Lesson 17 | Sabbath, 25 April 2020
“Throughout the history of God’s people great mountains of difficulty, apparently insurmountable, have loomed up before those who were trying to carry out the purposes of Heaven. The Lord permits such obstacles as a test of faith. When we are hedged about on every side, this is the time above all others to trust in God and in the power of His Spirit. The exercise of a living faith means an increase of spiritual strength and the development of an unfaltering trust. It is thus that the soul becomes a conquering power. Before the demand of faith, the obstacles placed by Satan across the pathway of the Christian will disappear; for the powers of heaven will come to his aid. ‘Nothing shall be impossible unto you.’ Matthew 17:20.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 594, 595.
The decree to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple
- By divine providence and in fulfillment of prophecy, what decree did Cyrus the Great make in the first year of his reign (B.C. 538/537)?
Ezra 1:1-4 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, 2Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem. 4And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.
“Conditions were now changed. In tender mercy the Lord had again visited His people and allowed them to return to their own land. Sadness because of the mistakes of the past should have given way to feelings of great joy. God had moved upon the heart of Cyrus to aid them in rebuilding the temple, and this should have called forth expressions of profound gratitude. But some failed of discerning God’s opening providences. Instead of rejoicing, they cherished thoughts of discontent and discouragement. They had seen the glory of Solomon’s temple, and they lamented because of the inferiority of the building now to be erected.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 564.
- Who joined together to return to Jerusalem and build the Lord’s house? In response to the king’s decree, what did their neighbors give them?
Ezra 1:5-7 Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem. 6And all they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, beside all that was willingly offered. 7Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put them in the house of his gods.
“‘The chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised’–these were the goodly remnant, about fifty thousand strong, from among the Jews in the lands of exile, who determined to take advantage of the wonderful opportunity offered them ‘to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.’ Their friends did not permit them to go empty-handed. ‘All they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things.’ And to these and many other voluntary offerings were added ‘the vessels of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem;… even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer,… five thousand and four hundred’ in number, for use in the temple that was to be rebuilt. Ezra 1:5-11.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 559.
Thorough planning despite opposition
- What was necessary before the work could proceed? In what year did the construction of the Lord’s house begin? Who were present when the foundation was laid?
Ezra 3:6, last part, – 10 … But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid. 7They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia. 8Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem; and appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the Lord. 9Then stood Jeshua with his sons and his brethren, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together, to set forward the workmen in the house of God: the sons of Henadad, with their sons and their brethren the Levites. 10And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the Lord, after the ordinance of David king of Israel.
“The workmen engaged in the preparation of the building material, found among the ruins some of the immense stones brought to the temple site in the days of Solomon. These were made ready for use, and much new material was provided; and soon the work was advanced to the point where the foundation stone must be laid. This was done in the presence of many thousands who had assembled to witness the progress of the work and to give expression to their joy in having a part in it. While the cornerstone was being set in position, the people, accompanied by the trumpets of the priests and the cymbals of the sons of Asaph, ‘sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord; because He is good, for His mercy endureth forever toward Israel.’ Verse 11.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 563.
- What did the representatives of the local population, whom the Assyrians had relocated to this territory decades before, ask for?
Ezra 4:1, 2 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel; 2Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.
“When the temple at Jerusalem was rebuilt in the days of Ezra, the Samaritans wished to join the Jews in its erection. This privilege was refused them, and a bitter animosity sprang up between the two peoples. The Samaritans built a rival temple on Mount Gerizim. Here they worshiped in accordance with the Mosaic ritual, though they did not wholly renounce idolatry. But disasters attended them, their temple was destroyed by their enemies, and they seemed to be under a curse; yet they still clung to their traditions and their forms of worship. They would not acknowledge the temple at Jerusalem as the house of God, nor admit that the religion of the Jews was superior to their own.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 188.
- What answer did Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the other leaders of the people give to this request? Why?
Ezra 4:3 But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.
“Zerubbabel and his associates were familiar with these and many like scriptures; and in the recent captivity they had evidence after evidence of their fulfillment. And now, having repented of the evils that had brought upon them and their fathers the judgments foretold so plainly through Moses; having turned with all the heart to God, and renewed their covenant relationship with Him, they had been permitted to return to Judea, that they might restore that which had been destroyed. Should they, at the very beginning of their undertaking, enter into a covenant with idolaters?
“‘Thou shalt make no covenant with them,’ God had said; and those who had recently rededicated themselves to the Lord at the altar set up before the ruins of His temple, realized that the line of demarcation between His people and the world is ever to be kept unmistakably distinct. They refused to enter into alliance with those who, though familiar with the requirements of God’s law, would not yield to its claims.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 569, 570.
Unrelenting attacks and their effects
- How did the people of the country react? How far did they go in their resistance to God’s purposes?
Ezra 4:4-7 Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, 5And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. 6And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. 7And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter was writ- ten in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue.
“In rebuilding the house of the Lord, Zerubbabel had labored in the face of manifold difficulties. From the beginning, adversaries had ‘weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building,’ ‘and made them to cease by force and power.’ Ezra 4:4, 23. But the Lord had interposed in behalf of the builders, and now He spoke through His prophet to Zerubbabel, saying, ‘Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.’ Zechariah 4:7.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 594.
