There is another thing, too, of exceeding interest, and that is, that the way that God set this to right was not by the king's authority, opening the door again, but the direct intervention of His own power - the power of the Spirit of God by the prophets (Ezra 5). It is by the prophets, not by the king - not by Darius. "Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them. Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build" (vers. 1, 2). How bold faith is! And God justifies the faith that He gives, for although this looked as though it was a want of deference to the royal authority, the fact is that they had, at least, as good an authority for going on with the work. For, in point of fact, if Artaxerxes here stops the building of the house, Cyrus had previously authorised the building of it. They did what was quite right. They regarded as an accident what Artaxerxes brought in. They regarded it as a thing merely brought about by circumstances. They viewed it as a commandment, not of Persia, but of himself. They go back to what Cyrus had commanded. They knew well that it was one of the great maxims of the Persian kingdom that the laws of the Medes and Persians did not change. It was Artaxerxes that had changed.
Had Artaxerxes forbidden the building of the temple at the beginning, they might have been rather in a difficulty. There would have been the direct claim of God on the one hand, against that of the kingdom on the other, and the principle that we must obey God rather than men. But in point of fact, it was really, you see, between two kings, with this only difference, and a very great one, that the first and the greatest king, the founder of the Persian monarchy - was the very one that had commanded the building of the temple. They were right, therefore in acting upon his edict. The other had merely come in influenced by temporary circumstances, and he had indeed passed away. They were quite justified in falling back upon the word of Cyrus, but the truth of it is, that the grand thing that influenced their souls was that it was the word of God - through the prophets. I point out this to show how beautifully God can give, along with the word of the prophet, the justification of what His people did; and this is the more important because, as you know, this very thing is alluded to in the prophets. The prophet Isaiah particularly names, in connection with Cyrus, the building of the house of Jehovah. It is distinctly connected with him - not only the destruction of Babylon, but the building of Jehovah's house, so that the children of the captivity were amply justified, as God always gives faith His full protection as well as guidance.
So, then, the prophets began to stir up the hearts of the people, and the people went forward according to the word of the Lord, and God took care of the king. God took care that although influence had been brought out against the people through the wickedness of the Samaritan instigators, and Artaxerxes had been influenced to see that Israel, and the Jews, and Jerusalem particularly, had bean a rebellious city, now comes a new search. Darius looks into the matter, and it is a well known fact in history, as we find it exactly in this book, that Darius was always disposed to act upon what Cyrus had done. He had the greatest regard and reverence for Cyrus as the founder of the empire. He had a desire to be a restitutor of all the institutions of Cyrus. Hence, therefore, we can see the beautiful appropriateness, and Darius does not care in the least for Artaxerxes or anybody else. He goes back to Cyrus, and he finds that Cyrus fully authorised what the Jews wished, against their adversaries. Thus God knows how to divert and suit everything. Our business is not to be setting one king against another, but to go forward in the name of the Lord - to take His word as our full warrant, perfectly sure that as we seek to be guided by God, it is God's part to guide all men and all circumstances. That is His work, not ours. Our part, in short, is to go on in faith. He knows how to deal with those that oppose us.