Ezra & Nehemiahby Robert M. Solomon
Have you ever had trouble finding something that is missing? It may feel like you are looking for a needle in a haystack. It might have felt like that when Darius orders a search to be made for records related to Cyrus' earlier decree. But imagine the staff in the royal archives searching the records, and the Holy Spirit working invisibly among them, leading them to the right document!
A scroll is found in the city of Ecbatana (probably a summer royal residence) and is presented to King Darius, who issues a decree accordingly. The contents of his letter to the local officials are unbelievably advantageous to the Jews. Hence their joy that God has changed the attitude of the king (Ezra 6:22).
Darius' letter mentions the contents of the scroll that records Cyrus' decree allowing the temple in Jerusalem to be built as a place of worship and sacrifice (vv. 2-3). The gold and silver temple articles returned to the Jews were to be placed in the temple (v. 5), and the costs of the rebuilding were to be paid from the royal treasury. Darius' decree also states the dimensions of the temple-about 27 metres high and 27 metres wide, ″with three courses of large stones and one of timber″ (vv. 3-4). This represented the maximum size allowed and the strong foundations that could withstand earthquakes.4
Furthermore, Darius orders the temple construction to proceed without any interference (v. 7). The expenses are to be fully paid from provincial taxes (v. 8), and all that is needed for the sacrifices in the temple are to be provided daily (v. 9) so that the sacrifices and prayers for the king and his sons (reflecting personal interests) might continue. Anyone who interrupts the work is to be severely punished (vv. 11-12). God has surely intervened so that the work will not be interrupted. What initially seemed to be a setback is turning out to be something that speeds up and facilitates the work instead. In the words of English poet William Cowper, ″The clouds which ye so much dread, Are big with mercy.″5
When the early church in Jerusalem suffered persecution and its leaders Peter and John were forbidden to preach the name of Jesus, it looked like it was ″game over″. But God intervened and the Jewish religious leaders let Peter and John go because they could not decide how to punish them, and because people were praising God for their ministry. Subsequently, the apostles were beaten and Stephen was martyred. As a result of the persecution, the believers were scattered, but God had an unchangeable plan: the scattering became the very means of the rapid spread of the gospel beyond Jerusalem.
The battle may seemingly be lost at times, but with God, the spiritual war will always be won, whether in our personal lives or in the life of the church.
Picture the search being made of the royal archives for records of Cyrus' decree, and how God was working as the letters between Darius and the officials went back and forth. God's hand cannot be restricted by geography or bureaucracy. How does knowing this influence the way we trust God and pray to Him?
Read Romans 8:28. How much do you believe that God is at work in all things, putting everything together for the good of those who are called by Him and who love Him?