Discouraged and at a Standstill

from Lynda Lindsey

When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, the people assembled as one man in Jerusalem. Ezra 3:1

Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord… Ezra 3:3(a)

Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans… Ezra 4:4-5(a)

God moved the heart of Cyrus, Persia’s king, to allow the exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. God moved the hearts of the people, stirring a desire in them to return to their homeland. Even so, many Jews, grown comfortable and rich in exile, resisted starting over.  Materials were collected. Silver and gold, goods and livestock, freewill offerings and valuable gifts were assembled. King Cyrus even returned the solid gold temple furnishings that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem, certainly something no pagan king would have done unless moved by God’s hand! After a long, arduous journey, the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers and temple servants settled in to their own towns; finally they assembled as one man in Jerusalem to begin rebuilding. 

Despite their fear of the people around them who immediately set out to discourage them, the Jews faithfully began the work, first repairing the altar so that sacrifices could be offered. Much joy, as well as great sorrow, resulted as the workers laid the temple’s foundation and the bittersweet realization hit that this temple would never rival Solomon’s for beauty or splendor. Then the opposition began in earnest. The Jew’s enemies used chicanery and deception, lying about their motives, to halt the rebuilding. They set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid, even paying outsiders to offer false counsel to frustrate the Jew’s plans. Ultimately the Jews were forcibly compelled to stop; all the work on the temple came to a standstill. 

The enemy’s tactics haven’t changed. The evil one still uses fear and intimidation to cast doubt, to call into question what God has called good. Satan expertly mixes just enough truth into his stew of lies until we are confused and uncertain. But our God will not be thwarted! The work came to a standstill but was not forever halted. Discouraged? At a standstill? Be strong and courageous. Fight discouragement with God’s truth. Take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Resist the enemy; watch him flee. Suit up with the full armor of God. Be resolute in prayer, obedient in action, and firm in faith. Count on it: greater is He, God, in us, than he that is in the world!