- Because of their evil insinuations and influence on King Artaxerxes, what did he order? Contrary to the will and decree of Cyrus, what was stopped in Jerusalem and remained suspended for years?
Ezra 4:8, 21-24 Rehum the chancellor and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king:… 21Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until another commandment shall be given from me. 22Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings? 23Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power. 24Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.
“The opposition of their enemies was strong and determined, and gradual- ly the builders lost heart. Some could not forget the scene at the laying of the cornerstone, when many had given expression to their lack of confidence in the enterprise. And as the Samaritans grew more bold, many of the Jews questioned whether, after all, the time had come to rebuild. The feeling soon became wide- spread. Many of the workmen, discouraged and disheartened, returned to their homes to take up the ordinary pursuits of life.
“During the reign of Cambyses the work on the temple progressed slowly. And during the reign of the false Smerdis (called Artaxerxes in Ezra 4:7) the Samaritans induced the unscrupulous impostor to issue a decree forbidding the Jews to re- build their temple and city.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 572, 573.
For additional study
“Such were the conditions existing during the early part of the reign of Darius Hystaspes. Spiritually as well as temporally, the Israelites were in a pitiable state. So long had they murmured and doubted; so long had they chosen to make personal interests first, while viewing with apathy the Lord’s temple in ruins, that many had lost sight of God’s purpose in restoring them to Judea; and these were saying, ‘The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.’ Haggai 1:2.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 573.
“Just as long as we are in this world, and the Spirit of God is striving with the world, we are to receive as well as to impart favors. We are to give to the world the light of truth as presented in the Sacred Scriptures, and we are to receive from the world that which God moves upon them to do in behalf of His cause. The Lord still moves upon the hearts of kings and rulers in behalf of His people, and it becomes those who are so deeply interested in the religious liberty question not to cut off any favors, or withdraw themselves from the help that God has moved men to give, for the advancement of His cause.
“We find examples in the word of God concerning this very matter. Cyrus, king of Persia, made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it into writing. A second commandment was issued by Darius for the building of the house of the Lord, and is recorded in the sixth chapter of Ezra.” –Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 202, 203.
* * *
Missionary Report from Ecuador
To be read on Sabbath, April 25, 2020
Greetings from Ecuador with Jeremiah 17:7, 8: “Blessed is the man that trust- eth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.”
On this occasion we want to share with you the work being done at the ELIM School, located in the city of Guayaquil, which opened in April 2005 to provide basic education integrating faith and hope for children and their families. This work began by faith and with the support of several local families that dared to dream of expanding God’s work through the education of children.
In 2007, the school was accredited and secured all operating permits; it is in compliance with all legal requirements. At the beginning of the 2005-2006 school year, a total of 37 boys and girls were enrolled, and that number grew to 57 by the end of the year. The following school year, 90 students enrolled, and the number has continued to grow every year. Our best advertising has been the testimonies of the children and families who leave the school with great longing. We currently have 185 students.
However, our dreams continue, for several times we have had to turn stu- dents away because of lack of capacity. This has mainly affected those who are just beginning and preparing for further study, and these are the classes requested most often. We are sure this demand will continue in the coming years and the students’ hearts will be touched as they learn to know God and His I bless great love with the knowledge of the wonderful plan of salvation.
The Spirit of prophecy writes: “While we should put forth earnest efforts for the masses of the people around us, and push the work into foreign fields, no amount of labor in this line can excuse us for neglecting the education of our child still the principles of truth and honesty into the minds and hearts of the young that they will become men and women who are true as steel to God and His cause.” –Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, p. 165.
Each day at the school begins with morning worship. Christian education is not only a subject but is the common thread woven into each class. Every Thursday, we hold a children’s worship service in the church, where the children praise God in different ways and the older ones give short presentations from the Bible. These events are attended by the students’ parents, so we take advantage of the opportunity to share topics about the family with them, as presented by ministers. In addition, professional psychologists give family and spiritual counseling. To expand our activities, children’s evangelistic series are conducted, and open houses are held, at which the students’ work is presented, along with health reform topics on food and natural remedies.
The name “ELIM” is of great significance in the Bible, for that was where God’s people found refreshment, water, and seventy palm trees. Today, this “ELIM” is a refreshment for students in our country. The school has a number of needs, and the enemy of all goodness has tried several times to hinder its progress to the point of thinking that the school would have to be closed. But with God’s blessings we have been able to overcome the obstacles and move forward, claiming the Lord’s promise in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for thee.”
We invite you to participate in this “ELIM” school project so that we can continue to provide this service and at the same time to take advantage of the op- portunity to evangelize children and their families on a broad scale. Your financial contribution will help us to improve the classrooms, construct additional facilities to continue this educational work, and to update the furniture and equipment, such as desks, chalkboards, etc.
“In the closing scenes of this earth’s history many of these children and youth will astonish people by their witness to the truth, which will be borne in simplicity, yet with spirit and power. They have been taught the fear of the Lord, and their hearts have been softened by a careful and prayerful study of the Bible. In the near future many children will be endued with the Spirit of God, and will do a work in proclaiming the truth to the world, that at that time cannot well be done by the older members of the church.” –Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, pp.166, 167.
“The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.” Proverbs 11:25. Thank you for your generous donations. We pray that God will prosper them all and make them as a mighty river that flows out in blessings to many children and families.
We pray that you will receive our great love.
–The brothers and sisters of the Ecuadorian Field