I found myself reading in the book of Ezra the other day, and was super challenged and inspired by what I read there, so I thought I’d take a few moments to share it with you guys.
I’d love to give you loads of background on the history and specifics of the book of Ezra and the chapters proceeding in the book of 2nd Chronicles, but I actually tried to write this blog yesterday and as soon as I sat down to do some research, my one year old needed a snack followed by my seven year old needing a snack. One thing led to another and I never got back to my writing. Even as I’m writing, I have my littlest one climbing on me and I’ve gotten up for grapes twice now. Seriously, wouldn’t have it any other way, but in an effort to just get this thought out there, you’re going to get the very basic version. (Side note: in your own time, you could totally read the description of the book of Ezra or the book itself, and you’ll be completely filled in on what I’m gonna talk about.)
When we jump into the book of Ezra, we find that the Israelites have just returned to Jerusalem, the land God has promised them, after seventy years of exile in Babylon. The former temple that had been built for the Lord by King Solomon has fallen into rubble and it is now time for the Israelites to rebuild, not just a temple, but also “the spiritual condition of the people,” as my Bible states. So, here what happens…
“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing saying, ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem.’ ” -Ezra 1:1-3
So, now we see that the people of God have returned and not only do they have permission of the king of Persia, but his support as well, and so after supplies are collected and everyone knows their jobs, they begin to build. What stuck out to me when I was reading through this was how quickly resistance shows up after they begin. In chapter 4:4-5 we read:
“Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.” (emphasis mine)
Well now, the building has begun, quickly resistance shows up, and if you read further you’ll find that opposition comes and building stops altogether. In fact, by the time King Darius comes to reign, gives permission for building to continue and the temple is indeed finished, it extends over a twenty year period. Let me say that again… from the time the Israelites began to build the temple to the time they finished was twenty years!
“Now the temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. Then the children of Israel, the priests and the Levites and the rest of the descendants of the captivity, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.” -Ezra 6:15-16
I’ve pretty much now walked you through what I read the other day, and so here are the thoughts that I had on this:
1. God will stir your spirit when there is something he wants you to do. From something as simple as needing to work on having more patience (ok, maybe that’s not so little) to developing a specific gift or calling God has placed inside of you, the Lord will stir your heart towards that thing just like he stirred King Cyrus’ spirit.
2. God will clear the way for that specific thing to happen. God used the specific man he needed, a king, to not only give permission to the people of Israel to rebuild the temple, but also to give the provisions needed to do so. In my own personal experience, I have found that if God stirrs my heart to pray for something specific, like more patience in my life, He then provides lots of opportunities throughout my day to practice that very thing. The catch, though, is that God may have provided the Israelites with the tools they need to build the temple, but it was up to them to build it! And so….
3. We have to do the building. It’s up to me to practice patience when things don’t go as planned throughout my day, instead of resorting back to old old habits of getting all worked up over it. It’s up to me to make time to develop the gifts God has given me. If I feel God has called me to a specific vocation, and He has set up the tools to do so (school, job, etc.), it’s still up to me to put in the work. I have to be willing to sacrifice years of schooling or experience to reach the goal of that job. When the Lord stirs my heart to do something and has provided all that’s needed to do it, I must follow up by doing the hard building.
4. Resistance and delays will come. The people of Israel very quickly learned that they were going to have opposition to the building of the temple, but I’m sure they never imagined it would take a total of twenty years because of it. Resistance comes in all forms and at times can even produce long delays. Maybe you’ve finally opened up to a friend about how you feel God has led you to start a photography business, but that friend quickly squashes your excitement by belittling your dream, and now you hit the pause button, second guessing yourself and feeling unsure if you should move forward in this pursuit. You’re delayed. Sometimes people just nonchalantly blurt something out, and other times, like with the Israelites, they come purposefully to create resistance. People won’t always like what God is doing in you and through you, so it’s important for us to remember whose voice is the most important to listen to, and that’s Gods! I have to remind myself to allow what God speaks over my life to be louder than what anyone else says about me or my life.
5. Keep building. There certainly are far more forms of resistance and delay than what I covered, but when resistance and delays do come it’s important to remember to keep building. When the Israelites had people show up specifically to discourage them from building, they continued to build. Even after their long delay from building, they picked back up and started to build yet again. We’ve never been promised that this process of life and the building of our dreams and character would be easy, and so if we were to give up at the very first sign of opposition, we wouldn’t get very far would we? It takes hard work, sacrifice and time to build on any facet of our lives. God stirs our hearts to begin the work, provides the opportunity and tools necessary to complete the work, but then we build. And we keep building, and keep building until we start to see the fruit of our labor. When at last the Israelites had completed the Temple of the Lord, they…
6. Celebrate with joy. Why follow Gods stirring? Why push through the resistance? Why put in the hard work? It leads to joy. When our spirit follows what God is doing, it will always lead to joy. Working on my character, like patience, will lead to joy. Stepping into Gods calling on my life leads to joy. Whenever we are in Gods will, whenever we are working on the things He has shown us to build, it will always lead to joy. Not just a simple happy feeling, but a true, genuine joy that only comes from bringing glory to God! After all, wasn’t that the goal of the Temple in Jerusalem? A place to bring worship and glory to God? Yes! And in the same way, all that I build, I pray will be used to bring glory to God.
So, keep building, my friend. Keep building.