A Lesson from Ezra
As the book of Ezra opens, Cyrus, king of Persia, has allowed a remnant of Israelites to return to Jerusalem for the purpose of rebuilding their Temple. Seventy years prior, because of their apostasy, God had allowed Israel to be taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Later, they came under the rule of Cyrus when he conquered Babylon. God then moved upon the heart of Cyrus, a pagan and idolatrous king, to permit this return. He even stirred the king’s heart to help them raise the needed funds for the rebuild (see Ezra 1:1-4).
Also, King Cyrus turned over to them all the vessels and utensils Nebuchadnezzar had plundered from the Temple and placed in the temple of his gods. These articles totaled 5400 gold and silver pieces. That’s pretty incredible.
A remnant returned to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel’s leadership and began work on the Temple. Ezra tells us: “When the workers laid the foundation of The Temple of God, the priests in their robes stood up with trumpets, and the Levites, sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise God in the tradition of David…All the people boomed out hurrahs, praising God as the foundation of The Temple of God was laid. As many were noisily shouting with joy, many of the older priests, Levites, and family heads who had seen the first Temple, when they saw the foundations of this Temple laid, wept loudly… People couldn’t distinguish the shouting from the weeping. The sound of their voices reverberated for miles around.”
(Ezra 3:10-13; MSG)
It has always intrigued me that many Israelites - the young ones - shouted for joy so loudly that it could be heard for miles, while some of the older ones wept. We are left to wonder why the older folks wept. I suppose it could have been joyful weeping because the restoration was beginning. Or maybe they were remembering the pain of the Babylonian captivity with its tragic losses. They could have been reflecting on the former glory of the Temple and mourning the present state of Ichabod (“the glory has departed”). Or were they, with their wiser perspective that comes from age, considering the reality of just how far away they were from the Temple’s full restoration? I also think it’s possible they were lamenting the apostasy that created the former Temple’s destruction. We are never told the reason. Personally, I believe a good guess would be all of the above, a mix of emotions. One thing is certain: their perspective was different.
There is one more thing that is certain about the celebration which took place that day: it was a bit premature. Satan had plans for the project, also. Daniel 7:25 tells us he attempts to alter “times and laws.” The Hebrew word used for time in this verse means an appointed time; the word for laws can mean, among other things, the decree of a king. Daniel 2:21 says God changes times and seasons. He also decrees His good plans and purposes for us, both in His written Word and through prophetic words. However, the verse in Daniel 7:25 tells us satan tries to alter those times and decrees. He obviously can’t do so by overpowering or outwitting God; he does so by attacking God’s instruments - us.
Daniel 7:25 also reveals that one of the ways satan attempts to alter times and decrees is by “wearing down” the saints. The Hebrew word this is taken from is never used in scripture to describe physical fatigue, only mental and emotional weariness. Satan attempts to wear us down, causing us to grow weary (literally: “lose heart”) in our efforts (Galatians 6:9). Fear, discouragement, lack of endurance, hope-deferred, and other emotional responses attack our faith and can cause us to lose heart. This then, can alter our God-appointed times. It did so for this remnant of Israelites in Ezra’s day.
Satan went to work through other people in the region: “So these people started beating down the morale of the people of Judah, harassing them as they built. They even hired propagandists to sap their resolve. They kept this up for about fifteen years, throughout the lifetime of Cyrus king of Persia and on into the reign of Darius king of Persia.” (Ezra 4:4-5; MSG)
These propagandists, or “counselors” as other translations refer to them, were basically lobbyists. They were individuals hired and sent to the king with accusations and misinformation to try and hinder the plans of the Israelites. They succeeded in planting concerns in him that, once the Israelites rebuilt their temple, they would rebel from his rule and cause great problems in his kingdom. The Israelites, rather than remaining strong and trusting God to help them overcome this, yielded to fear and discouragement. The result? The building stopped for 16 years. All they had was a foundation.
During this time, the Israelites began building their own homes and businesses, while abandoning God’s house. They justified this by saying it must not yet be God‘s appointed time for the Temple to be rebuilt. Opposition, however, should never be allowed to determine what we believe to be God‘s will. Nor should it be something used to judge whether or not it is His appointed time to do something.
Many believers in America today have made the same mistake. They’ve grown weary in their prayers for revival and the turning around of our nation. Evil lobbyists, media opposition, inappropriate laws, intimidating government agencies, elections that don’t go our way - satan has used these and more to try and wear us down. Consequently, many have done just what these Israelites did - decided it must not be time for our turnaround and that, when God is ready, He will do it.
Pray with me:
Father, we do not intend to allow satan to alter Your timing for our breakthroughs and the turnaround of our great nation. We WILL see the revival You have planned for here and in the nations of the earth. We will not spend the next 40 years dying in the wilderness, while You wait for a generation that is willing and obedient. We will NOT! We know it is time. We will not allow opposition to steal from us what You have ordained.
We ask for an infusion of strength and hope. We ask that mental fatigue and emotional weariness be broken off of the praying church, the remnant. Send a wind of Holy Spirit to us now, we pray.
Give the infusion of strength You speak of in Isaiah 40. Renew our strength like eagles are renewed. We speak to weariness and say, “Go!” We speak to hope-deferred and say, “Go!” We speak to fear and say, “Go, in Jesus name!”
And Father, we continue to pray for the people of Ukraine. We ask You to end this evil war. We ask for an abundance of grace to be on the Ukrainian people. We ask You to stop Putin and his evil attacks. Remove him from power! Please send revival to Ukraine and raise up an army of believers there. Help them to not only rebuild that nation, but be used by You to carry revival all throughout Europe.
And we remember the church in Afghanistan. Empower them to serve You faithfully and powerfully in this difficult hour. Give them great fruit for their labors. Protect them, we pray. Release your judgment against the evil there and may a great revival emanate from Afghanistan into the entire region. Turn the tables on the devil! We ask all of these things in Christ’s name. Amen
We decree that we, The Church of Jesus Christ, will not falter in this appointed time of revival here, and around the world.
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