By Joyell Nevins – CFFM Blogger
When God is for us, who can be against us?
No one, no one, no one!
God told His people through the prophet Isaiah that no weapon formed against them would prosper or succeed. He was speaking to the children of Israel while they were under opposition, but the promise was extended to us today:
“No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me, says the Lord.” Isaiah 54:17 NKJV
But sometimes, God goes a step further. Not only does the enemy’s idea not prosper, it turns out better for the children of the Lord. We can read in Ezra a terrific example of how God flips the enemy’s ploy on its head.
Time to Rebuild the Temple
The time is about 538 B.C. Seventy years of captivity is over. The first of three waves of Jews have traveled back to Jerusalem to claim their land and build a temple for the Lord.
What happened to the original temple? As explained in Led by God’s Power, the Chaldeans of Babylon had come down from the north and destroyed the city of Jerusalem: they stole from the temple, leveled it, and broke down the city walls. They captured the people and dragged them off to Babylon, a region of the Persian Empire, leaving just a remnant behind.
But seven decades later, God did a thing. He stirs up the spirit of Cyrus, the current king of Persia, who not only freed the Israelites to go back and build a house for the Lord, but then required the Persians to give them supplies for the journey AND an offering for the new temple!
All of that happened in the first three chapters of Ezra. In the fourth chapter, opposition strikes and the builders are ordered to cease the work on the temple.
Start the Work Again
But, the story isn’t over. About 14 years later, the leader Zerubbabel, encouraged by prophets Haggai and Zechariah, decides to start building again.
“Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.” Ezra 5:1-2 NIV
The Second Jerusalem Temple. Model in the Israel Museum. Photo by Ariely.
The prophets may have been supporting them, but the local authorities were not. The governor of the region east of Jerusalem and his colleagues berated the workers by asking in whose authority they were working. Who gave them the right to start work again on the temple?
“At that time Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates went to them and asked, “Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and to finish it? They also asked, “What are the names of those who are constructing this building?” Ezra 5:3-4 NIV
But, the Israelites didn’t take the bait. They referenced the original decree from Cyrus, and then, as verse 5 declares, the administrators’ taunting “could not cause them to cease.”
So, Tattenai and his cronies wrote a letter to King Darius, requesting that he search the records (archives) to produce this ‘supposed’ decree from Cyrus. It’s likely that they either thought the Israelites were lying or that the decree had disappeared – from their attitude, it’s highly UNlikely that they were trying to show support for the temple builders!
From Gutter to Glory
Here is where God’s goodness shines through yet again. He takes what the enemy meant for evil and turns it for good.
“But as for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” Genesis 50:20 KJV
“You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good, in order to preserve the lives of many people who are alive today because of what happened.” Genesis 50:20 GW
King Darius does look at the records. He does find the decree from Cyrus. But, he doesn’t just send it back to Tattenai. He takes the decree a few steps further.
“Now then, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and you other officials of the that province, stay away from there. Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God. Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild the house of God on its site.” Ezra 6:6-7 NIV
King Darius essentially says, “Back off!” He’s carrying the attitude God demonstrated through David in Psalms 105:15, “touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm!”
Then, King Darius keeps going: he orders Tattenai and his group to FULLY PAY the builders’ expenses out of their own royal treasury, “so that the work will not stop.” He even lists specific and harsh punishment if anyone disobeys that edict.
After that, there was no stopping the Israelites! Four years later, the work was complete.
“So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built and finished it, according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerses king of Persia…Then the children of Israel, the priests and the Levites, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.” Ezra 6:14-16 NKJV
They finished with joy. Not only did God thwart the enemy, but He helped them obtain the resources they needed to finish the work and finish it well. Now, that’s more than they could ask or imagine!
What about you, Christian Family Fellowship believer? How has God turned the enemy’s plans for harm into good in your life? Share your story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. To read more about the first attempt to build the temple, read Will You Choose Joy or Choose Regret?