When the heathen rage, God laughs.
Read Ezra 5-6
Psalm 2 reminds us that when the nations and kings of the earth “take counsel together against the Lord and His Anointed…He who sits in the heavens laughs.” This is a lesson that the adversaries of the Jews were about to learn. For 16 years, the opponents of Israel had succeeded in their attempt to hinder the Jews. However, under the prophetic ministry of Haggai and Zechariah, the people began to rebuild the temple. Yet again, opposition arose. Tattenai questioned the legitimacy of their actions and saw their work as an act of rebellion, so he sent a dispatch to Darius, who had now succeeded Cyrus as the King. He did what all subordinates do; he asked for a memo of clarification.
In response, Darius searched the archives to examine the past edicts of Cyrus. After a careful search, Darius discovered the past edict. In it, he found that Cyrus had not only permitted the Jews to return and rebuild the temple but also to take all the gold and silver utensils previously brought to Babylon. Furthermore, the cost of reconstruction was to be paid from the royal treasury. What the opponents had hoped would put a stop to the project resulted in the king approving the project by ordering the government treasury of the region to fund the project entirely. Perhaps, anticipating the ongoing reaction of the opponents of the Jews, he further mandates that anyone who hinders the assignment or fails to follow his command would be executed.
No doubt, the Jewish leaders were anxious after Tattenai’s visit and the challenge to the legitimacy of their efforts. However, in the end, the events that would have caused them fear and anxiety turned out to be an even greater blessing. Darius guaranteed their right to rebuild the temple and provided all the funds and materials needed to restore the complete worship of God. He even supplied all the animals required for the burnt offerings.
The power of God and his sovereignty extends beyond the plans of man. God orchestrates the world's affairs and controls the dictates of those in power to achieve his purpose. Consequently, we do not need to fear. The hymn writer, William Cowper, who experienced a life full of personal anguish and suffered from severe bouts of depression, would later write in his hymn, “God moves in a mysterious way”:
“God moves mysteriously,
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
and rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
of never-failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs,
and works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread,
are big with mercy and shall break,
in blessings on your head.”
In the end, instead of the Jews again cowering in fear and discouragement, they celebrated the Passover for “The Lord had caused them to rejoice and had turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them to encourage them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel” (6:22). The Lord not only moved Darius to provide for the Jews financially, but he even moved in the hearts of the Jews to worship him and rejoice in his sovereign work.
When we face circumstances and uncertainty in our world, we need a fresh vision of God's sovereign control. He is still at work, achieving his purpose. Cowper concludes his hymn with this anthem:
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for his grace;
behind a frowning providence
he hides a smiling face.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
and scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
and He will make it plain.
When the heathen rage, God just laughs. In the end, we will laugh with him, for his sovereign grace will achieve his purpose.