Read: Ezra 5-6, Haggai 1-2 and Zechariah 1-6
We left the story at the point where it appears the opposition has won, the work in Jerusalem came to a halt. Does that read like an ancient headline or a text you just received?
Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, supporting them. Ezra 5:1-2
The first words of Haggai are stern and strong:
“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Haggai 1:9
Zerubbabel and Joshua received the message well, they heard the word of the Lord through Haggai and as a result blessings flowed upon them for the sake of Jerusalem and for God’s glory.
Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: “I am with you,” declares the Lord. Haggai 1:13
Those four words, “I am with you,” are perhaps the most powerful words anyone in ministry can possibly hear. When the Lord speaks these few words over your ministry, the world stands still. We know that if God is with us, there is absolutely nothing that will stand in the way–nothing!
A month later, Haggai speaks more words of encouragement for Zerubbabel and Joshua,
But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’ Haggai 2:4-5
Seriously folks, these are the words I long to hear, be strong, for I am with you and do not fear. Enough said, let’s go out and do God’s work with all our might!
Zechariah joins in with Haggai to speak truth and provide amazing encouragement:
‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty. Do not be like your ancestors, … “Then they repented and said, ‘The Lord Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do.’”
Zechariah 2, A Man With A Measuring Line, tells the Israelites to leave Babylon, to come home!
“Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord. Zechariah 2:10
Joshua is given new clothes and a turban in Zechariah 3–blessed and called by God to lead the people from exile. Then Zerubbabel is blessed in chapter 4:
“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. “What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’” Zechariah 4:6-7
Wow! Such amazing words of encouragement! Yesterday, call me weird, but I read aloud the two chapters of Haggai and most of Zechariah as if preaching a sermon. There are days, even months, when we need to hear such stirring words. The Spirit of God is not idle.
Zechariah 5 depicts evil being purged from Jerusalem, the iniquity of the people is removed from the land. Joshua is crowned as king in Zechariah 6, he will be a priest on the throne and there will be harmony between priests and rulers. We’ll pick up with chapter 7 a bit later as it jumps ahead a few years.
And so, with those words of assurance, the story in Ezra 5 picks up the pace and a bold letter is written to King Darius to search his records and see that the rebuilding project was indeed sanctioned by his predecessor.
Then let the king send us his decision in this matter. Ezra 5:17
Not only did King Cyrus authorize the rebuilding, he offered to fund it!
Their expenses are to be fully paid out of the royal treasury, from the revenues of Trans-Euphrates, so that the work will not stop. Ezra 6:8
Punishment for disobeying this command:
Furthermore, I decree that if anyone defies this edict, a beam is to be pulled from their house and they are to be impaled on it. And for this crime their house is to be made a pile of rubble. Ezra 6:11
There’s nothing like a story with a happy ending:
So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah Ezra 6:14
As we seek ways to build God’s kingdom here on earth, I pray for such clear and bold prophecy. Those returning from exile were not wrong, it just looked like it from the reaction of those who did not want them to succeed. They were on the right path, but they needed to hear the message from God through Haggai and Zechariah and they did not disappoint the leaders! Lord, show us our iniquities, pack them up in a box and ship them to Babylon, wherever that is these days! Show us clearly what you would have us do this day for your purpose.