The Temple Is Completed
JULY 18 - Nº 199 Ezra 5 – 6; Haggai 1
The Jewish settlers who had moved back to Jerusalem were struggling. Not only were they threatened by the local residents—they were experiencing a drought. Haggai informed them that God had stopped blessing them because they were more concerned with building their own homes than in rebuilding the Temple. Haggai gave them this message from God: “You plant a large amount of grain, yet you harvest very little. You eat but never have enough food. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but can’t get warm. You earn money then put it in bags that seem to have holes. That’s because your disobedience has forced Me to stop blessing you. It is time for you to reconsider what you are doing!” The people realized they were wrong. They knew they needed to resume work on God’s Temple. But they had a problem. Instead of using the cedar King Cyrus had provided to rebuild the Temple, they had used it to panel their own homes. There wasn’t enough left to finish the Temple. Haggai told them to go into the mountains and cut their own timber. Even though it wouldn’t be as special as the cedar the king had provided, God would be pleased with their effort. So they went back to work. As soon as the work resumed, so did the harassment from the Samaritans who lived near Jerusalem. Tattenai, the Persian governor of the area, demanded to know who had given the Jews permission to rebuild the Temple. The Jewish leaders told him about the decree that King Cyrus had issued and how he had helped them gather supplies. Tattenai sent a letter to King Darius I, the new Persian king. (This was not the same Darius who had ruled prior to King Cyrus–see #198 - Zerubbabel Returns to Rebuild the Temple) Tattenai wanted to know if the Jewish people were telling the truth. King Darius I ordered his servants to search the archives in Babylon to see if such a decree existed. Sure enough, they found it! So, Darius issued another decree ordering Tattenai and his officials not to interfere with the Jews any more. As a matter of fact, Darius ordered Tattenai to pay the builders’ expenses out of his own treasury! Plus he had to supply all the animals the priests needed for their sacrifices! The new decree declared that those who defied this edict would be killed and their homes would be destroyed. Tattenai obeyed the new proclamation, and the elders of the Jews were able to continue building. They worked enthusiastically and Haggai continued to encourage and help them. God blessed them and sent rain for their crops. Seventy years after it had been destroyed, the Temple was completed! Although it was not as large or spectacular as Solomon’s Temple, God was pleased. The Jewish settlers held a big celebration to dedicate the Temple. They invited everyone who wanted to follow God to come. They offered sacrifices and installed the priests and Levites. Then they celebrated the Passover together for seven days.
Haggai verbally challenged the people to obey God’s command to rebuild the Temple. In addition to speaking the truth, he offered personal help and encouragement. Without Haggai’s words and his actions, the Temple may never have been completed. When we share God’s truth with others, we must be willing to be involved with them as they respond.