”
17 Now if it pleases the king, let a search be made in the royal archives of Babylon to see if King Cyrus did in fact issue a decree to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us his decision in this matter.
In order to better understand this chapter, we need to first remember how the previous chapter ended. King Artaxerxes had just ordered the people of God to stop rebuilding the temple, and, for about 10 years, the project had come to a “standstill” (v. 24). However, chapter 5 begins with a brand new hope for the rebuilding efforts. Haggai and Zechariah have prophesied to the Jewish people and encouraged them to restart on the mission of building the temple. But once the project begins again, the project once more runs into opposition from the governing authorities. This external threat is a discouraging reminder of what kept the temple from being built in the first place. This obstruction effort is an essential lesson for the people of God. As we seek to faithfully follow God, we should not expect to live our lives unopposed by the enemy. When God calls on His people to complete a task, we should expect Satan to do whatever he can to keep the task from reaching its fulfillment.
In Ezra, the opposition comes in the form of the ruling government. But even those leaders who stood in authority weren’t the ones in ultimate control. While the governor tried to shut the project down, “the eye of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they were not stopped” (v. 5). Upon receiving push back, the Jewish people could have easily put down their tools just as they did 10 years before. However, this time they decide to continue, in courageous faith, with their mission.
An essential lesson from this chapter that can impact our lives today is that resistance doesn’t mean something is wrong. If it feels difficult to obediently follow Jesus, remember that it should be expected more than it should be surprising. While Jesus promised that His burden is easy, He also asks us to pick up our cross each day. Even though we may encounter external or internal opposition to following God, we have the assurance that the eyes of God are watching over us. Today, we have an opportunity similar to that of the Jewish people: In the face of resistance, we don’t need to put faithfulness on pause. Instead, we can double down on obedience and choose to follow God even when it’s difficult.
Why do you think the Jewish people were willing to continue working on this mission in the face of resilience?
- What most sticks out to you in the letter to King Darius?
- Where do you feel like you are receiving resistance in your attempt to follow God?
- What can you do to make sure you don’t give up in the face of such resistance?
Did You Know?
Both prophets listed in verse 1 (Haggai and Zechariah) have written books of the Bible. To read more about their life and message, check out the books titled with their names!
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