May 22, 2007
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- Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel;
- Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.
- But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.
- Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building,
- And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.
- And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.
- And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue.
- Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king in this sort:
- Then wrote Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions; the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the Apharsites, the Archevites, the Babylonians, the Susanchites, the Dehavites, and the Elamites,
- And the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Asnappar brought over, and set in the cities of Samaria, and the rest that are on this side the river, and at such a time.
- This is the copy of the letter that they sent unto him, even unto Artaxerxes the king; Thy servants the men on this side the river, and at such a time.
- Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations.
- Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city be builded, and the walls set up again, then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings.
- Now because we have maintenance from the king's palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king's dishonour, therefore have we sent and certified the king;
- That search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers: so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time: for which cause was this city destroyed.
- We certify the king that, if this city be builded again, and the walls thereof set up, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river.
- Then sent the king an answer unto Rehum the chancellor, and to Shimshai the scribe, and to the rest of their companions that dwell in Samaria, and unto the rest beyond the river, Peace, and at such a time.
- The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me.
- And I commanded, and search hath been made, and it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made therein.
- There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, which have ruled over all countries beyond the river; and toll, tribute, and custom, was paid unto them.
- Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until another commandment shall be given from me.
- Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings?
- Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes' letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power.
- Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.
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- Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them.
- Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.
- At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shethar-boznai, and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall?
- Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building?
- But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then they returned answer by letter concerning this matter.
- The copy of the letter that Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shethar-boznai, and his companions the Apharsachites, which were on this side the river, sent unto Darius the king:
- They sent a letter unto him, wherein was written thus; Unto Darius the king, all peace.
- Be it known unto the king, that we went into the province of Judea, to the house of the great God, which is builded with great stones, and timber is laid in the walls, and this work goeth fast on, and prospereth in their hands.
- Then asked we those elders, and said unto them thus, Who commanded you to build this house, and to make up these walls?
- We asked their names also, to certify thee, that we might write the names of the men that were the chief of them.
- And thus they returned us answer, saying, We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and build the house that was builded these many years ago, which a great king of Israel builded and set up.
- But after that our fathers had provoked the God of heaven unto wrath, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this house, and carried the people away into Babylon.
- But in the first year of Cyrus the king of Babylon the same king Cyrus made a decree to build this house of God.
- And the vessels also of gold and silver of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that was in Jerusalem, and brought them into the temple of Babylon, those did Cyrus the king take out of the temple of Babylon, and they were delivered unto one, whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor;
- And said unto him, Take these vessels, go, carry them into the temple that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be builded in his place.
- Then came the same Sheshbazzar, and laid the foundation of the house of God which is in Jerusalem: and since that time even until now hath it been in building, and yet it is not finished.
- Now therefore, if it seem good to the king, let there be search made in the king's treasure house, which is there at Babylon, whether it be so, that a decree was made of Cyrus the king to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send his pleasure to us concerning this matter.
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- Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon.
- And there was found at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of the Medes, a roll, and therein was a record thus written:
- In the first year of Cyrus the king the same Cyrus the king made a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof threescore cubits;
- With three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber: and let the expenses be given out of the king's house:
- And also let the golden and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took forth out of the temple which is at Jerusalem, and brought unto Babylon, be restored, and brought again unto the temple which is at Jerusalem, every one to his place, and place them in the house of God.
- Now therefore, Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shethar-boznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which are beyond the river, be ye far from thence:
- Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place.
- Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king's goods, even of the tribute beyond the river, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered.
- And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the appointment of the priests which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail:
- That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons.
- Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this.
- And the God that hath caused his name to dwell there destroy all kings and people, that shall put to their hand to alter and to destroy this house of God which is at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed.
- Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river, Shethar-boznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily.
- And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.
- And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.
- And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy,
- And offered at the dedication of this house of God an hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs; and for a sin offering for all Israel, twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel.
- And they set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God, which is at Jerusalem; as it is written in the book of Moses.
- And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month.
- For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were pure, and killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves.
- And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the LORD God of Israel, did eat,
- And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the LORD had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.
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- Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah,
- The son of Shallum, the son of Zadok, the son of Ahitub,
- The son of Amariah, the son of Azariah, the son of Meraioth,
- The son of Zerahiah, the son of Uzzi, the son of Bukki,
- The son of Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the chief priest:
- This Ezra went up from Babylon; and he was a ready scribe in the law of Moses, which the LORD God of Israel had given: and the king granted him all his request, according to the hand of the LORD his God upon him.
- And there went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinims, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king.
- And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king.
- For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him.
- For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
- Now this is the copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave unto Ezra the priest, the scribe, even a scribe of the words of the commandments of the LORD, and of his statutes to Israel.
- Artaxerxes, king of kings, unto Ezra the priest, a scribe of the law of the God of heaven, perfect peace, and at such a time.
- I make a decree, that all they of the people of Israel, and of his priests and Levites, in my realm, which are minded of their own freewill to go up to Jerusalem, go with thee.
