Ezra 4:17-24

The King Replies and Work Stops

17 Then the king sent an answer to Rehum the commander, to Shimshai the scribe, and to the rest of their colleagues who live in Samaria and in the rest of the provinces beyond the River: “Peace. And now 18 the document which you sent to us has been [i]translated and read before me. 19 A decree has been [j]issued by me, and a search has been made and it has been discovered that that city has risen up against the kings in past days, that rebellion and revolt have been perpetrated in it, 20 that mighty kings have [k]ruled over Jerusalem, governing all the provinces beyond the River, and that tribute, custom and toll were paid to them. 21 So, now issue a decree to make these men stop work, that this city may not be rebuilt until a decree is issued by me. 22 Beware of being negligent in carrying out this matter; why should damage increase to the detriment of the kings?”

23 Then as soon as the copy of King Artaxerxes’ document was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their colleagues, they went in haste to Jerusalem to the Jews and stopped them by force of arms.

24 Then work on the house of God in Jerusalem ceased, and it was stopped until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

This seems a sad story, and no doubt it was a sobering blow to those who had returned to their homeland and were seeking to regain a sense of normalcy. They had been working so hard on the temple, no doubt also rebuilding their homes, and their livelihoods. The foundation was complete, and despite all the opposition, they were making progress. Then it all stopped. In an instant, a letter from the king put up a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

But the ending is a reminder that God’s timing is not our own. Nothing happens that he does not know about it, and we don’t know why God allowed the work to stop for a time. However, His plan was not thwarted, and we looking back have the benefit of knowing that the work would continue.

We don’t have that in our own lives, and there are times when it seems we are at an impasse. We’ve worked so hard, and made so much progress. But the work is not complete, and now there is no end in sight because something hard and terrible sits in our path. We cannot see a way around it, and we might be tempted to despair.

But God is not despairing, and He is not dismayed. Though we cannot see it, He knows where we are going. We can, in all times, and all circumstances, rely on God’s wisdom and strength to guide us. He will not leave us, no matter how difficult the way might be. No, He will not abandon his own, He would rather carry us, to show us his might and power, than let us have the easy road, the unobstructed path. When life gets in your way, draw near to him, look for His way, and keep hope alive. For your hope is not in this life, not in anything you can do, but in Christ alone.

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