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Daily Devotional

July 4


by Henry T. Vriesen

Ezra 3–6; Haggai 1–2

Soon after the foundation of the new temple had been laid, the builders were hindered in their work. Now Samaria was not so far from Jerusalem: some of its citizens were from the old ten tribes, and others from the people that had been brought into the land by the Assyrians many years before. These worshipped the Lord, but also other gods. When the Samaritans saw that the building of the temple was started, they asked permission to have a share in putting up the building. But Zerubbabel and Jeshua knew that these people did not worship God in the right way, and so they did not accept their help.

This made the people of Samaria very angry, and they sent letters to the king of Persia, accusing the Jews of falsehoods. This caused the building of the temple to come to a standstill. So the foundations of the temple lay unfinished for several years. But after some time two prophets of God arose in the land of Judea. They were Haggai and Zechariah. They urged the people to go ahead with the building. Haggai said, “Is it time for you to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lies waste? … Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord.” Zechariah said, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts … The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it.”

Then Zerubbabel and Jeshua took courage and went on with the work. When they commenced work, the Samaritans came and asked, “Who hath commanded you to build this house?” And they answered, “Cyrus the king of Babylon … made a decree to build this house of God.” The Samaritans did not believe their words, and so they wrote a letter to king Darius. Darius looked up the records and it was found that Cyrus had indeed commanded the Jews to rebuild the temple. So he sent word to the Samaritans, telling them not to hinder the work, but rather to help it and give what was needed for it. Then the Jews went on with great joy; and it was finished at last, twenty-one years after it had been begun. This temple, which was built for the second time, was like the one built by Solomon nearly five hundred years before, with the Court, the Holy Place, and the Holy of Holies. In the Holy Place stood the table for the show bread, the golden lampstand, and the golden altar for incense. But in the Holy of Holies there was no ark of the covenant, for this had been lost and was never brought back to Jerusalem. When the building was completed, a dedication took place.

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