In Ezra 5 – our reading for today – the people of Israel got back on track. They had become discouraged and fearful in rebuilding the temple, and for about 15 years, the work stopped. A new king came to power in Persia – Darius. He reigned from 521 to 486 BC.
As you read the chapter, you’ll notice a couple of things. First, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah played an important role in the people getting back to work on the temple. If you get a chance, read the books of Haggai and Zechariah to see exactly what they said. It’s fascinating stuff. (As always, read the Bible as a Christian. Look for Christ as you read.)
Second, when the people got back to work, they were questioned by the local Persian officials. The officials apparently were unaware King Cyrus had given the OK for the rebuilding of the temple, and they wanted to verify that a building project like this – with all its attendant religious and political ramifications – was on the up and up. So they sent a letter to King Darius to get his thoughts on the matter.
I thought it was interesting how the Persian officials – Tattenai and Shethar-bozenai – asked the builders of the temple for their names. And the Israelites replied, “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth …”
That stuck with me. The people of Israel had grown lax in their commitment to God for about 15 years. They came back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. And then the work stopped. For whatever reason – discouragement, fear, frustration – they quit.
And then the prophets spoke up. They spurred the people back into action, to recommit to the task at hand, to attend to the things of God. Remember from Ezra 1, it was the God who got the ball rolling on this project to begin with – stirring up the spirit of Cyrus and stirring up the people of Israel who were in exile. God was the initiator.
And the prophets got the people moving again – “in the name of the God of Israel who was over them.” God again served the role of initiator. And the people remembered who they were – “the servants of the God of heaven and earth.” And I assume they remembered they were supposed to be doing the work of God in the world. They were supposed to be about his business rather than their own. They were supposed to put his work in the world first.
This resonated with me. Sometimes, I need to be reminded about who I am as a Christian – “a servant of the God of heaven and earth.” I don’t need a name. I belong to God. His name is the only one that matters. And I need to get up and do what he would have me to do. I need to get up and look around and see where he would have me act in his kingdom today.
God may be waiting for me to wake up to his purposes and to be faithful in serving him. And his Holy Spirit will remind me. And his written Word – the Bible – will speak to me about it. And I just need to listen, and then act. I need to remember that I am God’s servant before I am anything else, and a servant should be busy working for his master.
Maybe this is a good reminder for you, too. What would God have his servants do today? What are the things of God to which we should be attending?