DEVOTION:THIS IS A PERFECT EXAMPLE!

I find today’s lesson very, very interesting. Read patiently how this lesson develops. The story is a little long, but that is the beauty of it. In the end, the lesson is clear. Most of us, if not all of us, have been here.

 

Lesson:

Have you ever wondered where is God when you need Him? Does your enemy seem to have a free ride over you?  Have you ever wondered whether God heard your prayers? Have you been tempted to say, God does not care about what you are going through?

 

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In today’s passage, which covers about four chapters, we see a perfect example of what God might be doing when He seems to be silent while we are calling on Him.

 

Here is the story:

In Ezra 3:7-13, these Israelites who had settled back in their towns begun rebuilding the Temple. The first major accomplishment was celebrated with mixed emotion.

When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: “He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.” And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.  Ezra 3:10-11

But this celebration with all the hopes did not last because in Ezra 4:6-24 an opposition arose that succeeded in stopping the rebuilding of the house of God during the reign of King Artaxerxes. The same group had two oppositions during the reign of King Cyrus but the Israelites were able to withstand it, Ezra 4:1-5. Then they had another opposition during the reign of King Xerxes which was not successful Ezra 4:6.

At the beginning of the reign of Xerxes, they lodged an accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem. And in the days of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel and the rest of his associates wrote a letter to Artaxerxes. The letter was written in Aramaic script and in the Aramaic language. Ezra 4:6-7

Here are the leaders of the opposition: Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary. Here is the letter they wrote to King Artaxerxes:

To King Artaxerxes,

From your servants in Trans-Euphrates:

The king should know that the people who came up to us from you have gone to Jerusalem and are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are restoring the walls and repairing the foundations. Furthermore, the king should know that if this city is built and its walls are restored, no more taxes, tribute or duty will be paid, and eventually the royal revenues will suffer. Now since we are under obligation to the palace and it is not proper for us to see the king dishonored, we are sending this message to inform the king, so that a search may be made in the archives of your predecessors. In these records you will find that this city is a rebellious city, troublesome to kings and provinces, a place with a long history of sedition. That is why this city was destroyed. We inform the king that if this city is built and its walls are restored, you will be left with nothing in Trans-Euphrates. Ezra 4:12-16

This was the response of the King.

To Rehum the commanding officer, Shimshai the secretary and the rest of their associates living in Samaria and elsewhere in Trans-Euphrates:

Greetings.

The letter you sent us has been read and translated in my presence. I issued an order and a search was made, and it was found that this city has a long history of revolt against kings and has been a place of rebellion and sedition. Jerusalem has had powerful kings ruling over the whole of Trans-Euphrates, and taxes, tribute and duty were paid to them. Now issue an order to these men to stop work, so that this city will not be rebuilt until I so order. Be careful not to neglect this matter. Why let this threat grow, to the detriment of the royal interests? Ezra 4:17-22

You would expect what this opposition group would do after receiving these instructions from the King. This was their next move.

As soon as the copy of the letter of King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum and Shimshai the secretary and their associates, they went immediately to the Jews in Jerusalem and compelled them by force to stop. Ezra 4:23

Consequently, Ezra tells us:

Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.Ezra 4:24

This opposition had a serious blow on the efforts of these Israelites and altered the progress for building the Temple. One wonders where was God when these opposition was having a free ride over God’s people, yet this project was the building of His Temple. Didn’t He care about it? Definitely God cared about His house. But why was He allowing the opposition against the Israelites succeed? In a sense, this opposition was against Him. The answer to these questions is the point of our devotion today.

In chapter 5, things seem to be taking a turn for good. Without any permission, the Jews begin to do what they were told to stop doing.

Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, supporting them. Ezra 5:1-2

As expected, the opposition was ready to question this new move.

At that time Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates went to them and asked, “Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and to finish it?” They also asked, “What are the names of those who are constructing this building? Ezra 5:3-4

All of a sudden, we see God at work.

But the eye of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they were not stopped until a report could go to Darius and his written reply be received. Ezra 5:5

Notice also some new other changes. Read this introduction to the letter.

