Ezra & Nehemiahby Robert M. Solomon
English preacher Charles Spurgeon wrote about the comfort that God's children have from knowing that God is sovereign: ″Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe trials, they believe that sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that sovereignty overrules them, and that sovereignty will sanctify them all.″
The Jews receive a ″stop-work″ order from earthly authorities and enemies, but the heavenly king sends them a ″resume work″ order. The order from heaven's throne supersedes that from the throne on earth. God's order came through two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah (Ezra 5:1), whose messages are recorded in the Bible.
Haggai finds the Jews in a spiritually lethargic state. They give various excuses for not carrying out God's orders, saying, for example, that it is not the right time to build the temple (Haggai 1:2). But the prophet asks: How they can build such nice houses for themselves when the house of the Lord remains in ruins (v. 4)? He exhorts them to ″give careful thought″ to their ways-a phrase he uses five times (1:5, 7; 2:15, 18). Haggai's message is: think carefully and work faithfully. The Lord assures the leaders and people that He is with them (1:13; 2:4), and stirs up their spirits as He had done in Babylon (1:14; Ezra 1:5). Bolstered by such prophetic words and divine action, the people return to the work (Haggai 1:14-15) and finish building the temple.
Through Zechariah (his name means ″YHWH remembered″), God sends a message expressing his anger against the nations. He says: ″I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt″ (Zechariah 1:14-16). With a series of inspiring visions of the future temple, the prophet delivers the message that God will enable His people to complete the temple building. Just as Zerubbabel's hands had laid the foundations, his hands will also complete the building (4:8-9), because it will be accomplished not by human might or power but by God's Spirit (4:6).
Encouraged by these messages from the two prophets, the leaders and the people resume the building work (Ezra 5:2).
God sends Haggai and Zechariah during the time when a new king, Darius, ascends the Persian throne amid political troubles. Darius is too busy to look into the Jerusalem matter and the Jews complete the temple building. God shows His strong hand and intervenes accordingly, just as He does today when we face discouragement and disappointment.
Devotional writer Oswald Chambers once wrote, ″We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on our difficulties.″ God can overrule our obstacles and frustrations and work His sovereign interventions in our lives. We have to remember that God rules over all and will ensure that His work is accomplished as we trust Him prayerfully and work faithfully. When we are discouraged, He often sends His servants to encourage us.
Recall occasions in the past when God sent a special word to encourage you to continue doing something that you had stopped out of discouragement or fear. How did you respond?
God can intervene strongly, changing rulers, sending prophets, and challenging people. Is He sending you to help with someone's spiritual walk today?