“. . .And I was strengthened as the Hand of the Lord my God was upon me. . .”

Ezra 7:28b

Do not be dismayed when you face opposition and obstacles beset you in your service of the Lord; instead, expect them and overcome them through His strength by resting/ trusting in His faithfulness.

Why are we shocked or saddened when others are not excited about what the Lord’s doing?  Even a casual reading of God’s Word will show how quickly and violently the forces of darkness will rise up to oppose anything that’s done in God’s Name and for the furtherance of His Kingdom.

After 70 years of captivity in Babylon, the Persians overthrew the Babylonians and Cyrus allowed the Jews to return home in 538 B.C.  Two years later rebuilding of the Temple, which had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C., began, only to be halted in 534 B.C.  However, work resumed in 520 B.C. and the Temple was completed in 515 B.C.

Only 49,897 out of some 2 or 3 million returned to Jerusalem when Cyrus issued his decree.  Why was that?  Simply because only the most committed unto the Lord were willing to leave the creature-comforts they’d come to enjoy in Babylon, endure a difficult journey of 900 miles and face further hardship by helping rebuild the Temple and city.

Thus, it’s clear Ezra, a priest whose name means “The Lord helps,” had his work cut out for him as he returned home some 58 years after Zerubbabel led the first group home.  While Nehemiah’s primary mission was to help rebuild the city walls, Ezra’s calling was to spiritual, moral and social restoration among the returned remnant in Jerusalem.  Their worship had to be revitalized and the people’s lives purified through personal and corporate repentance.

But, we should not be surprised that rebuilding walls and lives takes time, much patience and God’s help.  When Judah’s enemies heard reconstruction of the Temple had started, they immediately began opposing it—first by deceitful subterfuge (4:1-5) and then an extensive letter-writing campaign (4:6-8).  And, in that letter they maligned the Jews’ motives and intent, telling King Artaxerxes that they were deceitful and subversive (vv.11-16).  Sadly, the king listened to them and stopped the construction for 14 years.

Thankfully, God used the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah, coupled with the courage of Zerubbabel and others, to convince Darius, the new king, to allow work to begin again (5:1-6:17).  Later, when Ezra and 2,000 other faithful souls finally returned home, he found revival of lives was as difficult as reconstruction of walls.

But, because he knew God had called him to preach to his fellow countrymen and weep over their sins, he was “strengthened (Heb. ‘chazaq’—‘to fasten upon, seize, repair, conquer, etc.’) by the Hand of the Lord.”  Oh, dear Pilgrim, just as we trust the sure hand of an airline pilot to guide us through turbulent skies and the firm grip of a ship’s captain on the wheel to steer us through troubled seas, so can we rest assured of God’s Faithful Presence, Promises and Power when difficulties come our way.  Stay focused and faithful—trusting only and resting always.

By Tom Smith Morning Manna Dated August 27, 2009

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