Rebuilding the Temple
God¬’s people were happy to be in their homeland, in spite of the
long journey and their letdown at Jerusalem¬’s pitiful condition. Last week we
talked about their celebration when the temple¬’s foundation was laid. However,
as they began to complete it, there were problems. Samaritans and other people
had drifted into Judah through the years and made their homes - - these
squatters didn¬’t like the idea of the Jews coming home to take back their land.
You remember the mixed people of Samaritans resulted when Assyria captured the
Northern Kingdom and brought in prisoners from other places. Those left from the
ten tribes had married these foreigners, ignoring God¬’s commandments. As time
went by they practiced worship to the true God with worship to idols.
When the people of the land saw the Jews rebuilding the temple, they offered to
help, saying, ¬“Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do.¬” They
claimed they had worshipped the Lord ever since they had been brought there by
But Zerubbabel knew they were lying and refused. ¬“We alone will build to the
Lord God of Israel, as¬… the king of Persia has commanded us,¬” he said. Instead
of serving the Lord as the only true God, he knew they mixed their worship with
This made the Samaritans and other people of the land so angry that they tried
to stop their work. They even wrote letters to the rulers after Cyrus, accusing
the Jews of going against the king. One of the letters read, ¬“Let it be known to
the king that the Jews who came up from you have come to us at Jerusalem, and
are building the rebellious and evil city, and are finishing its walls and
repairing the foundations.¬” At their suggestion the Persian king checked the old
records and found parts of the letter were true - - the Babylonians had captured
Jerusalem because of their rebellion.
So the king wrote back, ¬“Now give the command to make these men cease, that this
city may not be built until the command is given by me¬… Why should damage
increase to the hurt of the kings?¬” This delighted the evildoers. They took
their weapons and rushed to Jerusalem to halt the construction.
For several years, the house of the Lord stood unfinished. Now the people took
time to build houses for themselves to improve their fields and flocks. But no
matter how hard they worked, their harvest were poor and their animals did not
God was displeased when they stopped work on the temple. He used the prophets
Haggai and Zechariah to stir them up. Through Haggai He told them why they were
having a bad time, saying, ¬“This people says, ¬‘The time has not come that the
Lord¬’s house should be built¬…¬’ Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your
paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins? My house...is in ruins, while
every one of you runs to his own house. Therefore the heavens above you
withholds the dew, and the earth withholds its fruit.¬” Zecharaiah, too, urged
them to finish God¬’s house, declaring, ¬“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the
foundation of this temple; his hands shall also finish it. Then you will know
that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you.¬”
The words of Haggai and Zechariah touched everyone¬’s heart deeply. Immediately
they got back to work. Their enemies came back to stop them and wrote new
letters full of lies - - but this time their tricks didn¬’t work.
The new king Darius searched the records and found Cyrus¬’s decree commanding the
Jews to rebuild the temple of their God. So instead of making the Jews stop
work, Darius ordered the governor to give them money from their taxes, along
with bulls, rams and sheep for burnt offerings and wheat, salt, wine and oil for
the priests. As for the troublemakers themselves, Darius commanded them, ¬“Keep
yourselves far from there!¬”
Imagine everyone¬’s joy when the temple was finished at last! Together they
celebrated the first Feast of the Passover in God¬’s new house!
Talking it Over:
1. In Ezra 4:20, the people of the land tried to turn the king against the Jews
by talking about money. What did they say? Ask an adult about the saying, ¬“Money
talks.¬” How is that true here?
2. Is it possible today for us to spend most of our money on nice houses and
clothes and not give for preaching the gospel and other parts of God¬’s work?
What about people that are too busy with jobs and pleasure to serve Him?
3. Think of examples of God¬’s using ¬“small things¬” to carry out His Will.
¬“For who has despised the day of small things?¬” Zech. 4:10
Is it important to have a big, expensive church building for worship today? Why
Text by Betty Belue Haynes, originally published in Bible Talk Times.
Used here with the kind permission of the author. Users are free to reproduce
for use, but not for publication.