Darius the Mede (also known in history as Cyaxares II) was the ruler when the Medes and Persians first conquered Babylon (see #196 - July 15). However, he shared power with a Persian king named Cyrus. Historical accounts are not completely clear, but it seems that Darius the Mede ruled for two years before he died of natural causes. At that time Cyrus became the sole ruler of the entire Medo-Persian Empire. Amazingly, one hundred and fifty years before King Cyrus was born, Isaiah prophesied by name that he would be the king who would allow the Jews to return to their homeland! Sure enough, one of the first proclamations Cyrus issued as sole ruler gave the refugees permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their Temple (see #197 - July 16). He even returned the Temple articles that Nebuchadnezzar had stolen and donated money to buy all the cedar they needed to panel the inside of the Temple. He ordered the people who couldn’t make the journey, to provide the returning pilgrims with silver and gold and livestock. The travelers were led by Zerubbabel (a direct descendant of King David) as well as a priest named Joshua. When they arrived in Judah, they settled into their towns. Then they gathered in Jerusalem to begin rebuilding the Temple. They immediately rebuilt the altar of God. They celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles and began to offer the daily sacrifices that God had commanded. With the king’s money, they hired masons and carpenters and ordered cedar logs from Lebanon. Then they laid the foundation for the Temple itself. When they had accomplished this, they held another celebration. The Levites sang and played musical instruments as they had done when David was the king. There were great shouts of joy and praise! But there was also great sorrow. Many of the older priests and Levites, who had seen the former Temple, wept out loud when they saw the size of the new foundation. It seemed insignificant compared to the Temple Solomon had built! The Samaritans, who had moved into the land when the people from Israel and Judah had been deported (see #172 - June 21), were not happy that the old residents had returned. They approached Zerubbabel and shrewdly offered to help. They were really looking for a way to sabotage the project. Zerubbabel did not fall for it. So, they continually found new ways to frustrate the builders. They lied and bribed officials to halt construction. Eventually they were successful. The Jews became discouraged, and building stopped for almost 15 years! Meanwhile, the people began to work on their own homes. They used much of the cedar that Cyrus had bought for the Temple to panel their houses. God was not happy with this. He sent two prophets, named Haggai and Zechariah, to scold them and inspire them to get back to work on God’s house. Haggai told them not to mourn about the externals of the Temple. He prophesied that one day this Temple would be filled with even more glory than Solomon’s Temple! Zechariah declared that although other invasions would destroy much of the land, this Temple would be preserved for the Messiah. And it was! This was the Temple Jesus worshiped in!
When we become discouraged, we are either ignoring God’s presence or underestimating His power. His plans may be different from ours, but they are bigger and better than we can imagine—and He is responsible for the results! Our job is to remain diligent!