Monday, November 19, 2012

Ezra 5 & 6; Psalm 129 - Perseverance in Rebuilding the Temple

LINK: Ezra 5 & 6 and Psalm 129  (read over the next two days)

BACKGROUND 


Ezra 5 & 6


The prophets Haggai and Zechariah had emerged to encourage the people not to give up the goal of rebuilding the temple. Even though the non-Jews tried to stop the construction, the Jews continued to build and the new king, Darius, ended the 15 year delay in construction by exploring the archives and learning of the decree of Cyrus that stated that God's temple was to be rebuilt and anyone who got in the way was to be impaled (Ezra 6:11). OUCH!


Many clay and papyrus documents recording business transactions and historical data have been discovered in this area (near present-day Syria). A great library and archives with thousands of such records have been discovered at Ebla in Syria. 
(The Life Application Bible, p. 782)


The temple was completed in February/March 515 B.C. It took 21 years after the work had started in 536 B.C. and 4 1/2 years after Haggai's first prophecy. It is nice to see prophets who were actually listened to in their lifetime! The temple was finished 70 1/2 years after it had been destroyed August 12, 586 B.C. 


At its completion, the temple was dedicated, and the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread were celebrated in April 515 B.C. for the first time in 70 years (see Exodus 12:1-30 for background about the Passover). Darius was mentioned as the "king of Assyria."  He is a Persian king, but the former Kingdom of Assyria was also part of his vast empire. 



Psalm 129 

Psalm 129 is a "Song of Ascent."  Click on the link for background information on this group of psalms if you have not already done so. 

I have added this psalm to the Ezra reading because some commentators believe it could have been read at the dedication of the rebuilt temple. Others think it might have been written by Hezekiah. We do not know, but it speaks of confidence and perseverance in persecution and deliverance from the wicked. Zerubbabel persevered through everything to complete his task. So, I thought it fit well here! 


REFLECTION 

Zerubbabel is my hero! He led toward the completion of the task, despite delays and discouragement of over 20 years!


Do you have long-term, God-given goals like Zerubbabel's that require a long-range perspective and perseverance?  In the chapter about Psalm 129 entitled "Perseverance" written in the excellent book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, Eugene Peterson writes:

The reason my childhood was one enthusiasm after another was that I hadn't yet found an organizing center for my life and a goal that would demand my all and my best. The Christian faith is the discovery of that center in the God who sticks with us, the righteous God (129:4). Christian discipleship is a decision to walk in his ways, steadily and firmly, and then finding that the way integrates all our interests, passions and gifts, our human needs and our eternal aspirations. It is the way of life we were created for. There are endless challenges in it to keep us on the growing edge of faith; there is always the God who sticks with us to make it possible for us to persevere. (p. 134)
The Bible Book Club is the God-given, long-term goal given to me in December of 2007. During the first three year cycle, God gave me the ability to write 20-40 hours a week while homeschooling my two kids and despite job loss and transition, a severed big toe tendon, horrendous back pain (brought on by this injury) that made it difficult to sit and write, two trips overseas, and the tragic death of my brother and two friends. 

It took me 4 1/2 years to complete the posts for the Old Testament the first time. 
I am thankful for the encouragement from many of you to "keep going" and the help of others, especially Becky and Katrina, who helped by writing posts in the first cycle (2008-2010) so that I could take days off. I am especially thankful to God who has given me strength beyond my own ability!

I have learned lessons of perseverance through all of this and wonder what I will do with all my free time when I am done with all the writing and editing of this big "God-sized" task! I am sure He will give me another one that is just as fulfilling and rewarding. 


APPLICATION


We have many long-term endeavors: raising kids, growing spiritually, helping others grow.  


Do you have a long-range perspective on these long-term goals?  How are you persevering?  Are you discouraged?


Talk to God about that. Do not give up! Remember that "Slow and steady wins the race!"  Take heart from Zerubbabel! Find some encouragement from others too!


PRAYER


Lord, we commit ourselves to be faithful to Your long-term goals for us. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 


NOW, there will be a 58 year gap before the book of Ezra picks up again in Ezra 7. In the meantime, we will go through the book of Esther and many Psalms that are tagged chronologically to this time period!
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