When the first wave of exiled Jews was sent back to Jerusalem to resettle and rebuild it, the first order of business was to reestablish the spiritual life of the nation. This meant rebuilding the place of their worship, the great Temple that had been demolished by the Babylonians. Under the direction of Zerubbabel, they acquired the necessary materials to begin construction. They did not see it as just another building project. The Temple would represent their national identity and stand as a testimony to the surrounding nations of their commitment to the one true God. But whenever you attempt something significant for God, you can be sure that someone will be there to oppose you. Many years later the Apostle Paul would observe, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
For Zerubbabel and the other leaders, opposition came in the form of a dishonest offer of assistance from some of the surrounding settlers who did not want to see the Jews become strong again (v.2). Zerubbabel saw through their deception, knowing that their desire was to frustrate and disrupt the project. His response was blunt: “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God” (v.3) — and the Jews continued to build. But the opposition continued with relentless discouragement and intimidation, including an official letter to King Cyrus. The king was easily convinced to go back on what he had previously claimed was a word from God about the Jews returning to rebuild (see 1:2). Amazingly, the local bullies of Judea managed to frighten the great King Cyrus into breaking his promise. The result was that the Temple project was suspended for an entire decade (v.24).
The people of God have always had their discouragers. In our attempts to live a godly life in an ungodly world, opposition can come from unbelievers who resent our stand for righteousness. Like the opponents of the Jews in verse 2, they want us to compromise our convictions and water-down our zeal. They may resort to false accusations and outright intimidation. And behind all this opposition is Satan, who specializes in the kind of confusion and fear that can hinder God’s work. In fact, you may be under Satanic attack right now. As you attempt to grow in the Lord and to minister in Jesus’ name, you meet discouragement and opposition at every turn. But let the example of Zerubbabel inspire your faith today (v.3): tell the enemy to take a hike, move ahead with the work God has given you, and trust Him to guide you through the obstacles. Remember, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).