I honestly don’t know what this means right now. Let me explain. It is my regular custom before writing to pray and listen. Sometimes in those moments, the Holy Spirit will drop a reference into my thoughts. Today that reference was “Ezra 5”. The book of Ezra recounts the rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple following the return of the Jews from Babylonian exile. By Chapter five, the work had begun under the order of one king and stopped by order of another.
Ezra records, “When the prophets, Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them, then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them supporting them.” (Ezra 5:1–2, NASB95)
It was, in a way, an act of civil disobedience. And later in the chapter, the builders are challenged about it. Letters fly to the current king, who proceeds to search the archive for the original order. When that order is found, King Darius (of Persia) approves the construction of the temple and financially supports the effort.
The restarting of the work, though, didn’t wait for final governmental approval. It began with a prophecy. Haggai prophesied (in part), “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘This people says, “The time has not come, even the time for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt.” ’ ” Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?” Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, “Consider your ways!” (Haggai 1:2–5, NASB95) When the leaders heard the Word of God, they purposed to begin. In response, Haggai again prophesied, “Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke by the commission of the Lord to the people saying, “ ‘I am with you,’ declares the Lord.”” (Haggai 1:13, NASB95) There was plenty to fear. This moment of civil disobedience could have severe repercussions depending on the mood of the king. But God eased those fears with “I am with you.”
I don’t exactly know what this means for us today or why God brought it to my heart. It could be about the regathering of God’s people following the Covid shut down. But it could be a call to rebuild the temple in our own heart in the face of all fears of this season. Perhaps the reminder is to restore our faith as we restart our world.
To put a practical spin on it, who or what is at the center of your life? Are the fears of the moment driving you? The fear of death and disease? The fear of poverty and financial collapse? The fear of violence, change, and unrest? The fear of the unknown? Or is Jesus the center of your life? If we choose to “rebuild the temple,” the word to us is the same as on that long-ago day. God says, “I am with you.”