Carry on regardless….
Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, supporting them. Ezra 5:1-2
Now this is awkward. Yesterday I advised you to respect the decision of your leader and let it go, when facing opposition. Today, the people of God ignore an order from the King and start rebuilding the house of God. They carry on regardless.
So how do I explain that?
Well, God was with them. God was making it very clear what He wanted them to do. He’d sent His prophets to advise them and support them.
The only right time to ignore the decision of your leader and to carry on regardless is when you are absolutely sure that this is what God is asking for from you. Because God is number one. What God wants is more important than anything or anyone else on earth. God knows best.
So Daniel is prepared to face death by defying the King’s orders when he carries on praying openly three times a day. He carries on regardless.
So Paul is imprisoned over and over again for preaching the Good News. He carries on regardless.
I mentioned yesterday that I received some serious criticism for the content of my novels, which was deemed to be distasteful and not the kind of subject matter for a Christian to be writing about. I lost confidence in my own judgement at that point and stopped writing for a few months. However, at Greenbelt, I confronted all my mixed emotions and thoughts about this issue and faced up to the realisation that I had definitely been created to write – but to write what?
In September, I spent a day locked away in my studio exploring this issue. I explored my own emotions and thoughts. I read what other Christians were saying. I talked to God. I listened to God. And I came to my own conclusion. And fifteen minutes before the kids came home from school, I received a Facebook message from someone who I respected deeply who I had asked to read my book in the light of these criticisms. A College Principal with a deep personal faith and strong roots in the Anglican tradition. The timing and effect of her message felt like a message straight from God. She disagreed with my critics, saying –
In fact I think it’s message is v clearly Christian and it reads to me as a book carrying Christian truths (the result & texture of sin, pride, love (what it isn’t and what it is) delight, redemption, creativity)…in a way that a non Christian would be able to get a glimpse into what it all means.
Exactly. Now that was what I was hoping for…….
Such an understanding, realistic, compassionate, wise response (she advised me that I would never be able to persuade anyone to think differently, so not to try) was exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it.
And so I am writing again. I have started my third novel. It contains swearing and self-harm and dementia – no sex so far! – and is a hard write and a hard read, but is real life and therefore messy and uncomfortable. And it’s all about reconciliation.
This is not an act of defiance. I am not out to prove anything to anyone. But I will carry on writing regardless of what certain people think.
Anyway, back to Ezra.
The people who have been allowed to settle in the land are not happy. The governor Tattenai goes to the Jews to ask them who authorised them to continue the rebuilding. He sends a letter to King Darius informing him of the situation, in which he records the response to his question –
We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished. But because our ancestors angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, king of Babylon, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon.
However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God. Ezra 5:11-13
The Jewish people are calm. They are clear. They are not defensive or aggressive. They go on to explain what Cyrus did to help their cause and urge Darius to look at his official records to see they are telling the truth.
So he does. He orders a search of the archives. The scroll is found which describes all that Cyrus said and did…..the dimensions, the practicalities, the expenses. Darius cannot ignore this. He endorses all that Cyrus decreed, even down to telling the local people to stay out of it!
Now then, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and you other officials of that province, stay away from there. Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God. Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site. Ezra 6:6-7
With severe consequences if they do not!
Furthermore, I decree that if anyone defies this edict, a beam is to be pulled from their house and they are to be impaled on it. And for this crime their house is to be made a pile of rubble. Ezra 6:11
Probably time to stand back and let them get on with it, then!
And so the work of rebuilding the temple continues.
I Darius have decreed it. Let it be carried out with diligence. Ezra 6:12
We’ll look at diligence tomorrow.
So, what am I saying? How can we know when something is a good idea or a God idea (I hate that phrase with a passion, can I just say?)? I have no concrete advice here. I think I am learning to obey those in authority over me, unless God makes it really, really clear that He wants me to do something particular. I am learning to take my time and not react immediately and defensively. I am learning to wait and to trust that God will find a way for His will to be done and for His kingdom to come.
I hope that helps.