So there’s a new King of Persia, and like the prophets said he would, he decided to let God’s people be free to go. He allows them to start rebuilding themselves as a nation, and they start with a temple to the Lord. The building progress begins, and the people are brought together to do this hard work. Through the start of the build, they praise God, and when the foundation for the temple is laid, they celebrate.
The people in the towns around them hear that this is happening, and a group comes up to the people and says that they will help them build the temple. But their heart and motives are not in the right place, so Joshua and the others refuse, and continue to build the temple themselves.
These people around them, the enemies, are upset, and they annoy and discourage the growth of the temple. They create problem after problem, and obstacle after obstacle to get in the way. They delay the process so much, it is delayed again and again. People start to change their mind. They think that maybe this isn't a good idea anymore. Maybe the timing isn’t right. Maybe they could do it another day. Maybe there’s more important things they should be focussing on. And eventually, the building of the temple is put to a hold completely.
How many times do we say this in our own faith?
This is a classic example of obstacles we face in our relationship with God day after day. How many times have we felt the same freedom that God’s people felt? We make plans, and start routines in our relationship with God. We read the bible every day. We are diligent with church and prayer. We take risks and make choices based on where we know God is leading us.
But at the first sign of struggle, or intervention from others, we fold. When it gets hard to remember to read the bible, we stop. When we aren’t seeing result from prayer, we don’t pray. When a better offer comes along, we stop going to youth or church. We think that those decisions we made, or those risks we take, were a bad idea, and the timing isn’t quite right.
But God seeks to do the same intervention in us as he did to these people. He challenges their excuses and encourages them to renew that faith they once had. The ‘after Easter camp high’, the inspired, risk-taking, no-excuses mode we get right after an amazing sermon, the belief that God is the God of the impossible – He wants a steadfast faith with a trust that He can deliver us.
Have a listen to what he says to the people, and see if it rings a bell with you also:
“You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
Do you feel this way? Do you feel like you are giving so much to this world, and still feeling empty, hungry, thirsty and cold? Why do we feel like this?
“…My house…remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.”
We are busy with our own houses. We are just like the people, who started a space for the God they loved so much, with faith, trust, and convinction, but they got easily distracted and turned their focus to themselves once again. They grew selfish and distant from God.
God is calling us, like He called them, back to Him. More of Him, less of us. When God spoke to them, the people built the temple and were closer than ever to each other, and to God. They faced more hardship upon this build, but God carried them through it, because they kept him at the focus of their plans always.