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Chapters 7 and 8
Chapters 9 and 10
The prophets Haggai and Zechariah sent of God for encouragement
Whatever happens, they have to go through that which puts faith to the proof; but their path is ordered by the will of God, and their faith relies upon Him. In this case they had to wait; but God's time would come; and that, not by means of a mere decree from the Gentile king: God raises up a much more precious encouragement for them from another quarter. Although the people had been subject to the Gentiles, God was still supreme; His word is still of supreme authority to His people, whenever He condescends to speak to them. If necessary, He can dispose the hearts of kings to uphold it. In every case His people are to follow it, without seeking other motive, or other help. Haggai and Zechariah are sent of God, and prophesy among the people. These immediate communications from God were of infinite value, as His word ever is; and although they did not change the position of the people with respect to the Gentiles, they were a touching proof that God was interested in His people, and that, whatever might be their afflictions, the God of Israel was above all that had power to oppress them.
Want of faith the true hindrance to building
I have said that the people were obliged to wait. This was the case as soon as they received the decree that forbade their continuing to build. But many years had elapsed before this prohibition came; and it seems evident to me, from examining the prophecies which throw so much light on the contemporary history, and from comparing their dates, that it was want of faith in the remnant which was the true hindrance. There were adversaries in the land who made them afraid, and who thus prevented their building. It appears that the Jews did not dare continue. Their adversaries hired counsellors in the Persian court to frustrate the purpose of the Jews. But the first thing was that the adversaries weakened the hands of the people. It was not until two reigns later that the prohibition was obtained; but the Jews had left off building through fear of their adversaries (compare Ezra 4:4, 21, and Ezra 5:1, with Hag. 1:1-4; Hag. 2:15). Neither was it because the king's decree was brought them that they began again to build, but because they feared Jehovah, and feared not the king's command, as seeing Him who is invisible (Hag. 1:12-13). God was not any more to be feared in the reign of Darius than in that of Cyrus or of Artaxerxes; but the source of their weakness was their having forgotten God. This makes manifest the great grace of God in awakening them by the mouth of Haggai. God had until then also chastened the people.
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