This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates, the officials of Trans-Euphrates, sent to King Darius. Ezra 5:6

 

Did you notice something? There are two changes here. First, the leaders of the opposition are not the same. Secondly, we have a new king. The former opposition leaders wrote to King Xerxes but these ones wrote to King Darius.

 

Now let us read the letter they sent to King Darius.

 

To King Darius:

Cordial greetings.

The king should know that we went to the district of Judah, to the temple of the great God. The people are building it with large stones and placing the timbers in the walls. The work is being carried on with diligence and is making rapid progress under their direction.

We questioned the elders and asked them, “Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and to finish it?” We also asked them their names, so that we could write down the names of their leaders for your information.

This is the answer they gave us:

We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished. But because our ancestors angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, king of Babylon, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon.

However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God. He even removed from the temple of Babylon the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to the temple[c] in Babylon. Then King Cyrus gave them to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he had appointed governor, and he told him, ‘Take these articles and go and deposit them in the temple in Jerusalem. And rebuild the house of God on its site.’

So this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God in Jerusalem. From that day to the present it has been under construction but is not yet finished.

Now if it pleases the king, let a search be made in the royal archives of Babylon to see if King Cyrus did in fact issue a decree to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then let the King send us his decision in this matter. Ezra 5:7-17

 

Did you notice a major difference between the former letter and this one? The opposition writes a letter without much of any accusation. Instead, 80% or more of the letter consist of what the Jews told them. This was not true in the opposition’s letter written to King Artaxerxes Ezra 4:17-22.

 

It is now clear God is at work. He has already set the stage ready for good things to happen.

The letter reached King Darius and He issued a search to be made. The search produced a decree issued by King Cyrus to rebuild the temple of God in Jerusalem Ezra 6:1-5.

 

As a result, King Darius gave these instructions to the opposition;

 

Now then, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and you other officials of that province, stay away from there. Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God. Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site. Ezra 6:6-7

 

Then He added this interesting decree.

Moreover, I hereby decree what you are to do for these elders of the Jews in the construction of this house of God:

Their expenses are to be fully paid out of the royal treasury, from the revenues of Trans-Euphrates, so that the work will not stop. Whatever is needed—young bulls, rams, male lambs for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine and olive oil, as requested by the priests in Jerusalem—must be given them daily without fail, so that they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven and pray for the well-being of the king and his sons. Ezra 6:8-10

Just in case anyone dared to threaten these Jews or try to hinder this work, King Darius issued this other decree.

Furthermore, I decree that if anyone defies this edict, a beam is to be pulled from their house and they are to be impaled on it. And for this crime their house is to be made a pile of rubble. May God, who has caused his Name to dwell there, overthrow any king or people who lifts a hand to change this decree or to destroy this temple in Jerusalem. Ezra 6:11-12

So no one would doubt the source of this letter, the King sealed it with this.

I Darius have decreed it. Let it be carried out with diligence.

APPLICATION:

1.    While it seems that God is not doing anything, the truth is this: God is at work on our behalf even when we are not seeing Him at work. This story is truly a perfect example of this truth. Our challenge is believing that God is truly at work. As humans, working by faith and not by sight is always a challenge. We need to always remind ourselves of the following verse;

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6

2.    The second lesson from this story is this: The best favor God can give you may not be favor or a change of heart from your enemies, but a change of personnel. We see very clearly in this story; things changed when there was a change of leadership from the King to the governor and his associates in Trans-Euphrates. The leaders of the opposition changed and the kingship changed from Arterxes to King Darius.

3.    So what was God doing when He seemed to have been silent? He was orchestrating a change of personnel that would bring lasting results for the Jews in Jerusalem.

4.    Is it possible that you are wondering whether God is hearing your prayers? Have you been waiting too long? Maybe at your work place you are facing opposition for your next promotion. Be patient! God is at work. He may be working on changing the personnel so that the new ones will be favorable to you.

5.    What else have you learned from this story?

You may not see Him!

You may not Hear Him!

You many not feel Him!

You may not know what He is doing.

But that does not mean God is not working for you.

But later on, you will discover that all along,

God has been working on your behalf.

This is why

Concerning this story, I have concluded

THIS IS A PERFECT EXAMPLE!

Read: Ezra 3:1-6:12

Marked: 6:6-7

By Pastor Shadrack [email protected]

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