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THE TEMPLE REBUILDING
[Ezra:4:1-24]; [Ezra:5:1-17]; [Ezra:6:1-22].
“Be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you” (Haggai 2:4).
When the Children of Israel were taken captives into Babylon, the cities and the land of Israel were left almost without people. The king of Assyria then brought people from other lands and cities to occupy the land of Samaria, which was the capital of Israel after the division of Israel and Judah. These people were known as Samaritans.
The king thought that God would be pleased if the Samaritans worshiped the Lord God of the Jews. A Jewish priest was brought to Samaria to teach the people “how they should fear the LORD” [2 Kings:17:28]). So the Samaritans feared the Lord but they served idols. When they had moved to Samaria they had “made gods of their own” and worshiped as they had always done in their heathen countries. The Samaritans and the Jewish people were usually not friendly with each other.
When the Jews returned to Jerusalem, they feared the people who were living in Judah. The Samaritans saw that the Jews were beginning to rebuild the Temple. The foundation was laid and the Jews rejoiced in the work that the Lord had helped them to do, but there were some Samaritans who acted as enemies to the Jews. They did not want the temple worship restored and they planned to hinder that work.
At first they offered to “help,” but their intentions were not good. The Samaritans said, “We seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him.” The words might have sounded good but the people actually did not do what they said -- sacrifice to God in true worship. Their offer was refused. The leaders of the Jewish people knew that God wanted His people “separated . . . from all the people that are upon the face of the earth” [Exodus:33:16]). Zerubbabel and Jeshua said, “Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God.” The Samaritans had no right or claim to the privilege of rebuilding the Temple.
Some of the Samaritans had no real friendship for the Jewish people, as their actions proved. When they were denied the privilege of helping, they did what they could to hinder the building. They weakened the Jews, perhaps by fear; they troubled them, perhaps by hindering them from getting needed materials. Finally the Samaritans hired advisers to write a letter to the king. They sent a false report that the Jews were building a “rebellious” and a “bad” city when really the Jews were just building the Temple. They reported to the king that the Jews would not pay taxes any more and would cause the whole country to rebel against the king. The Samaritans tried to make it appear that the report was for the king’s good and for his honour.
The king believed the false report. He read how in times past the Jewish people had rebelled against foreign rule. And there had been a time when Solomon, king of Judah and Israel, had reigned over the land, and the heathen people paid taxes to him. It had been God’s plan and promise that the Jews should rule the Holy Land, but because of disobedience, that was changed, for the time being; and the Jews were ruled by others instead of ruling the heathen.
The king gave orders to stop the work of the Jews. The Samaritans “made them to cease by force and power.” For a while the Jews stopped building. God’s people today have an adversary, an enemy, who is Satan. Sometimes he takes the form of a person or thing. When Eve was tempted in the Garden of Eden, he came as a serpent [Genesis:3:1]). Read in [Revelation:12:9] where “that old serpent” is identified as Satan. He may appear as “an angel of light” [2 Corinthians:11:14]). In [John:8:44] Satan is referred to as a “liar” and the father of lies. Satan is an “accuser of’ our brethren” [Revelation:12:10]). He tries in many ways to overcome God’s people because he is their enemy. He often uses other people to hinder the Lord’s work, as he did with the Samaritans.
We are told to “resist the devil, and he will flee . . .” [James:4:7]). God has a protection for His people. He tells us: “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” [Ephesians:6:11]). If we are watchful and prayerful, the enemy will not be able to hinder the Lord’s work to a great extent. As we trust God and do our part, Satan will be overcome.
The eyes of the Lord were upon His people and their work. He used the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to encourage the people to start building again. They urged and inspired them with the words of the Lord. Haggai said, “Be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts” [Haggai:2:4]). So the leaders, Zerubbabel and Jeshua, began the building again.
God has many wonderful promises in the Bible. He sends encouragement to His people by His ministers, His singers, and His Word. There is an example for us in the Bible: “David was greatly distressed; . . . but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God” [1 Samuel:30:6]).
Another letter was written to the king, explaining that the Jews were rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem at the decree of Cyrus. They suggested that the king search the records to find if their word was true. This was done, and in the “house of the rolls” (like a library) was found the record of Cyrus’s decree: “Let the house be builded” and “let the expenses be given out of the king’s house.” So the people of Samaria received this answer: “Let the work of this house of God alone.” Moreover, whatever the Jews needed as supplies or offerings was to be given to them from the king’s goods.
Though the work of the enemy halted the building for a while, their interference was soon brought to nothing by the Lord. The Jews received encouragement as well as materials, and the “house was finished.” How good when this work of the Lord was finished! It will be wonderful, too, when we have finished our work for the Lord.
There are examples in the Bible of others who finished their work for the Lord. Jesus said to His Father, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do” [John:17:4]). Near the end of Paul’s life, he said, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” [2 Timothy:4:7]). If we trust God and obey Him we can successfully finish our work here. No one need fail with God’s help.
At last came the time of the dedication. What rejoicing there must have been! Everyone and everything were in place. All was done according to the Law. Many animals were slain as sacrifices to God, although not so many as when Solomon dedicated the first Temple. God accepted them as He does consecrations today. A sin offering was made, too: twelve he goats, one for each tribe. So the Temple worship was begun.
Then the people were able to keep the feasts that God had commanded. As they were not allowed to offer sacrifices anywhere but in the Temple, they had not been able to make their sacrifices through all the years they were in captivity. The last record of the Children of Israel’s keeping the Passover had been during the reign of Josiah [2 Chronicles:35:1]), perhaps one hundred years before. How happy they were to be able to obey God and to worship Him according to His plan. “The LORD had made them joyful," just as today when one obeys the Lord and His example. He has promised, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” [John:13:17]).
1. Who were the Samaritans?
2. Why were they not permitted to help build the Temple?
3. Instead of helping to build, what did the people of the land do?
4. Why was a letter written to the king?
5. Why did the Children of Israel stop working on the Temple?
6. Name two prophets of God who lived at this time.
7. How did King Darius help in building the Temple?
8. Why did the Children of Israel keep the Feast of Passover?