Wednesday, October 08, 2008


You don’t have to live long before the past tries to poison the future. One spoonful of strained peas is enough to convince most babies that anything green and slimy on a spoon is going to taste “just like last time.” But that kind of thinking has caused many poor little tikes to pass up pistachio pudding or green Jell-o with cool whip! As we get older, the stakes get a little higher. Another friend is diagnosed with cancer, and we’re afraid it’ll turn out – just like last time. Our younger child begins displaying the same rebellious behavior as his/her older sibling, and we’re afraid of the pain that waits down the road – just like last time. Some of you know that I deal with several chronic illness issues. Fibromyalgia, daily migraines and a goofy condition called P.O.T.S. make the future an uncertain place. Each of the conditions ebbs and flows, flares up and calms down. When a flare-up begins, guess what goes through my mind? Will it be…just like last time? And of course my mind always fears the worst time. Have you noticed a word running rampant throughout this opening paragraph? Actually, it’s a concept revealed in two words: afraid & fear. These words are the arch enemies of faith, but when a scenario begins to follow a familiar pattern, fear of repeated disappointment or pain often settles in. Just like last time is a problem common to us all….

Ezra 5:1 – “Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them.”
  • After ten years of inactivity, God’s Spirit moved. One man of God felt called, another confirmed the call, and they acted together on it.

Ezra 5:2 – “Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, helping them.”

  • They worked on this project together, in the fellowship of the Body, drawing on each other for encouragement.

Ezra 5:3-5 – “At that time Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates went to them and asked, ‘Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and restore this structure?’ They also asked, ‘What are the names of the men constructing this building?’ But the eye of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they were not stopped until a report could go to Darius and his written reply be received” (emphasis added). (See vs. 6-12 for the Jews’ responses to Tattenai’s questions)

  • This governor was sending a letter to another king – just like had been done before. However, God was doing something good in the current difficult circumstance – and they noticed it.
Ezra 5:6-12 – “This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates, the officials of Trans-Euphrates, sent to King Darius. The report they sent him read as follows: To King Darius: Cordial greetings. The king should know that we went to the district of Judah, to the temple of the great God. The people are building it with large stones and placing the timbers in the walls. The work is being carried on with diligence and is making rapid progress under their direction. We questioned the elders and asked them, ‘Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and restore this structure?’ We also asked them their names, so that we could write down the names of their leaders for your information.” This is the answer they gave us: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished. But because our fathers angered the God of heaven, he handed them over to Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, king of Babylon, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon” (emphasis added).
  • It wasn’t about them as individuals. It was about God, and who they were in relation to Him. That knowledge not only brought glory to God, it also kept them out of hot water!

Ezra 5:13-17 – [the letter to the king continued…] “However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God. He even removed from the temple of Babylon the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to the temple in Babylon. Then King Cyrus gave them to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he had appointed governor, and he told him, “Take these articles and go and deposit them in the temple in Jerusalem. And rebuild the house of God on its site.” So this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God in Jerusalem. From that day to the present it has been under construction but is not yet finished.’ Now if it pleases the king, let a search be made in the royal archives of Babylon to see if King Cyrus did in fact issue a decree to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us his decision in this matter” (emphasis added).

  • A deeper look at this letter reveals that Tattenai was a man of very different character than the previous enemies, Rehum and Shimshai (Ezra 4). Tattenai includes a careful dictation of the Jews’ response. He seems to genuinely desire the truth. When the Jews heard another governor was sending another letter to another king they could have given up and expected results – just like last time. But they didn’t…

Lord, give me the strength to try, to keep building, to keep believing, to put one foot in front of the other when everything inside me fears it will be – just like last time. Remove that phrase from my heart and mind. Take away the memories of strained peas! I don’t want to miss the pistachio pudding that You have waiting for me. Let it be so, Father.

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