Worse Before Better

Yesterday was like working the “swing shift.” I started with meetings at city hall at 3 p.m. and returned home at 10:30 p.m. Yesterday afternoon I received a text message from Kathy Underhill, who I had worked with on hunger issues at the capitol. She said, “it was four years ago today that I received the news you were in intensive care.”  She expressed thanks to God for the answers to prayer for my recovery and progress. It is good to be reminded of the Lord’s faithfulness. I can recall during my health crisis when things “got worse before they got better.”

BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY…. Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.”  Ezra 4:4,5 ESV

The Children of Israel faced 70 years of captivity in Babylon. After they return to Jerusalem to begin the work of rebuilding the Temple through the Lord moving on the heart of Cyrus king of Persia. It would be nice if the story just continued to a “trouble-free” conclusion and reoccupying of the city of Jerusalem; but that was not the case.

The Assyrians had relocated captives to Israel, who occupied the cities during the time God’s people were in captivity. We read about this in 2 Kings 17,  And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon….and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel….” (2 Kings 17:24 ESV)

It was these people who came to Zerubbabel and said, “…Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” (Ezra 4:2 ESV) When the Jewish leaders refused the offer of their help, the “people of the land” did all they could to discourage the rebuilding of the Temple.

When a new king came into power, they used it as an opportunity to accuse the Jews to the new king and the result was the rebuilding of the Temple was ordered stopped until a new king Darius the Mede came to power and the prophets Haggai and Zachariah called the people to begin to build the Temple once again.

Those who opposed the Jews asked them who they were and why they were rebuilding the Temple, they only identified themselves in this way, ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth…. They told the story of the Lord judging them through captivity in Babylon and then how Cyrus gave the decree to rebuild the Temple.

When the royal records were searched Darius found this to be true and commanded “Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the province Beyond the River….and your associates the governors who are in the province….keep away. Let the work on this house of God alone. Let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this house of God on its site.” (Ezra 6:6,7 ESV)

The work was not only restarted, it was facilitated and financed by the order of the King and Temple was completed. “And the people of Israel, the priests and the Levites, and the rest of the returned exiles, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.” (Ezra 6:16 ESV)

The opposition was relentless. The delays were long and discouraging. But God worked in spite of of all the attacks and setbacks to provide for His people. We don’t always understand what the Lord allows, but we know that He will bring to pass that which He has promised and the good purposes of our lives.

“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

Prayer for today…. Lord let us not become discouraged by opposition and setbacks. Enable us to know that You will work in Your time and in Your way for our good.