Talk about a challenging lesson – learning that when it seems to you that you’ve failed in something, you may not have actually failed. When we give it our best, our all, sometimes it just isn’t the right time. If we are serving God, sometimes the right time is later.
I’m reading through the book of Ezra (mental picture of this this guy) and am on the topic of the Jews who return to rebuild the Temple. Zerubbabel is the leader of the first group who return to Jerusalem. All of the Jews return, get settled and begin worshipping the God of Israel. The altar rebuilding, burnt offerings, Festival of Shelters, the whole thing – and I can only assume he’s instrumental in leading a lot of this. They even complete building the foundation of the Temple! But then the locals step in (Ezra 4:1-6):
Now when [the Samaritans] the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles from the captivity were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel [now governor] and to the heads of the fathers’ houses and said, Let us build with you, for we seek and worship your God as you do, and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here. But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses of Israel said to them, You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we ourselves will together build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, has commanded us. Then [the Samaritans] the people of the land [continually] weakened the hands of the people of Judah and troubled and terrified them in building and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose and plans all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius [II] king of Persia. And in the reign of Ahasuerus [or Xerxes], in the beginning of his reign, [the Samaritans] wrote to him an accusation against the [returned] inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.
Move forward a bit and we find the results (Ezra 4:24):
So the work on the Temple of God in Jerusalem had stopped, and it remained at a standstill until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia.
Apparently that standstill was 16 years. Then things changed, and to make a longer story short (with a few more ups and downs), 4 years later, the Temple was complete. From my Life Application Bible, I read that the challenge here is recognizing that it is God who is in control, but we play a part. God gives us important jobs to do, but it isn’t because He needs our help!
I immediately think about several things that happen in society and the world, and wonder if there are times when some may have forgotten that God is in charge. Now this doesn’t mean we don’t have our roles to play, but God is the owner of the plan – not us. I in particular think about this when I hear/read about “bringing someone to Christ” as a single event that a single person must do at a single point in time (read proselytize). Yeah I don’t know about that… at least in my experience it didn’t work that way either.
Like Zerubbabel, we all have our own challenging lessons… and I know that at least one of mine involves my children and patience. What’s your challenge?