Therefore, issue orders to have these men stop their work. That city must not be rebuilt…When this letter from King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum, Shimshai, and their colleagues, they hurried to Jerusalem. Then, with a show of strength, they forced the Jews to stop building. So the work on the Temple of God in Jerusalem had stopped, and it remained at a standstill until the second year of King Darius of Persia. At that time the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem. They prophesied in the name of God of Israel who was over them. Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jehozadak responded by starting again to rebuild the Temple of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them and helped them.
The enemies of the Jewish people were quite crafty and relentless; much like the enemy of our soul (Satan). For years the enemies of the Jews searched for ways to halt the reconstruction of the Temple of God and the wall of Jerusalem (see Nehemiah). It reminds me of what my old Pastor used to say, “Expect opposition when you step out in faith to do something big for the Lord.” After years of trying, they were finally able to stop the Hebrew exiles by convincing the most powerful man in the world, King Artaxerxes, that the tiny remnant from Israel was secretly planning an insurrection in the Persian Empire.
With a show of strength and a letter, thousands of God’s people became paralyzed with fear and stopped building God’s temple. They stopped in their pursuit of what God was calling them to do. The bible didn’t say the enemies started attacking the Hebrew exiles, it says that with a SHOW of strength…Isn’t that what the devil does? He’s a show. He’s a liar. How about when we go through circumstances that seems so daunting or insurmountable and they totally derail us from our consistency with seeking Jesus? Time goes by and we get through them, look back, and realize that it wasn’t that big a deal.
Well, that is exactly what happened with the Hebrew exiles in this passage of scripture. They were doing so well! God had given them ENORMOUS favor by stirring the heart of King Cyrus (former King of the Persian Empire) to let them return to their homeland. Everything was going well until their enemies started to persecute them and stop them from finishing what God had called them to build.
What changed? What motivated them to get back to work? Prophecy. Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “But one who prophesies strengthens others, encourages them, and comforts them. A person who speaks in tongues is strengthened personally, but one who speaks a word of prophecy strengthens the entire church.” The two Prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, we’re able to inspire thousands of people to continue the work of the Lord, by prophesying in the name of the Lord. It’s interesting how the scripture said they prophesied in the name of the Lord who was over them.
The letter from King Artaxerxes made the Hebrew exiles stop initially because they assumed that he was the final authority on the matter. These exiles needed to be reminded of who was really over them. The Lord of Heaven and Earth was the one in command and they needed to be reminded of that. We have to remember that, as well. We can think that a doctor’s report, bill, or person has the final say so in our life and let me remind you brothers and sisters that God almighty has the final say on how things are going to go. He is the creator of this universe. His word goes out and does not return void. We must believe His word.
When we find ourselves in a standstill, paralyzed by fear or uncertainty we need to ask God for the gifts of the Spirit. Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 14 and says “Let love be your highest goal! But you should also desire the special abilities the Spirit gives-especially the ability to prophesy.” We want to be a people that clearly show the fruit of our salvation. When we bear fruit we show the world the character of God, because he lives inside of those who follow Jesus. The fruits of the spirit show the character of God, but the gifts of the Spirit demonstrate the power of God.
We need to be a people that walk in the power of God. Why? Because life is hard! Because Satan often times, with a show of strength, distracts and/or slows us down from what God is calling us to do. We cannot halt or slow in the pursuit of our master, Jesus. We must ask God to give us spiritual gifts to have power to live this life victoriously.
I’m Harold Dorrell Briscoe. Thanks for reading.