Ezra 4-7 The prophets of God were with them supporting them

From Ezra 4-7

15 Laying foundations of templeThe people of the land stopped their work in restoring the house of the LORD. Behind the scenes we are meant to wonder what is the LORD going to do. He has returned his people from exile and they are now rebuilding his temple. Is the LORD with his people?
This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

It wasn’t long before some of the locals (people of the land) heard the Jews (Judeans) were building a temple to the LORD. With ill intent they requested they help with the construction. But the leaders of the Jews did not trust them and rejected their proposal. For a long time afterward they opposed the building of the temple and a few kings passed by.
When Artaxerxes was king they wrote a nasty letter to him saying the Jews were rebuilding the city, the walls and the foundations. If this happened they warned, the Jews would then refuse to pay him tribute and cause trouble like they have done before.

23 Then, when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their associates, they went in haste to the Jews at Jerusalem and by force and power made them cease. 24 Then the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. (Ezr 4:23–24)

The people of the land stopped their work in restoring the house of the LORD. Behind the scenes we are meant to wonder what is the LORD going to do. He has returned his people from exile and they are now rebuilding his temple. Is the LORD with his people?

5 Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. 2 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them. (Ezr 5:1-2)

The prophets Haggai and Zechariah. We will read their books later on in the year. They prophesy. Most likely they are not predicting the future. Rather they are encouraging the people, speaking from the LORD to complete his works. The people have been discouraged. They needed some spiritual oomph, to get going again and they provided them with it. This is the theme I want to concentrate on in this reading. Sometimes people need encouragement to keep on in the LORD’s work.

3 At the same time Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and their associates came to them and spoke to them thus: “Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?” 4 They also asked them this: “What are the names of the men who are building this building?” 5 But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until the report should reach Darius and then an answer be returned by letter concerning it. (Ezr 5:3-5)

Not only was the LORD encouraging them in his work, he was providing them with the necessary space to complete it.

The people opposing them will send a report to the current king Darius. Darius is not immediately familiar with Cyrus’ proclamation and when he attempts to stop the Jews from building the temple the Jews will bring it to his notice. Thus the building of the temple will progress unimpeded and it will be built. When the temple is built, they dedicate it and celebrate with the Passover festival. Then Ezra will be sent to teach the people from the Law.

Story of Israel

00 OT Story Israel JesusThroughout Israel’s history the LORD has been encouraging his people in different ways in different circumstances. Abraham and Sarah were consoled after a long wait that they would have a son. They were encouraged to believe the LORD’s would given them offspring (Gen 18.10). When Caleb returned from spying on the promised land he encouraged the people that they could take it knowing the LORD was with them (Num 13.30). When David and his men were robbed of their wives and property before he became king the LORD strengthened him (1 Sam 30.6). Even during the time of Judah’s judgment and punishment the LORD gave Jeremiah a pleasant dream (Jer 31; cf 30.26).
The LORD understands we live in a fallen world and his people need encouragement to push on and believe he still cares for them.

Story of Jesus

In Jesus, God entered this fallen world, to adopt sinful flesh (Rom 8.3). So that through his death and resurrection he could rescue us from sin and death. Thats an encouragement I will keep writing about.
Following Jesus’ death and resurrection there was a man called Barnabas. His name means ‘son of encouragement’ (Acts 4.36). This is his story of how he was used in the purpose of the LORD. It concerns newly converted Saul.

26 And when he [Saul] had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples. And they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. (Acts 9:26–27)

Barnabas believes in Saul. He believes the LORD has changed him. So he stands up for him. I bet Saul was encouraged. Sometimes you can encourage people without speaking to them directly.

28 So he went in and out among them at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. 31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. (Acts 9:28–31)

So the church was built up by the encouraging ministry of Barnabas. In a sense he prophesied to the people, arguing for Saulus Paulus to continue in his apostolic ministry. Paul would become God’s righteousness (2 Cor 5.21) and would call the Gentiles to be reconciled to God.

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