THE DISCIPLINE OF DISASTER
Undeterred by Difficulty
By Henry Jaegers
Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:5)
In our last study, we spoke about the great challenge that lay before them as they faced the rubble of the past destruction and the first reaction that would normally occur. But there is more to be said about these courageous people, who were willing to submit themselves under the counsel of a heathen king, recognizing at the same time that it was God speaking through Cyrus. So, it was not only the decree of the king, as God's instrument, but the willingness of the people to endure any hardships that lay before them. It confirms the reality of their faith in the God who keeps his promises. But we must not miss the purpose clearly described by the king; to build the house of God. This command meant nothing to the king who was outside the covenant of God but meant everything to these people. It was the purpose that drove them.
Talk about a people driven by a purpose. It must be that they did not ignore it and forget the message by Jeremiah who told them concerning God promised after 70 years he would deliver them. Do you think when 70 years had passed that they had forgotten this promise? Is it possible that they anticipated, while in Babylon, the time when that would happen? At this time, there was no one to tell them that it was time to leave, but the decree of Cyrus which gave them no choice but actually thrust them out was the motivation they needed to begin their journey.
What was that purpose for which they hoped? It was the purpose that God was about to do a new thing in Israel. G. Campbell Morgan made an interesting interpretation of the events in the Potter’s house. The interpretation he gives as that God is the potter, Israel is the clay and while the clay was marred, it was not totally useless. The potter just took the clay and made a different vessel and provided a new thing out of that clay. And before us, we see the beginning of that illustration beginning to take place.
We are told also that over 50,000 people left Babylon at this time. That also is no small matter, even facing the hardships along the way but then the promise of God and the hope of them being fulfilled drove them on in pursuit of the hope that lay before them.
Recall also after the Lord's resurrection, how important was it that these followers of Christ experienced the resurrection in person? They were called to lay down their lives for the truth of the gospel and if the resurrection were mere fiction or imagination, why would they do anything? Why would they entertain a lie for the sake of convenience when truth they had would save their lives? But they, being fully convinced of the resurrected Lord, believed and went forth with that confidence even suffering martyrdom for the sake of the truth of the gospel. They had a purpose and that purpose was the reality of God in their lives. Let me ask you about your purpose, the purpose that drives you. How convinced are you of the need that lies before you? Paul stated, “I am a debtor”. That means that he owes the world around him, especially his Jewish brothers and sisters the truth of the gospel, like a debtor is owned by the bank.
Although what face them when they arrived in Jerusalem was truly a disaster, as we study further, we see it did not hinder them to go forward and begin building. For two years, they diligently labored with what they had in order to put forth what they were able. It was the start but this start was important when the real difficulty was about to be laid upon them.
I remind you once again, what G. Campbell Morgan said, “there cannot be progress with a failure”. What the brave men and women of Israel did was to persevere through the trial of faith. And yet through this victory, small as it may seem, it was preparing them for greater battles which lay before them. Does failure cause you to want to give up? Sometimes it does, but when we faced enough of them and recognize their benefits, their presence gives us the strength to face others that may come.