What does it say?
The work begun in chapter 3 comes to a halt here in chapter 4. The local people that have controlled the area since the exile file complaints with the Persian government from the time that work on the temple began. Eventually work is stopped for 15 years until the reign of Darius. The real issue is the locals’ fear of rebuilding the city walls (4:12-16).
The ministries of prophets Haggai and Zechariah, who wrote the books that correspond to their names, spark the Jews to resume their building efforts (Ezra 5). Local leaders respond by complaining to king Darius and appealing to him to stop the construction.
The appeal to Darius to stop the work has the opposite effect (Ezra 6). The king checks the records, sees the support of Cyrus and responds by funding the project and promising the Jews protection. At last the temple is dedicated and 5 weeks later Passover is observed. The celebration seems very low key compared to the dedication of Solomon’s temple, but God’s mission is advancing just the same and is not dependent upon the amount of fanfare.
What does it mean?
That God initiated the return of exiles to Jerusalem is evident from Ezra 1:5. Our reading today illustrates a consistent biblical truth that any genuine work initiated by God is going to face opposition. Even on this side of the Cross, as followers of Jesus we are promised opposition (2 Tim 3:12; Acts 14:22, etc.).
Not all opposition is due to our faith, of course. Sometimes we bring problems upon ourselves through sin, poor judgment and bad choices. But, we can be certain that anytime we are doing a work that is truly of God there will be enemy attack.
How will I respond?
What is the point of greatest opposition in my life right now? Honestly, is this opposition because of my personal issues – sin, poor choices or bad character – or is it genuinely because of my engagement in God’s mission? What is my answer? If the problem is with me, what will I do about it? If it is because of my engagement in God’s mission, what can I learn from this passage?