“As soon as the copy of the letter of King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum and Shimshai the secretary and their associates, they went immediately to the Jews in Jerusalem and compelled them by force to stop. 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 4:23-24
Starting a project and then experiencing a sudden stop, can be extremely discouraging. I have experienced this many times, whether in quilting projects, home-improvement projects, church programs, or on mission trips. Our attitude at this frustration can either become a motivator to move us forward and back into the effort, or it can leave us throwing up our hands in frustration and giving up. Much of how we respond has to do with the voices around us and the influences shaping our thoughts and our hearts.
The people of God were faced with a sudden standstill in the progress of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem. The local authorities were concerned that these Israelites would attempt to rise up against Persia and so they compelled the king to stop the work. For 15 years, nothing was done on the house of God. That had to be a frustrating and difficult time for God’s people. Their desire to rebuild the temple was not changed, however, and as soon as opportunity provided itself, they redoubled their efforts and came back to the rebuilding with energy and enthusiasm. How did they keep their spirits up? How did they work through this time of waiting to begin again? They listened to the voices of the prophets. Haggai and Zechariah were both speaking to God’s people in this time period and encouraging them to get back at it… reminding them that God was going to do the work. It wasn’t just their effort, but God’s effort. The voices of encouragement and sometimes rebuke, helped them keep focus and not fall into despair.
Who are the voices we are hearing at this time which may feel like a stand-still? Are we being shaped by influences which build us up or tear us down? Are we being shaped and molded by the Master Potter (an image from Jeremiah that we are the clay and God is the potter)? Or are we being shaped and molded by earthly human voices set on selfishness, greed, and fear? How we react to frustration and disappointment has much to do with the voices around us. I encourage you today, to take your fears and frustrations, your anxiety and hurt, to God. God alone, can transform them from sorrow and grieving to joy and new life. God can trade your sorrows and shame into joy and wholeness! AND God will continue to mold and shape us into the people He created us to be and continues to use for His glory alone.
God, you are the Master Potter, we are the clay. Please use us for your glory. Mold and shape off the rough places of fear and hurt. Clean up our surfaces of pride and anger, instilling in us a desire to be used to your purposes. Give us hope for what you are doing even in a time which feels like nothing is happening. Give us eyes to see the incredible work of your hands in our lives and all around us. Trade our sorrows for joy which is renewed every morning through your great faithfulness. Amen.