From Ezra 4-7
Passage and Comments
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.
Story of Israel
Story of Jesus
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.