Fifteen years after the work on the temple had been halted due to numerous oppositions that the exiles faced, God sent his word to the people of Israel. First through the prophet Haggai (Haggai 1) and then two months later through the prophet Zechariah (Zechariah 1), God spoke to the people commanding them to restart the work on the temple.
While the people were hesitant to the call, saying that the time to restart the work on the temple had not yet come (Haggai 1:2), the prophets reprimanded the people for their self-centered living and also having a casual attitude for the commandments of God.
Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem.Ezra 5:2
Zerubbabel and Joshua were the initial leaders of the temple rebuilding process. The disappointments that came along their way perhaps made them abandon the work of God and focus on their own lives. But now after the stern warning and encouragement from the prophets, the elders of the Jews restarted the work on the deserted temple.
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?Ezra 5:3
Whenever we decide to take a step forward for God, adversaries will surely come our way. How we react to such adversaries will let us know how much we value the work of God. Do we turn back at the first sign of opposition or do we persevere through it, all the while holding on to God’s promise?
The people of Israel had a habit of turning their backs to God. They had left the temple work in ruins for the last fifteen years, all the while focusing on their own lives. But when the governor of Trans-Euphrates came looking for the people who restarted the work, the leaders stood their ground and responded with a thoughtful and measured response all the while ensuring to give all glory to the God of heaven and earth.
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.Ezra 5:11
Tattenai and his assistant Shethar-Bozenai performed a thorough investigation, inquiring about even the minute details as seen in their letter to Darius. Details such as the status of the work, the history of the temple and the exact instructions King Cyrus had given the exiles. This was also done probably to find holes in the narrative that the elders of the Jews were presenting before them.
With these details enclosed in his letter, the governor of Trans-Euphrates sought further instructions from the King before shutting down the temple rebuilding operations.
A search was made throughout the Persian Empire for the decree that Cyrus had made with regards to the temple at Jerusalem and it was found in the summer capital of Persia in Ecbatana (Ezra 6:2).
Darius came into power by overthrowing this predecessor and would have surely wanted to gain favor of his subjects. Or perhaps, like Cyrus, God had moved Darius because the decree that he issued on the matter was far more generous than Cyrus’ original draft for the temple at Jerusalem.
In addition to reaffirming the claims made by the Jews, Darius also added few additional clauses in his decree. The expenses were to be fully paid out of the royal treasury funded by the tax payers of the that region. Ironically, the agitators who were looking to put an end to the temple rebuilding process were now funding it through their taxes.
Even the animals that the Jews needed to offer sacrifices, were to be provided by the Persian government. If anyone did not adhere to these clauses or cause any more disruptions to the temple building project, the King ordered that they be killed in the most cruel manner with their property being burned to the ground.
When the Jews depended on king Cyrus, their work never progressed, they had to arrange for their sacrifices on their own and pay the laborers out of their own pockets all the while fending off the threats from their neighbors.
But when they heard the voice God, everything they needed to build the temple was provided to them on a silver platter. They just had to stay true to God and finish the task in front of them without worrying about anything else.
If they had not listened to the voice of God and let their laziness or fear take control of their lives, they would have continued in their wasteful living and never would have enjoyed communion with God.
Imagine all the times we have depended on our fellow beings for favor. Our superiors at work or our local office bearers have all promised a lot but seldom are they able to deliver. Let us not live our lives seeking favor of men but completely depend on God and His word to guide our lives.
So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah.. They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia.Ezra 6:14
After twenty long years, the Temple was finally completed. The Israelites installed the priest and levites in the service of the temple and offered the sacrifices to dedicate the temple according to what was written in the Book of Moses.
They were able to celebrate the Passover (The feast of Unleavened Bread) together in the new temple and more than the exodus from Egypt perhaps they recalled their own journey from Babylon and their struggle of twenty years to get to this point, both in their plans for rebuilding Jerusalem and their faith in God.
For seven days they celebrated with joy the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because the Lord had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.Ezra 6:22