“Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius King of Persia” (Ezra 5:24).
Before we plunge into this let’s look at what is really going on surrounding this verse. The Jews were exiled to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. They were held in captivity for 70 years after which time they were allowed, by King Cyrus, to go back into Jerusalem to rebuild the temple originally constructed by King Solomon. (The temple was destroyed when Babylon took the Jews into captivity.) Anyway, the people went forth into their homeland and began to build the temple. After the foundation was built they praised the Lord. “With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord, “He is good, his love to Israel endures forever.” And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid” (Ezra 3:11).
Buildings obviously don’t stop at the foundation and the lengthy process of rebuilding went on. In the meantime, a new King, Artaxerxes, was appointed while they were in the construction phase. Those opposed to the idea of rebuilding the temple started to write letters to the new king urging him to stop them. The letters were constructed in a way that persuaded the king to order the work to come to a grinding halt... The Jews came to a “standstill.” After being exiled which was probably no cake walk, then leaving their new homes in Babylon to go back to Jerusalem, and then once they received a little hope they were told to stop. How heart wrenching!?! These men worked on the temple out of their love for the Lord and desire to keep his commands. They were in God’s will right? They were now being faithful, so why the opposition? Why didn’t God make it easier for them? They had done so much work and now they may never see the beauty of the finished product.
Have you ever been in a standstill time in life? Have you ever felt like you’ve been faithful and done what God requested of you but in turn things didn’t work out like you’d had hoped?
Well, I’m in one of those standstill moments right now. It seems like after years of moving forward my life has come to a grinding halt much like the Jews building the temple. It seems like all of my aspirations are at a standstill. My profession is my passion I feel God called into this line of work. I recently graduated school and got a great job with a great company. Now, I am at a point where I feel like I need to decide on a speciality but can't do anything until I have at least a year of experience. Also, I have had the desire to have children for several years but only recently started trying. Despite my calculations and planning it just hasn’t happened. Month after month I am met with let down. Next, my husband and I desire to move forward on plans to build a house but right now God is saying no. The list goes on… It is horribly frustrating. Most of the barriers I am experiencing are out of my direct control. I cannot generate more business at work, I cannot will myself into a pregnancy, and I cannot change my ability to build a house at the current time.
So, what do we do when we are at a standstill? What do we do when we feel like our lives need to be moving forward but we aren’t able to make any progress? As evidenced by what happened in Ezra I would say that we are to press on. We refuse to give up. We keep working toward whatever it is that God has called us into and pray that he provides direction. Pray that our desires match his. For you, the direction you need may not be building a temple but there are specific plans that God has set forth specifically for you. It may be entering into ministry, becoming a parent, quitting your job, going to school, building a church, etc. Whatever it is God will give you what you need and I believe this is true because of what he did for the Jews.
The Jews were eventually allowed to rebuild after petitioning King Darius. This time however, the king ordered for the cost of rebuilding and offering sacrifices to be absorbed by the royal treasury. He even gave them back the gold and silver that Nebechadnezzar took from them when they were first exiled. Even more, he ordered for those opposing them to leave the Jews to their work. “Do not interfere with the work on the temple of God. Let the governor of the Jews and Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site” (Ezra 6:7). God’s desires for their work were fulfilled. They had to go through struggles and according to my bible (Life Application Study Bible, NIV) the temple was completed in 516 B.C. God’s desires for their work were fulfilled. So, the temple was completed despite set-backs, standstills, and serious opposition. I find hope that God’s plans were fulfilled but it bothers me in the meantime. I want things to be packaged with a nice bow and I want answers. Unfortunately, maybe fortunately, God doesn't work that way. I must wait at the standstill... in the unknown for a while. Hopefully I can come back and comment on this and give an update after my standstill is over. We will see...