Men largely from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin had returned to the promised land with a divine mission. When they got there, some of the people who were in the land at that time said that they would be happy to help with the work. Yet these men were not friends but adversaries.
The day had not yet come for the Gentiles to be grafted into the people of God. That great mission would await the death and resurrection of the Messiah who would be a descendant of David through Zerubbabel. This same Zerubbabel and the tribal leaders among Judah and Benjamin knew that these supposed helpers needed to be stopped from joining in the work that God had given the returning Jewish exiles to accomplish.
This rejection of their offer was not well-received by those who claimed to be worshipers of Israel’s God. They began to do what they could to bring discouragement upon those who had been called to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. In particular they wrote a letter to the emperor asserting that the Jews were rebellious, and that if they were permitted to complete their project they would no longer pay taxes. They supported this accusation with an appeal to history, asking the king to check the records concerning the Jews. The letter suggested that the history of this region would show that the city of Jerusalem was destroyed because of rebellion against the powers of Assyria and Babylon.
The king did the research that the letter proposed and found that the records supported the claims made by the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin. In addition, the accounts that the king reviewed showed that in former days powerful kings had ruled in Jerusalem who not only refused to pay taxes to the imperial powers to the east, but who also exacted tribute from neighboring nations. The king ordered that the work that they were currently engaged in be stopped, and the local enemies immediately pressed the king’s order upon the men of Judah and Benjamin. The rebuilding of the temple was stopped for more than a decade.
In this world that is fading away God’s people face opposition. Will the progress of the kingdom of God be stopped forever because of the attacks of evil men? Is the case that these foes press against the Lord’s people so persuasive that God’s direct commandments and promises should be forever thwarted?
The adversaries did have a point. Israel and Judah had a record of insubordination to the empires around them. But that was not why Jerusalem had been destroyed. There is a power far above all empires. God’s people had rebelled against Him. He had used the kings to the east as agents of His own discipline. Even this time of testing in the days of Zerubbabel would have to give way to the Lord’s purpose of steadfast love. The temple would be rebuilt and the city of Jerusalem would stand again among the great places of the earth.
The Lord’s good purposes could not be stopped. A Messiah would come who would enter the temple of the Lord. He would be a descendant of Judah, the tribe of kings. He would accomplish through His life and death a deed far more powerful than anything that all the kings of the earth could ever have achieved. Through His resurrection an entire new realm of life would begin. His kingdom will stand forever.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Our Father, the work of building Your kingdom goes forward in an environment that includes demonic enemies. There are subtle attacks of weariness and discouragement that come over us like waves of trouble. Help us to contemplate Your nature and Your work. Help us to meditate upon Your great promises, for we should not lose heart. We have been warned by Your Son that we will face trouble. Our King was despised by men. Why are we surprised when men lie about us and seek our destruction? See how Your adversaries try to use civil authorities to bring trouble upon Your church. We suffer strange setbacks for a season, though You are sovereign in Your power and bountiful in Your love. O the mysteries of Your providence! It is all too much for us to understand. Grant us faith when the facts that are against us seem insurmountable.