Today’s reading: Ezra 4-7.
Bump in the road. Detour. Road block. You can tell we Americans drive a lot. Just look at the way we use highway jargon to describe the difficulties we face off the road. The question is, how do you handle the detours and road blocks that pop up in your life? Do you easily get discouraged and give up? I hope you find the strength to push on through the difficulties and make it to the end of your road. That’s what the Israelites did when they faced opposition in rebuilding the temple.
It wasn’t long after the foundation stones were laid and the altar was rebuilt that the returning exiles faced major conflict:
Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia. Ezra 4:4-5
Let’s look at a timeline of the rebuilding of the temple.
- 537 BC – Proclamation of Cyrus allows the exiles to return
- 535 BC – Foundation of the temple laid
- 534 BC – Adversaries report to Artaxerxes who stops the temple work
- 520 BC – Adversaries report to Darius that the temple work has resumed, but Darius permits the work to proceed
- 515 BC – The Israelites complete and dedicate the temple
Opponents of the Israelites hindered the construction of the second temple for fifteen years. The Israelites could have given up. They must have questioned how one king could rule for them and another against them. They might have wondered if it was God’s will to keep trying. They could have decided that God didn’t want the temple after all since there was so much opposition. They answered their doubts by recognizing that the opposition was from man, not God. They resumed the construction whenever there was an opportunity and they finished the temple 22 years after their return from exile.
Roadblocks don’t necessarily mean that God opposes our efforts. Sometimes a closed door is being kept closed by an adversary. If you are doing God’s will, keep pushing.
- God uses difficulties to test us, as he tested the Israelites during their wilderness journey.
- God uses struggles to strengthen us “If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses?” Jeremiah 12:5
- God uses trials to perfect us and teach us patient endurance (James 1).
- God uses suffering to teach us to depend on him. “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
Image by Dan Diffendale on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0.