Ezra 5:1-17

Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.

At that time 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?” They also asked, “What are the names of those who are constructing this building?” 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.

This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates, the officials of Trans-Euphrates, sent to King Darius. The report they sent him read as follows:

To King Darius:

Cordial greetings.

The king should know that we went to the district of Judah, to the temple of the great God. The people are building it with large stones and placing the timbers in the walls. The work is being carried on with diligence and is making rapid progress under their direction.

We questioned the elders and asked them, “Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and to finish it?” 10 We also asked them their names, so that we could write down the names of their leaders for your information.

11 This is the answer they gave us:

“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. 12 But because our ancestors angeredthe God of heaven, he gave them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, king of Babylon, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon.

13 “However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God. 14 He even removed from the temple of Babylon the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to the temple in Babylon. Then King Cyrus gave them to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he had appointed governor, 15 and he told him, ‘Take these articles and go and deposit them in the temple in Jerusalem. And rebuild the house of God on its site.’

16 “So this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God in Jerusalem. From that day to the present it has been under construction but is not yet finished.”

17 Now if it pleases the king, let a search be made in the royal archivesof Babylon to see if King Cyrus did in fact issue a decree to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us his decision in this matter.
(Ezra 5:1-17 NIV)

As we look over the history of Judah and Jerusalem, God used Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon to conquer Judah and Jerusalem because the nation had turned its back on God.  The Babylonians carried off all the treasures of the Jewish Temple to Babylon, exiled all its people to foreign lands, and destroyed the Temple building.

After seventy years, just as God had prophesied, King Cyrus, the Persian king who conquered Babylon, released the Jewish exiles to return to Judah and Jerusalem.  Cyrus also commissioned the exiles to rebuild the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, and he returned all the Temple treasures that the Babylonians had carried off.

The exiles rebuilt the altar and began regular worship to the Lord, then began rebuilding the Temple.   The transplanted locals did not like this and began pressuring the Jewish people to stop the work.  As Ezra recorded in chapter 4, this constant battle and adversarial relationship with their non-Jewish neighbors would continue for the next hundred years.

After King Cyrus came King Darius.  As we begin chapter 5, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah showed up to encourage and instruct the Jewish exiles (v. 1).  Encouraged and emboldened to continue the Temple rebuilding, the Jewish leaders rallied the people and began the work in earnest.

Tattenai, the regional governor and other officials showed up and demanded to know who authorized them to rebuild the Temple.  But God was watching over His people, and the work continued despite the intimidation and questioning of the government officials.

The government officials, not knowing what to do next, decided to write a letter to King Darius, letting him know what was going on, and what to do about the situation.  They were hopeful that the king would shut down the rebuilding effort.

Chapter 6 (which we will cover next time) is the king’s reply and decision.

When someone challenges your faith, what is your response?  Do you keep going, or do you stop?  Where do you go for direction and encouragement?  Do you look to the Lord and to godly people, or do you look to the culture and its values?

May we keep our eyes focused on the Lord, and on His Word for our guidance.   May we be connected to godly followers of Jesus who will provide encouragement and wise counsel that will help us along our journey.

May we not assimilate into the culture around us, and stand firmly in our faith and hope in God as we walk along life’ path.

May the words of the psalmist encourage us today:

Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.
Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.
(Psalm 146:3-5 NIV)