It’s one thing to be in the right position, it’s another thing to be in the right condition. The remnant is in the right place, where the Name dwells. But they have come into a state where they are easily discouraged and stop building the temple. In such a situation, the solution is not to give up everything and return to where they came from. The solution is to listen to the Word of God and trust in God to send the appropriate service.
It often happens that people see certain truths and seek grace to walk in them. Over time, the first freshness disappears and there comes a period of laxity and indifference. The love of the many cools and the dew of youth disappears. What then? Return to what they once left for Christ’s sake? No! What must be done is to call to God in that position that there may be revival and blessing through the service of the Spirit.
1 - 2 The Building of the Temple Resumed
1 When the prophets, Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them, 2 then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them supporting them.
The effects of the first revival have largely disappeared. Those who have experienced a revival need a new revival. It is easier to gain a victory than to take advantage of it. We can conquer in battle, but we can perish as a result of victory. God gives precious encouragement to the children of Israel from a different direction. Though the people are also subject to the nations, God always remains sovereign. His Word is always of absolute authority to His people if He deigns to speak to them.
Haggai and Zechariah are sent to His people and prophesy in the midst of the people (verse 1). These messages from God are particularly valuable, as His Word always is. Although this does not change the position of the people in relation to the nations, it is nevertheless a striking proof that God is interested in His people. It shows that whatever their difficulties may be the God of Israel is exalted above all that has power to oppress the children of Israel. God intervenes, not through an act of power by King Darius, but through the word of prophecy. The power of His Spirit works through the prophets to awaken the conscience of the people.
Prophets are used by God when His people are in a bad condition and the responsible leaders fail. Haggai (meaning “the festive one”) and Zechariah (meaning “ Yahweh remembers”) reveal the condition of the people. Haggai does not speak about the external difficulties, but about the condition of the people. He speaks more to the conscience. Zechariah speaks more to the heart of the people. The service of Zechariah is generally appreciated more than that of Haggai, but both are necessary.
The prophets not only stir up the work, but continue to support and encourage the workers with their words (verse 2). As a result of the God-given service of the Spirit, first of all the spirit of the leaders of the people is awakened. They set a good example. The prophets will have proposed to the workers the future glory of the house, the establishment of the Messianic kingdom and the blessing for the people. Returning to the Lord gives strength for the work and confidence that God will overcome difficulties for them.
3 - 5 Again Resistance
3 At that time Tattenai, the governor of [the province] beyond the River, and Shethar-bozenai and their colleagues came to them and spoke to them thus, “Who issued you a decree to rebuild this temple and to finish this structure?” 4 Then we told them accordingly what the names of the men were who were reconstructing this building. 5 But the eye of their God was on the elders of the Jews, and they did not stop them until a report could come to Darius, and then a written reply be returned concerning it.
As soon as the people become active again before the LORD, and the building of his house is taken up again, the enemies also come again (verses 3-4). We don’t hear from them when Israel is busy with their own houses. Because there is faith again, they dare to build again, although there is a prohibition (verse 5). The result of this faith is that the intervention of their enemies even leads to a commandment in favor of them.
6 - 17 Letter to Darius About the Rebuilding
6 [This is] the copy of the letter which Tattenai, the governor of [the province] beyond the River, and Shethar-bozenai and his colleagues the officials, who were beyond the River, sent to Darius the king. 7 They sent a report to him in which it was written thus: “To Darius the king, all peace. 8 Let it be known to the king that we have gone to the province of Judah, to the house of the great God, which is being built with huge stones, and beams are being laid in the walls; and this work is going on with great care and is succeeding in their hands. 9 Then we asked those elders and said to them thus, ‘Who issued you a decree to rebuild this temple and to finish this structure?’ 10 We also asked them their names so as to inform you, and that we might write down the names of the men who were at their head. 11 Thus they answered us, saying, ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth and are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished. 12 But because our fathers had provoked the God of heaven to wrath, He gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, [who] destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon. 13 However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God. 14 Also the gold and silver utensils of the house of God which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, and brought them to the temple of Babylon, these King Cyrus took from the temple of Babylon and they were given to one whose name was Sheshbazzar, whom he had appointed governor. 15 He said to him, “Take these utensils, go [and] deposit them in the temple in Jerusalem and let the house of God be rebuilt in its place.” 16 Then that Sheshbazzar came [and] laid the foundations of the house of God in Jerusalem; and from then until now it has been under construction and it is not [yet] completed.’ 17 “Now if it pleases the king, let a search be conducted in the king’s treasure house, which is there in Babylon, if it be that a decree was issued by King Cyrus to rebuild this house of God at Jerusalem; and let the king send to us his decision concerning this [matter].”
The letter sent by the enemies gives an honest account of the work and differs from the letter in the previous chapter. The letter begins by naming the senders (verse 6) and the addressee (verse 7). The first communication is a testimony to the diligence and devotion of the builders (verse 8). The world sees how the believers are busy for the dwelling place of God, the church. When they see that they are committed to it, they are impressed by it. They see the zeal and prosperity.
Then the senders mention what they have asked the builders and why (verses 9-10). The answer of the builders to their interrogators is also shown. That answer is a beautiful testimony of who they are: “Servants of the God of heaven and earth” (verse 11). It is a testimony of His supreme authority. He is not a local deity. They are in connection with the God on whom all creation depends. That consciousness ensures that they are without fear of humans.
They also honestly acknowledge that they are now in the power of the nations because of their unfaithfulness and the wrath of God (verse 12). That unfaithfulness is also the cause of God’s surrender of His house to destruction by Nebuchadnezzar. Further they answer that they are rebuilding the house of the LORD which is called “this house” (verses 12-13). It is the same house as the one that “a great king” (verse 11), that is Solomon, built. It is no other house. We too may rebuild it and are encouraged to do so.
The builders also appeal to the command of Cyrus (verse 13). Here Cyrus is called “the king of Babylon”, because Babylon was conquered by him. From there the Jews also left for Jerusalem. At their departure, Cyrus also took all the utensils that Nebuchadnezzar brought from Jerusalem to Babylon from the temple in Babylon and gave them to the Jews (verse 14) to be placed back in God’s temple (verse 15).
After that they talk about the foundation of the temple and that they have built the temple “from then until now” and that the building of the house of God has not yet been completed (verse 16). They don’t talk about their slackening in the building so that the temple hasn’t been worked on for twenty years. The delay is a matter between them and their God.
The senders conclude their letter with a request to Darius to investigate whether there really was a decree by Cyrus to “rebuild this house of God at Jerusalem” (verse 17). They also indicate the ‘place of search’, which is “in the king’s treasure house, which is there in Babylon”. They conclude their letter with the request that the king have his decision sent to them as a result of the search.