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Ezra and Nehemiah: Ezra 5:1-5

Ezra and Nehemiah: Ezra 5:1-5

 

The Book of Ezra begins on a high note: Cyrus’ proclamation that the people of Israel should return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city and the temple. God’s promised deliverance of his people was coming to pass. However, the Israelites’ desire and effort would soon be opposed with the order to cease all work. Ezra 5-6 are the chapters where the story turns around. Despite obstacles, the Lord was indeed faithful to his promise. This gave his people comfort and hope. Let’s start with the first five verse of chapter five.

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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. 2 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, helping them.

 

3 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 restore this structure?” 4 They also asked, “What are the names of the men constructing this building?” 5 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.

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This section takes place between 520-518 BC and refers to the Book of Haggai and Zechariah 1-8. The work on rebuilding the temple had stopped. However, Haggain and Zechariah’s preaching encourage and motivated the people to resume work. Haggai 1:12-14 says,

12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord.

13 Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: “I am with you,” declares the Lord.

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God’s promise of his gracious presence encouraged his people because they knew that he would bless their work. They had the Lord’s favor and he would grant them success. In his commentary on Haggai, Luther writes, “Here the unspeakable mercy of God is promised in words that appear to be sparse and brief. If God, then, is for us, who can be against us? Much less will an enemy be able to harm us, for he cannot harm God. Here all creatures must yield. If we have God as our Protector (for this is what he calls God being with us), no evil, no pestilence, not persecution, no temptation either physical or spiritual can be so great as to cause us to fall.”