After the Temple had been left unfinished for many years, the preaching of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah stirred the people of God into action. Ezra 6:1-15 tells us that despite the local governor’s attempt to get the building work to be stopped again, under God’s good hand and with the confirming signs of His providence and His provision, the Temple was finally completed just over four years after the work had been re-started. This was a great day for the people of God. But greater still was God’s plan, as announced through the prophet Zechariah, that the One called the ‘Branch’ would one day come into His Temple. Jesus was the One who was the ‘Branch’. He was descended from David and was known as the ‘Son of David’, the Messiah. John chapter 2 tells us that when He came into His Temple, He acted like He owned it and spoke of it being torn down and rebuilt in 3 days. He was speaking of His body of course, and this was one of the first promises of His death and resurrection by which God’s people are saved.
After 15 years of inactivity and with the Temple foundations laid but no building work begun, Ezra 5:1-17 tells of the way that God moved His people to get back to the task of rebuilding the Temple. God did this through His Word by sending the prophets Haggai and Zechariah with a message of encouragement. He also did this through circumstance as He once more allowed a local government official to get angry enough write to the King of Persia about the rebuilding work that had begun. Then He also did this through His Spirit as the people finally became aware that they were His people – His special people – and that they needed to get back to this work because He had called them. We also must not lose sight of the special people we are in God’s sight and also need to be reminded that God is always at work and pray that He might revive and His Church here and to the ends of the earth.
Our series on Ezra is well underway, but you might like to keep reading. Check out this video overview of the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah from The Bible Project to whet your appetite!
In Habakkuk 1:1-11, the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk was unafraid to let God know of his complaint. The world of his day was full of evil, and what was God doing about it? His apparent inactivity was a concern to the prophet. However God had an answer for the prophet that he was not expecting. God was not inactive at all, but was raising up a people who would come and dominate that part of the world bring His swift judgement. This was not only a shock to Habakkuk, but also to people today. How can God just let evil and injustice rule? The answer is that He isn’t and He won’t. In fact he sent His Son Jesus to suffer the graetest injustice of all by dying in the place of sinners. The world continues as it is for now, but when Jesus returns, and not until then, everything will be put right.
Ezra 4:7-24 describes how the people who lived in Jerusalem not only opposed the work of rebuilding the Temple in the days of the returned exiles, but also how they continued to oppose this work and thwart God’s people for the next 70 years, right up until and during the days of Nehemiah. By spreading false reports and claims about the Jews, they managed to convince successive Kings of Persia that the Jews were a threat and the Temple should not be rebuilt. Such situations continue in today’s world. God’s people will always have their adveraries who try to thwart the progress of the gospel. However, we are not to ‘laty down tools’ until Jesus comes, no matter how difficult the opposition becomes.