Lesson 18 | Sabbath, 2 May 2020
“Human power and human might did not establish the church of God, and neither can they destroy it. Not on the rock of human strength, but on Christ Jesus, the Rock of Ages, was the church founded, ‘and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.’ Matthew 16:18. The presence of God gives stability to His cause. ‘Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man,’ is the word that comes to us. Psalm 146:3. ‘In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.’ Isaiah 30:15. God’s glorious work, founded on the eternal principles of right, will never come to nought. It will go on from strength to strength, ‘not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.’ Zechariah 4:6.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 595, 596.
The building resumed and threatened
- Around B.C. 520, how did the Lord encourage His people through His prophets?
Ezra 5:1, 2 Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them. 2Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.
“But even this dark hour was not without hope for those whose trust was in God. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah were raised up to meet the crisis. In stirring testimonies these appointed messengers revealed to the people the cause of their troubles. The lack of temporal prosperity was the result of a neglect to put God’s interests first, the prophets declared. Had the Israelites honored God, had they shown Him due respect and courtesy, by making the building of His house their first work, they would have invited His presence and blessing.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 573, 574.
- What did the adversaries do to try to stop the work again? According to the Spirit of prophecy, how should opponents of the Lord’s work be dealt with?
Ezra 5:3-5 At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai, and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall? 4Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building? 5But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then they returned answer by letter concerning this matter.
“The course of Christ in dealing even with the adversary of souls should be an example to us in all our intercourse with others never to bring a railing accusation against any; much less should we employ harshness or severity toward those who may be as anxious to know the right way as we are ourselves.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, p. 240.
“‘Take heed,’ first to yourself, and then to the doctrine. Do not let your heart become hardened by sin. Closely examine your manners and habits. Compare them with the word of God, and then cut away from the life every wrong habit and indulgence. Kneel before God, and plead with Him for an understanding of His word. Be sure that you know the real principles of the truth; and then when you meet opponents, it will not be in your own strength; an angel of God will stand by your side, to help in answering every question that may be asked. Day by day you are to be shut in, as it were, with Jesus; and then your words and example will have a strong influence for good.” –Gospel Workers, p. 105.
- Who wrote a letter to the king concerning this, and what logical, balanced points did the message contain?
Ezra 5:17 Now therefore, if it seem good to the king, let there be search made in the king’s treasure house, which is there at Babylon, whether it be so, that a decree was made of Cyrus the king to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send his pleasure to us concerning this matter.
“The messages delivered by Haggai and Zechariah roused the people to put forth every possible effort for the rebuilding of the temple; but, as they worked, they were sadly harassed by the Samaritans and others who devised many hin- drances. On one occasion the provincial officers of the Medo-Persian realm visited Jerusalem and requested the name of the one who had authorized the restoration of the building. If at that time the Jews had not been trusting in the Lord for guidance, this inquiry might have resulted disastrously to them. ‘But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius.’ Ezra 5:5. The officers were answered so wisely that they decided to write a letter to Darius Hystaspes, then the ruler of Medo-Persia, directing his attention to the original decree made by Cyrus, which commanded that the house of God at Jerusalem be rebuilt, and that the expenses for the same be paid from the king’s treasury.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 578.
- What was the result of this letter? What may be learned from this incident and be applied whenever obstacles or difficulties arise in God’s cause?
Ezra 6:1-4 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. 2And 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: In the first year of Cyrus the king the same Cyrus the king made a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, 3Let 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 three- score cubits; 4With three rows of great stones, and a row of new timber: and let the expenses be given out of the king’s house.
Darius’ decree to continue building
- What wonderful change took place because of King Darius’ carefulness and support? What was particularly remarkable about the king’s com- mand regarding the opponents of the temple construction and of God’s people?
Ezra 6:6-9, 11, 12 Now therefore, Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shetharboznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which are beyond the river, be ye far from thence: 7Let 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. 8Moreover 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. 9And 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:…
11Also 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. 12And 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.
“Darius searched for this decree, and found it; whereupon he directed those who had made the inquiry to allow the rebuilding of the temple to proceed. ‘Let the work of this house of God alone,’ he commanded; ‘let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place.’” –Prophets and Kings, p. 579.
- What impetus did this give to the work of construction? What did the authorities do immediately?
Ezra 6:13 Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river, Shetharboznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily.
“The king further decreed that severe penalties be meted out to those who should in any wise alter the decree; and he closed with the remarkable statement: ‘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 the speed.’ Verse 12. Thus the Lord prepared the way for the completion of the temple.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 579.
- Because of the Lord’s great help and power, what occurred in B.C. 515? Explain what God’s people today especially need to learn from this experience.
Ezra 6:15, 16 And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king. 16And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy.
“The promise, ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it,’ was literally fulfilled. Verse 9. ‘The elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar [the twelfth month], which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.’ Ezra 6:14, 15.
“Shortly afterward the restored temple was dedicated. ‘The children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy;’ and ‘upon the fourteenth day of the first month’ they ‘kept the Passover.’ Verses 16, 17, 19.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 596.
For additional study
“It is not the open and avowed enemies of the cause of God that are most to be feared. Those who, like the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin, come with smooth words and fair speeches, apparently seeking for friendly alliance with God’s children, have greater power to deceive. Against such every soul should be on the alert, lest some carefully concealed and masterly snare take him unaware. And especially today, while earth’s history is closing, the Lord requires of His children a vigilance that knows no relaxation. But though the conflict is a ceaseless one, none are left to struggle alone. Angels help and protect those who walk humbly before God. Never will our Lord betray one who trusts in Him. As His children draw near to Him for protection from evil, in pity and love He lifts up for them a standard against the enemy. Touch them not, He says; for they are Mine. I have graven them upon the palms of My hands.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 570, 571.