And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
When hard times come our feelings fluctuate, we can react in emotion, in fear, or even in disobedience. However, our faith in God should be a constant. What is faith? Faith is trusting and accepting that God is who He says He is and will do what He says he will do. The Bible says that every man is given a measure of faith. It says we are saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves it is a gift of God. Faith is constant, so yes we can remain steadfast when things are hard or problems are overwhelming because faith is not dependent on circumstance, but it is based on an unchangeable God. Does God use difficult situations to further his purpose or plans? Can we agree that there are times when it is difficult to believe that all things are working for good, especially to those that love God? Jesus said that in this world you would have tribulation but to be of good cheer He had overcome the world (John 16:33). John also says later that the victory that overcometh the world, is faith (1 John 5:4). When it is hard to understand events around us, when we are attacked on every side, can we trust that we have a loving God working behind the scenes in all situations?
The lesson today actually starts a few chapters ahead of chapter 6. The captivity from Babylon is over. Those that want to travel are returning to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple. Can you imagine the excitement as they finally leave Babylon after 70 years? Consider some disappointments also. How can they leave without those too old or too ill to travel? How many descendants have married into the Babylonian culture and don’t want to travel back to rebuild an old way of life? And what happens when they get there and find that everything has changed? People that live there now have combined false worship with Jewish law and traditions. Some that remained behind or came over from other areas don’t want to see Jerusalem rebuilt or the Jews take it back. What starts out as a blessing from God quickly becomes difficult and overwhelming. Why would God allow that?
6 Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the rolls, where the treasures were laid up in Babylon.
When the captivity was over God first directed Cyrus the King to send the Jews back to Jerusalem. Historians differ in the amount of time it took for all of the captives to go back and to rebuild but some estimate that it was about 90 years total. As with many biblical accounts, it is important to realize that there may be a vast amount of time between two verses of scripture. The lesson today starts with Darius the King. He ruled from 521 to 486 BC.
2 And there was found at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of the Medes, a roll, and therein was a record thus written:3 In the first year of Cyrus the king the same Cyrus the king made a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, Let the house be builded, the place where they offered sacrifices, and let the foundations thereof be strongly laid; the height thereof threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof threescore cubits;4 With three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber: and let the expenses be given out of the king's house:
The work and construction in Jerusalem were being contested. Those that did not want to see the Jews return were making it difficult for them to rebuild. It went so far as to have a Governor of that area send a request to King Darius to have the work stopped altogether. The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.(Proverbs 21:1) The King asked for the records to see exactly what Cyrus had said. The rolls included instructions that matched the modern Persian architecture of the time, indicating the intentions were sincere and good structures were to be built. Some commentators think that the dimensions given were a limit, not necessarily the actual size to build the temple.
5 And also let the golden and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took forth out of the temple which is at Jerusalem, and brought unto Babylon, be restored, and brought again unto the temple which is at Jerusalem, every one to his place, and place them in the house of God.
Here is again the story of the Nebuchadnezzar party. Cyrus had gone so far as to send back what remained of the original temple items. Later on, after the Temple is completed scripture says that the old men, those that could remember the first temple, cry because the new temple lacks the splendor of Solomon’s version. It probably helped a little to have at least a few of the original items back as a reminder.
6 Now therefore, Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shetharboznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which are beyond the river, be ye far from thence:7 Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place.8 Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king's goods, even of the tribute beyond the river, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered.9 And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the appointment of the priests which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail:10 That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons.
It appears that Darius had a pretty good idea of what was needed and what the intentions were after the Temple was completed. He authoritatively says to Tatnai the governor, leave them alone! Not only are we going to help them build a house to God, we are going to use your tax money to pay for what they need. From the building materials to the animals for sacrifice, give to them daily as they need. An interesting addition is that Darius expects them to offer sacrifices unto the God of Heaven and pray for the King and the King’s sons. As you read this it helps to understand the background of why some areas, even today, resent Israel/Jews.
11 Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this.12 And the God that hath caused his name to dwell there destroy all kings and people, that shall put to their hand to alter and to destroy this house of God which is at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed.
Two Kings have now committed themselves by decree to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the Temple. God had directed both hearts to make the process possible by funding and by strong punishment for those that did not help the jews but instead tried to hinder them.
Where is Jesus?
In all biblical accounts, we should look for something pointing toward or showing Jesus. This story is all part of a larger plan of salvation - a scarlet thread of scripture. This nation, chosen by God, coming back to their homeland, punished as the prophets had foretold because of their idolatry, and lack of care for the poor. As this nation comes back to rebuild the Temple, they reinstate the law and sacrifices that represent Christ and continue to look forward to a coming Messiah. They will record lineage by tribe which allows us to follow that lineage to the birth of Christ in the New Testament.
In summary, what must have started out as a joyful occasion for the returning captives, was met with opposition. As the leaders of the opposition petitioned the King against the Jews, it is reasonable that those trying to build up the city and the temple may have felt overwhelmed and defeated. There is some time involved in this lesson. The complaint is sent, the King searches for the records, then a new decree is sent back. All the while, however, God is working behind the scenes to bring about his plans and purposes. The nation comes back to their promised homeland. They return to the law and record-keeping of the tribes. They continue to look for a messiah. All things (though difficult) working together for good.
What situation have you experienced that although hard and difficult, in hindsight, you can see God working for your good?
How do we use Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding”, in times of opposition?
What things are an opposition to Christians building their foundations of faith today?
Are we seeing difficult things today that will lay the groundwork for the second coming of Christ?
Perspective - (Opinion)
Being a Christian for many years means surviving difficult situations. The older Christian must guard against being wise in their own eyes and forgetting that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours. While having a great deal to contribute from time and experience, diligently guard the mind and heart to see things God’s way - to be wise in God’s ways, pleasing to him and not above his corrections. Emotions waver but our faith should be constant. In this lesson, God shows that his promises are true. Regardless of time or circumstance, he does what he says. When things seem bad, how is God working things for the good? We should be examples of long-suffering with those around us - attempting to be as long-suffering as God is to us. Everyone has difficult situations. No one handles their situation the same. God, however, is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He can be trusted in all situations as we bend our will to his.
To the person who is a new believer, or maybe even just considering becoming a Christian, I want to warn you about what faith is not. Faith is not optimism. It is much more than a general desire that things will work out well. Faith is not blind, it is based on the demonstrable and constant work that God has done throughout time and through and for his people. We don’t put our trust in our ability to be faithful, but in God’s unchanging and unstoppable ability to do all that He says he will do. We feel so many things, but faith is the ability to look past our feelings to rock-solid truth. Without faith it is impossible to please God, so God has given you the ability to believe despite what you can see.
Thank you for Studying with us! God Bless!