Ezra 4:23-24 “…they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power. 24 Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.”
When the captives from Judah were allowed to return home and rebuild the temple after some seventy years in exile, they were quickly met with discouragement and opposition. The first chapter of Ezra tells us that God had moved the heart of king Cyrus to allow those who wanted to go, to return home and take the valuable furnishings that Nebuchadnezzar had taken. In just a few chapters of the prophet’s account, we find how these Jews were approached by their adversaries who claimed they wanted to help rebuild the city. The Jews were wise in refusing their assistance and stated that they would continue as they were commanded by king Cyrus.
As they were met with opposition by the folks who claimed to be followers of the same God, things took a turn for the worse when a letter was sent to king Darius to stop them. One can imagine that this would be a period of great discouragement. Here they are, finally returned to their homeland, the temple is being rebuilt, then here come more enemies, lies, confusion, and a new decree that they have to stop!
Oftentimes when we find ourselves in these difficult situations, our instinct is to flee from the problem in hope of experiencing peace. We must understand that a change of location doesn’t remove our enemies, it only changes where the battle takes place. If the Jews would have relocated to escape frustration, they would have only been surrendering to defeat. There was no choice but to stay and be patient so they could resume rebuilding as they waited for God to fight this battle.
Ezra 5:1-2 tell us, “Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them. 2 Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.”
Be encouraged today that just as God sent them prophets to encourage and assist, He will also put help in your path to strengthen you and enable you to keep up the good fight. Frustration and discouragement can make us want to surrender or even retaliate with evil, so we must be wise to the enemy’s tactics. There’s really no escape when it comes to an opposing force, we just have to meet it and battle accordingly in obedience to God’s plan. Don’t surrender in defeat regarding relationships, health issues, financial difficulties, or your faith in God — stay the course, claim the promises His Word has given you.
I pray, “Father, help those who are on the verge of giving up. Strengthen them and let them feel encouraged in these days of uncertainty, frustration, political divide, and unrest. Use me to help others who are struggling, and help me to stay in Your will and always have a kind and forgiving attitude that I may share Christ with others. In Jesus’ name I ask, amen.”
Rev. Cathleen N. Cathcart is pastor of New Life Worship Center in Spartanburg.