The Loss of God’s Temporal Blessings

Not only are there warnings given to us in the Bible about the loss of eternal rewards for failing to obey God, but there are also accounts of the loss of temporal blessings when God’s people put their own desires ahead of their obedience to Him. In the book of Haggai, we read of the lost material blessings experienced by the Jewish exiles who had returned from Babylon. God withheld these blessings from them because of their complacency in obeying Him in the matter of rebuilding His temple, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians decades earlier.

 

Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, conquered Jerusalem as foretold by the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:1-14), because the people of Judah and Jerusalem refused to turn from their evil ways. He led around ten thousand captives back to Babylon, leaving only the poorest of the people

 

behind. Jehoiachin was king of Judah and reigned in Jerusalem at that time, and he also was taken captive and led to Babylon.

 

Nebuchadnezzar then appointed Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, to be king of Judah, and he changed his name to Zedekiah. Nine years later, Zedekiah rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. So Nebuchadnezzar again led his army against Jerusalem, and after a two year siege he again captured the city. Once again captives were taken back to Babylon, and this time the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and the temple was destroyed (2 Kings 24, 25 and 2 Chronicles 36).

 

Decades later, Cyrus, king of Persia, conquered Babylon. The Lord spoke of Cyrus as His “shepherd” and “anointed”, to accomplish all that He pleased for the sake of Israel, His chosen (Isaiah 44:28-45:6). God chose to use the pagan king of a pagan nation, Cyrus, king of Persia, to prevail against another pagan nation, Babylon, and in so doing He brought to an end the captivity of the Jews in Babylon at that time, fulfilling Jeremiah’s prophecy of a seventy year Babylonian captivity (Jeremiah 25:11-12, 29:10).

 

In the first year of the reign of Cyrus over the Babylonians, he issued a proclamation allowing the return to Jerusalem of any Jewish captives who wished to return and rebuild the temple of the Lord (Ezra 1:1-4). Cyrus also restored the articles belonging to the temple that Nebuchadnezzar had carried off to Babylon when his army plundered and destroyed the temple years earlier. Much more can be read in the book of Ezra about the return of the exiles from Babylon and their efforts to rebuild the temple.

 

After two years of work, the foundation of the new temple had been completed, but opposition arose to their building at this point. The work was stopped for a time, until Darius became king of Persia. Darius supported the Jews in their efforts to rebuild the temple, and the work could have been resumed. However the Jews had become somewhat disinterested and disengaged in the rebuilding work, preferring rather to tend to their own personal pursuits. It was at this time that the Lord spoke to them through the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, telling the people that He had withheld His material blessings from them because they had not obeyed Him in completing the rebuilding of the temple, as He had commanded. Beginning in Haggai 1:7 we read:

 

Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the Lord. “You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?” declares the Lord of hosts, “Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house. Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew and the earth has withheld its produce. I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands.” (Haggai 1:7-11)

 

After the Lord told the people that He had withheld material blessings from them because they had not obeyed Him in completing the rebuilding of the temple, He then told them to resume the work, assuring them that He was with them (Haggai 2:3-5). And as we see later in chapter 2, the Lord spoke through Haggai yet again, emphasizing to His people again that He had withheld material blessings from them because they had not obeyed Him in this matter. But then He assured them of the restoration of those lost blessings as they resumed the work that He had commanded them to do (Haggai 2:15-19).

 

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