Your Delays Are Not Defeats

Text: Ezra 3:1-13; 5:1-2

“For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” ­­­­—Habakkuk 2:3

The Book of Ezra, along with Nehemiah, is a narrative of the “Restoration” period for the Jews—the regathering of their worshiping community as well as their struggle to survive and rebuild what had been destroyed after the Babylonian invasion. With the help of prophetic support, Ezra declared that they were still God’s people, that God had not forgotten them, and that He still had a promised plan to fulfill for them.

The first wave of exiles returned with a zeal to rebuild what had been broken down. They built an altar to the Lord and began to lay the foundation for the reconstruction of the temple (Ezra 3:1-13). This new beginning evoked a powerful worship experience as the people sang “responsively, praising and giving thanks” for God’s goodness and steadfast love. Shortly thereafter, things began to stall. The worshipers were faced with fierce opposition as the enemy moved in like a flood.

“From this point onward right to the end of Nehemiah there is conflict,” noted Derek Kidner. “Nothing that is attempted for God will now go unchallenged, and scarcely a tactic be unexplored by the opposition.”

Ezra’s adversaries succeeded in stopping the building work for some 15 years. The enemy never enjoys your spiritual progress. He is hell-bent on tearing down everything that God longs to do in you, for you, and through you. The adversary of your soul brings fierce opposition because his very nature is to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). His one mission is to interrupt everything that God is actively doing in your life. But you can find encouragement from Ezra. Though the enemy could delay the work, he couldn’t defeat it.

The returning tribes came together in unification as they shared common struggles and were challenged to work together for the glory of God. Ezra led them to apply God’s Word as the authoritative rule for living. As they continued in healthy spiritual disciplines, the people witnessed God’s sovereignty and protection. God revealed Himself as a promise-keeper and sent in reinforcements to embolden the people with encouragement (Ezra 5:1–2). After several years of inactivity, the community resumes their work of rebuilding the temple. The end game includes a renewed reverence for God’s Word, restored worship, significant reforms, and ultimately a spiritual revival in Jerusalem.

Even when His plan seems to be interrupted at times, as in Ezra’s account, the Almighty steps in at just the right time to unveil His redemptive plan and to continue His process of restoration in our lives. He knows exactly what we need and He sends it precisely when we need it. He is always faithful to complete the work He began in us (Philippians 1:6). In Ezra’s case, God even moved the hearts of pagan rulers (Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes) to allow, encourage, and assist the Jewish people to return home. The God Who used these unlikely allies to fulfill His promises of restoration for His chosen people is the same God Who will move heaven and earth to fulfill His promises in your life. Think about that as you abide in Him this week.

PRAYER

God, your faithfulness moves us to worship. We revere you because you are holy, sovereign, and immutable. Help us to take courage that you leave nothing undone in our lives. You will bring to completion what you have started, despite apparent interruptions and delays along the way. We trust in your promises and your process. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Questions for Reflection, Small Group or Family Discussion:

  1. In what ways has your faith ever come under attack, been tested, or been opposed?
  2. Why is community so vital to our struggle with adversity in life?
  3. What can you learn from Ezra about God’s control over the events of your life, both good and bad?
  4. Ezra’s community was delayed for some 15 years in accomplishing their mission. What do you suppose they might have been tempted to think about God’s promises during those 15 years of apparent delay?
  5. Where might you need to shift your perspective about the delays in your life to a focus on God’s promises?

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