"Thus says Adonai-Tzva'ot: 'This people say the time has not come - the time for the House of Adonai to be rebuilt. Then Haggai, the messenger of Adonai, spoke to the people with the message of Adonai, "I am with you!" - it is a declaration of Adonai. Then Adonai stirred the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jehozadak, high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people, and they came and did work on the House of Adonai-Tzva'ot their God…"
—Haggai 1:2, 13, 14
What thoughts must have filled the minds of those who worked to rebuild the former glory of Jerusalem and the sanctuary of God's Glory, the Temple! Stories of "what it was like" and what it would be like to have God's presence with them again fueled their expectations and motivated their hands to clear away rubble, haul in new stones and cedar from Lebanon, restore the Temple articles for use and prepare to behold the glory of the holy One of Israel, blessed be He!
Fast forward and we see the Jewish people committing their lives to follow the Lord and His commandments again, and the walls of Jerusalem, the "City of Gold," being repaired and raised up. The time for fulfillment of God's promises to Israel was finally coming to pass!
Yet, every story of hope has an antagonist or two. When rebuilding our lives on the truth of God's Word, on worship & prayer, and on His sacrificial system (what once was the blood of bulls and goats and now is the blood of Jesus, our Messiah!), we will be filled with hope and we will meet opposition.
Opposition comes in many forms. In Ezra 4, the Jewish people were accused of rebuilding the Temple in order to start a rebellion against Babylon. Their opponents wrote a letter to King Darius who bought the lie and ordered that the work be stopped.
The people became discouraged, shrank back in fear of the law of the King, and gave up. The time has not come, they said. Instead, they went to work building houses of their own. Thankfully though, God spoke to His people once again and encouraged them through the prophets Haggai and Zechariah that it was time to rebuild, and that God was with them! Had they so soon forgotten that it was the Lord who stirred up the heart of a King in the first place to do this work, and that this work was truly God's and not their own? Because of their trust in the Lord and in the words of His prophets, God stirred them up again to resume the building, changed the heart of the King and the Temple was rebuilt!
In Nehemiah 3:33 through the entirety of chapters 4 and then 6, Nehemiah faced insults, threats, intimidation, false prophecies, feigned friendships and the temptation to sin while doing the task God assigned to him. Yet the Lord had promised, "Adonai builds up Jerusalem. He gathers together the exiles of Israel. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds" (Psalm 147:2-3).
This was a work of Adonai, the Lord, not only of Nehemiah's and the Jewish returnees. So, Nehemiah cries out to the Lord, “For they were all trying to intimidate us, thinking, ‘Their hands will become weak from the work and it will not be done.’ So now, strengthen my hands”( Nehemiah 6:9). And the Lord God answered His prayer: "So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in just 52 days. When all our enemies heard, all the surrounding nations were afraid and fell greatly in their own eyes, because they realized that this work had been accomplished by our God” (Nehemiah 6:15,16).
As you read these accounts, can you relate to any of the deterrents sent to distract the returnees from their God-given purpose and mission? In these times of struggle and opposition, it is hard to hear the truth of the lyrics of our Master's song. Yet, let the words of the prophets remind you that when the work is initiated by the Lord, it cannot be stopped. Don't give in to discouragement. Let hope arise in your spirit. This underlying part of the song of Ezra-Nehemiah is full of dissonance, but soon it will resolve and we will hear the beautiful sound of our Master saying,
Behold, the dwelling of God is among men,
and He shall tabernacle among them.
They shall be His people,
and God Himself shall be among them
and be their God.
He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes,
and death shall be no more.
Nor shall there be mourning or crying or pain any longer,
for the former things have passed away.
Today, allow God's Holy Spirit to stir you up as He stirred Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Ezra, Nehemiah and the returnees to dive in, pick up the tools He'd given them and partner with Him as He fulfills His promises and completes the work He began.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
"When people are rebuilding their lives after disaster, hope is often the most important tool in the toolbox."
- Has discouragement kept you from trusting that God's plans will ultimately come to pass even if you can't see it now? Perhaps you doubt that a God-ordained relationship will ever be restored or that wayward child will ever return to the Lord. Perhaps a gifting or calling on your life lies dormant now because of the relentless opposition you've faced or maybe you tire of believing you will ever be able to return to our First Love despite your attempts to do those things you did at first. Don't give in to the discouragement of the enemy. His attempts are simply that. Governments, community and family members along with every kind of resistance was employed against the Jewish people in order, ultimately, to stop God's plans. We have a sure hope that God's plans cannot be stopped. His purposes for Israel and the nations will prevail! Trust Him today and ask Him to turn your discouragement to hope and expectation for the good things He has planned!
- Is there some promise the Lord has given you through His Word that you've stopped believing because of doubt or fear? Are you unsure if you heard Him correctly? Seek Him and wise counsel and then move forward in courage, trusting in the promises of Scripture and in His Spirit to direct your steps along the way.