Ezra 4-6, Haggai 1, Jeremiah 29:10-12.
God does not renege on His promises. Anything that flows from His mouth will not return without succeeding the purpose for which it was sent. His word is binding. Nothing can break it. He's a promise keeping God that wants us to experience the boomerang effect that His word brings. His word goes out like Holy-fertilizer to improve the environment it encounters. It prospers everywhere it goes, and returns to Him completed.
Recently, I read about a God-promise given to a prophet named Jeremiah. His promise was for the exiles that were being held captive in Babylon. They had sinned against God and He used the Babylon king Nebuchadnezzar to punish them and destroyed the Kingdom of Judah.
The promise went like this, "When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for prosperity and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you." (Jeremiah 29:10-12.)
And so, it happened in Ezra 1, that after 70 years of captivity in Babylon (605BC to 536BC) God stirred the heart of the new King Cyrus of Persia who had subsequently conquered Babylon. Cyrus, wrote a decree that the exiles may return to Jerusalem. The instructions were simple. Return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple of God.
It was a travelers dream trip. They didn't have to worry about purchasing the rebuilding supplies or paying for the travel costs. Their promise keeping God gave them an all-inclusive one-way ticket home paid for by the king and the people living near them during captivity. Supplied with gold, silver, equipment, cattle, and other valuables they high stepped it home on a first-class ticket to Jerusalem.
But in Ezra 4, we are introduced to a second Jewish people group. Some bible versions refer to them as adversaries, while others call them enemies of Judah and Benjamin. They were the people and off-springs of the Jews that Nebuchadnezzar had left behind to care for the land.
As it turns out, the adversaries did not practice community inclusion after the exiles had returned home. Some of these adversaries partially practiced the Jewish customs anymore, while others not at all. Through cross-references, I discovered that some intermingled with non-Jewish people and mixed their race with their neighbors.
The adversaries were now in the minority. So out of fear, the adversaries hatched a plan to delay and stop the rebuilding project. They beat down the morale of the people that had been exiled by harassing them and using the legal system against them. They hired counselors and others to confuse the stop work efforts for 14 years (534BC-520BC).
This went on until "the prophets, Haggai the prophet and Zechariah prophesied to the Jews in the name of the God of Israel, and the people rose up and began to rebuild the house of God." (Ezra 5:1-2.) What a great example of God's grace. It was a second-chance moment.
In order to understand how they got another chance to complete the Temple, you must read Haggai. To expose the truth, let's read the conversation between God and Haggai that is recorded in Haggai 1:2-6.
The Lord asked Haggai, "Why is everyone saying it is not the right time for rebuilding my Temple?" asks the Lord. His reply is this: "Is it then the right time for you to live in luxurious homes, when the Temple lies in ruins? Look at the result: You plant much but harvest little. You have scarcely enough to eat or drink and not enough clothes to keep you warm. Your income disappears, as though you were putting it into pockets filled with holes!"
Instead of rebuilding the Temple, a place of communion with God, they selfishly restored their own houses.
Can't you hear their self-serving excuses. "Before we can start rebuilding, we need to settle into our own house. We need water to cook with, so let's repair the water system next. Winter is coming, we need a fireplace to stay warm."
Fed-up and as a way of getting their attention, God decides to withhold His blessings. Haggai tells us that God was against them. He withheld blessings from the land.
It can be hard to understand sometimes, but a warfare exists between man and Satan. Satan wants to dilute our loyalty to God by distracting us with compromise and procrastination. He doesn't care if God made you a promise. He only cares about making sure you don't receive the promise.
Satan will wait and wait until God's absent-minded child is in a jam or just plain selfish. That's when he will determine if you will remember the faithfulness of God or will you flee to your own understanding. The latter option involves Satan using anyone or anything to prevent you from completing your task.
But do not listen to him! Keep working hard for the things of God. Make it a priority. Don't delay or put it off. If troublemakers come, close your ears to their lies. Remember that the Spirit of God has residence in your heart. Listen to Him. He can help you.
Finally, and with equal importance, ask God to stir up your spirit so that building the kingdom of God is your number one priority. You will see, when you have His back, He will surely have yours.
Consider this. Can disobedience or compromise or procrastination bring a drought in areas of your life? I am not implying that every area of lack means God is withholding blessings to the point of causing a drought, but Haggai invites us to take serious consideration of our lives.
Ask yourself this, does God take first priority in my life?
Brenette Wilder, formerly of Altheimer, Ark., is a blogger at wordstoinspire105953116.wordpress.com and author of Netted Together, https://nettedtogether.org.
Editor's note: Pastors, ministers or other writers interested in writing for this section may submit articles for consideration to [email protected] or [email protected] Please include your phone number and the name and location of your church or ministry. Writers should have a connection to Southeast Arkansas.