Ezra & Nehemiahby Robert M. Solomon
As soon as the work in the temple resumes, there is an official inquiry. The local Persian governor and his officials visit the construction site, wanting to know who authorised the rebuilding and the names of those involved in the work (Ezra 5:3–4). Perhaps the Jews’ enemies instigated the officials’ actions.
Fifteen years after the work had ceased, the officials may have changed, but they still fear getting into trouble should the new Persian king, their overlord, come to hear about the temple. In their actions, though, this batch of officials are less antagonistic than the corrupt officials the Samaritans had paid to put a stop to the work during the reign of King Cyrus (Ezra 4:5). They seem to be simply doing their job. Of course, even in such circumstances, they are a potential obstacle to the work of God.
God is with His people: “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” (5:5).
The letter sent by the officials reports their investigation of the building of the new temple in Jerusalem. It tells of how they questioned the Jews and secured the names of those involved, in case the king wants to check their background to see if they are troublemakers. The description of the temple construction gives us hints about the dedication and efficiency of the temple builders: “The work is being carried on with diligence and is making rapid progress” (v. 8). That, combined with the phrase “the temple of the great God”, is meant to indicate the urgency and importance of the situation. However, above all the bureaucracy of empire is in the hand of a God whose eyes and ears are attentive to His people (Psalm 34:15), as we shall see in tomorrow’s reading.
Sometimes, we may feel that we are like a little cog in a giant complex machine. Who would notice the ordinary people or the marginalised? We may feel forgotten, but God does not ignore us. He knows every person, both great and small, in the world. No one is hidden from His eyes. This should be a comforting truth for His children, for the “eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry” (Psalm 34:15; 1 Peter 3:12). And “he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4).
The Bible says that God’s eye was watching over His people (Ezra 5:5). What does that mean? Read Exodus 3:7–10 to examine what God told Moses. How does this comfort you today?
How can our work for the Lord retain its enthusiasm and faithfulness even if we have to face official bureaucracy and other forms of difficulty?