- Forasmuch as thou art sent of the king, and of his seven counsellors, to enquire concerning Judah and Jerusalem, according to the law of thy God which is in thine hand;
- And to carry the silver and gold, which the king and his counsellors have freely offered unto the God of Israel, whose habitation is in Jerusalem,
- And all the silver and gold that thou canst find in all the province of Babylon, with the freewill offering of the people, and of the priests, offering willingly for the house of their God which is in Jerusalem:
- That thou mayest buy speedily with this money bullocks, rams, lambs, with their meat offerings and their drink offerings, and offer them upon the altar of the house of your God which is in Jerusalem.
- And whatsoever shall seem good to thee, and to thy brethren, to do with the rest of the silver and the gold, that do after the will of your God.
- The vessels also that are given thee for the service of the house of thy God, those deliver thou before the God of Jerusalem.
- And whatsoever more shall be needful for the house of thy God, which thou shalt have occasion to bestow, bestow it out of the king's treasure house.
- And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily,
- Unto an hundred talents of silver, and to an hundred measures of wheat, and to an hundred baths of wine, and to an hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much.
- Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?
- Also we certify you, that touching any of the priests and Levites, singers, porters, Nethinims, or ministers of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom, upon them.
- And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not.
- And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment.
- Blessed be the LORD God of our fathers, which hath put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem:
- And hath extended mercy unto me before the king, and his counsellors, and before all the king's mighty princes. And I was strengthened as the hand of the LORD my God was upon me, and I gathered together out of Israel chief men to go up with me.
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Thought for the day:
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As is the case any time someone attempts to do a great work for the Lord, opposition soon came to the Jews. They knew that it would be coming, which was why they made sure to set up an altar for sacrifice as soon as they returned to Jerusalem. Their adversaries came and used a unusual tactic - they offered to help build the Temple, because they said that they wished to serve the Lord also. Of course this was a lie, for these people had no interest in Jehovah and wanted the Israelites to leave the area. Zerubbabel saw right through their scheme, and sent them on their way. It is worth mentioning here that the Devil's crowd still uses this form of opposition. The believer expects a full frontal attack from the world, so when the ungodly come up and try to "make nice", the Christian is often lulled into a false security. Don't be fooled: Satan is transformed into an angel of light and his ministers into ministers of righteousness (II Cor. 11:14-15). He will be more then happy to help out the Christian if he can ultimately use his assistance to destroy the Christian. This is why we practice ecclesiastical separation. We do not need the ungodly to help us run and grow our churches and schools, evangelize the lost, or raise funds. We, like Zerubbabel, need to do what God has called us to do without seeking or accepting aid from the lost.
Once their plan of infiltration didn't work, they tried Plan B: discouragement. They weakened the hands of the workers through their constant criticism. They even went so far as to hire men who went throughout the camp of Israel telling the Jews how difficult the work would be, and how they probably wouldn't complete it. I'm sure they mentioned all the time, money and effort that the Jews were spending on the project, and how the builders could have used those things for themselves. This, too, is a ploy that Satan still uses. Many Christians have become discouraged in their walk with the Lord. Perhaps they wanted something to happen that didn't, and they got bitter. Perhaps the church didn't grow as rapidly as they wanted it to, or maybe their personal evangelistic efforts produced no results, or maybe they were overlooked when the "Thank you's" were passed out or when the officers were chosen. Maybe they decided that they weren't accomplishing that much with all their sacrifice for the Lord, and so maybe they should just spend that time and money on themselves. Or maybe they did truly try to serve God, and some backslidden Christian, or even a lost man, criticized their work, and they decided to quit. Regardless of what the motivation may have been, a quitter never accomplishes what he could and should have for the Lord. The Devil knows what will discourage you, and he won't hesitate to send it your way. Be sure not to give in.
Step three was that the opponents of the Lord sent letters to the the king of Persia and spread lies about what the Jews were doing. At that point, King Artaxerxes wrote and gave permission to the enemies of the Lord to force the Jews to stop their labors. Under this pressure, the work was finally halted. Apparently the Jews forgot that the Lord had called them to go, and that Cyrus had authorized their journey. They forgot about the joy that they had when the foundation was laid. They forgot about the lesson that the elderly had learned about what happens when you don't obey God. Instead, they apparently decided that they had put up with enough, and the work stopped for fifteen years. It was not until 521 B.C. when Haggai the prophet came and rebuked them for spending all those years on their own homes and allowing the Lord's House to lie in waste that the work was resumed.
Here is the key to the entire passage: Satan will do whatever it takes to stop the work of the Lord, and the believer has to do everything in his power to see that it doesn't happen. Don't allow yourself to be compromised or discouraged. If you must, stand up against wicked political leaders. The Lord has give us a job to do, and nothing is more important than seeing it accomplished.
Pastor Dr. Mark J Montgomery