The book of Ezra starts with a bang! King Cyrus sends out an international proclamation instructing Jews everywhere to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. He also orders that the returnees be given gifts to assist in the rebuild. It was a thrilling edict, taken up by more than 42,000 exiles. As they returned to Israel, they carried donations amounting to 1,100 lbs [approx. 500 kilos] of gold, and about 3 tons [2.9 tonnes] of silver. As I write, the value of gold is £970.67 per ounce, and that of silver is £12.951 per ounce; it was a veritable fortune! These donations ensured that the Temple would be recreated in all its ancient, magnificent glory.
As Tabernacles approached on the year of return, the people assembled ‘as one man’ [Ezra. 3:1] in Jerusalem and the priests rebuilt the altar so that the required sacrifices for the Feast [Numbers 29: 12-38] could be offered. After the Feast, sacrifices continued to be made regularly and, eventually, to everyone’s immense joy and excitement, work on the foundations began in earnest.
Inevitably, all this activity in Israel stirred up the nation’s enemies, who went to quite extraordinary lengths to discourage the rebuild [Ezra 4:4-5]. Finally, after they had resorted to deception in high places, the new king, Artaxerxes, commanded that the work cease! As I mused on these first four chapters recently, I thought how easy it would have been for Yahweh to snap His fingers and sort out the enemies and the King. I thought about the fantastic return with its astonishing amount of finance and the backing of the ruling monarch; about Yahweh’s invested interest and personal charge to rebuild His Temple; I wondered about His ‘permission’ for Israel’s enemies to win! As I pondered, I offered up the eternal, unanswerable question, “Why?” I concluded that Yahweh expects to be trusted, not understood.
Often the things going on in our world [both personally and globally], don’t make sense. Where do you find yourself today? Are you anxious, grieving, fearful? Try to settle your heart with the knowledge that ‘Yahweh expects to be trusted, not understood’, and know that He makes everything beautiful in His time! [Ecclesiastes 3:11]
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