The ‘poison pen letter’ had its intended effect. The king has issued a stop work order for the Temple being rebuilt in Jerusalem.
Work had been proceeding on rebuilding the Temple, despite the neighbor’s interference, from the second year of the return from captivity. It was a slow process especially since the neighbors were doing everything they could to stop it. But the Jews wouldn’t quit. They kept going no matter what was thrown at them.
The neighbors had had enough! They appealed to the king to stop them. And they used language that grabbed the king’s attention. Surprise, surprise. It worked. The king looked at the history of the city of Jerusalem and saw that it was indeed a hard to conquer city. Many kings that had come up against it had been repelled. And when Israel finally conquered it they held strong against some of their attackers.
Jerusalem was an important piece of real estate to hold in the region. It was the capitol of Judah and previously all of Israel. The king of Persia didn’t want to risk losing the territory or its contributions to his kingdom. Of course he was going to put a stop to this resettlement program.
The king of Persia didn’t personally commit any troops or manpower to the stop work order but he put his stamp of approval on it. The different factions living in Samaria were more than happy to put their muscle behind the king’s command. “Then, when a copy of King Artaxerses’ letter was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their associates, they went in haste to the Jews at Jerusalem and by force and power made them cease” (verse 23).
I wonder what kind of force they used. It was more than just showing them the letter from the king. They physically MADE the people stop working. What surprises me is that the Jews didn’t appeal to the king under the authority that was given to them by Cyrus. They probably didn’t have the numbers to fight back in the natural but why didn’t they appeal to God? Was this too a part of His plan?
Another question I have is how close they were to being done. Were they a long way away, with the speed they had been working or were they nearly there? Were they able to use it in its current state while the work was stopped?
I believe Judah remained faithful to the Lord during this period. We are not told that they ever stopped observing the sacrifices that the Lord commanded in His Law. Did they have a temporary structure in the meantime? What did they do during the ‘down time’ to honor God?
The church is more than a building. It is the people who make up the congregation. Because of Jesus’ work on the cross the Spirit of the Lord now lives within each of us. We don’t have to have a specific building where we meet with the Lord. He is with us always. There is strength though in numbers and support for one another when we meet together as His body. I dearly miss having that connection in my life but my husband’s health limits us. I am not alone though as He has placed other resources for me in places where I can access them. I can easily identify with the people who were forced to stop building the Temple and simply wait on the Lord for His next move.
Father God, thank You for meeting me where I am. Thank You that You don’t withhold Your Spirit from me because I can’t go to a prescribed place of worship. I don’t know what You have for me next. While I wait, continue to pour into my life through our time together in Your word. Send me to places on line where YOU are praised and YOUR teachings are what shine through. Fill my spirit to the brim with Your love and presence.
Thank You for the improvements I have seen in my husband’s overall health. I don’t know if there will be a time when he can tolerate travel and attendance time. But if there is, please direct us to the body of believers You have prepared for us to join with. Don’t let us flounder around searching and help us agree on the fit.