Before I go on, I should make some comments on the chronology of events going forward. I’ve mentioned before that there is a lot of dispute among scholars about the timing of events, and the more I dig, the more I see why. I also see why there is dispute about the starting date for the prophesy in Daniel 9. I have already given my position, but I will admit it’s not without its problems. One is the list of events as set out in Ezra.
Basically, if we go with the idea that Xerxes and Artaxerxes were the ones noted in history (as I do), then we have to say that Ezra 4:6-23 is one long parenthetical comment that’s put there, not because it’s in chronological order, but because thematically it fits in with the idea of the opposition the Jews faced in Jerusalem.
The events of Ezra 7 to the end of the book actually happen before Ezra 4, and the events of Nehemiah occur after it. One thing to note is that in Ezra 4, it says nothing of the rebuilding of the temple, only the city walls and foundations, the reason being that the temple was already built as seen in chapters 5-6 of Ezra.
At any rate, because of the opposition they faced in Ezra 4:4-5, they stopped work on the temple. But we see in the book of Haggai, there was another reason they stopped the work. It simply wasn’t important enough to them.
And so Haggai confronted the people, saying,
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’ ” Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai:“Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (2-4)
In other words, the people were so concerned about their own personal lives and trying to rebuild them, that they neglected the Lord’s temple.
How often do we do the same in our own lives? We know that our spiritual lives and our relationship with the Lord are important, but there are so many other things we’re concerned about, our finances, our job, our families, etc. Not to say that these things are unimportant. They are. They have their place in our lives. But when they usurp God’s place in our lives, something’s wrong.
God told the people, “Look at your lives right now. You plant much, but harvest little. You eat, but are not satisfied. You drink, but are not filled. You put on clothes, but aren’t warm, and you earn money but see it all slip through your fingers.” (5-6)
He then told them the reason for all this was because their priorities were messed up. They had ignored him, and so he had withdrawn his hand of blessing on them. So he told them,
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. (7-8)
God tells us the same. Give careful thought to your ways. Make your relationship with God your top priority. Give priority to God and his kingdom above all else. And if we do, we’ll find blessing.
Jesus put it this way,
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33)