Last week we talked about God preparing a way. He said Exodus 23:20 “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared.” Faith, hope, trust and belief are necessary to take part on that journey. If we do not have these, how can we follow the way that God has prepared for us? He has made it clear that Jesus is the way; without him, there is no other way. Think about this for a moment. We have been talking about satan’s power on this earth. He has been given authority and great power to rule. The only way to defeat him is total submission to Jesus Christ. Yet people get all upset that God would allow such evil in the world yet they refuse to submit to him. A refusal of submission means we cannot defeat our enemies and they prevail against us. This does not mean submission halfheartedly; it must be wholehearted. We are in a battle that we will loose if we do not obey the word of God not just in this life but for eternity. This does not mean going our own way and doing what we feel is best and then saying it was God’s plan. Many negate the word of God when doing this. Mark 7:13 “Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”
                There is only one way to go, we need to go that way. God promised to make a way in the desert and make straight our paths. It doesn’t matter what stands in our way as long as we are following God’s way. Isaiah 40:1 “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. 3 A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Matthew 3:3 “This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.” Jesus is the way which also means God’s word is the way. John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” There is no other way. But if we do not listen we will get off track and we will be defeated and the church will remain in desolation as it is now. We need to stay on the right path because satan is out looking for someone to devour. satan wants to devour us but in our obedience, we have nothing to fear, as God will defeat our enemies just as he said he would. When they went to take the Promised Land the first time, all they had to do was go in and take the land but they refused to believe God’s word. The same goes for today. So the naysayers begin to spread discord and caused the people to rebel against the Lord. They were afraid of the giants. The enemy is in the land and it is our job to get them out. Caleb said in Numbers 14:9 “Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” With God fighting our battles the enemy’s protection is gone and we will be victorious. We will do the devouring not satan. He will give us the land. As we live for Jesus and follow His plan as the head of the church, we must understand that the enemy will lose its power.
                So this is how the plan unfolds. Without power we loose and cannot stand against our enemies; with power we win. This is why we must wait; we must be clothed with power before we go. As we wait we must understand that God will make a way. He is in control of everything, most importantly the timing. We do not have to fear but we are to do what he has told us to do. Taking the land still means, Numbers 33:50 “On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the Lord said to Moses, 51 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, 52 drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. 53 Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess.” This command still applies to us as we take the land. Christianity isn’t sitting in a building somewhere. Yes, Israel disobeyed and wondered in the desert but finally, they went in to take the land and God did amazing things but they soon forgot and disobeyed and sinned against the Lord God. They were warned constantly to follow but they refused and went their own way and finally God true to his word, which still applies to us today, vomited them out of the land into captivity. This is why the church is powerless today. And that is where they stayed for 70 years. Then the time had come for the remnant to return to the Promised Land. Sadly this was but a remnant of the people. Daniel had prayed and understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: 17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” We ask God the same; Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary.
                As we return to the Lord and wait for His direction, we see from scripture that his plan for us will not be thwarted. Job 42:2 “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Even though there is opposition as Job saw, God will make a way and we do need not to fear anything that stands in our way. The same verse that Daniel referred to in Jeremiah 29:10 we also can hold fast to. “This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Now, this does not only apply to Israel then, it applies to us now in our captivity and desolation. This captivity just like Israel came because of our refusal to obey the word of God wholeheartedly.
                Since the church has gone its own way, we are completely off track. Sure you might think you are still in the race because of all the people that are going in the same direction. You may think you look or act the part and call yourself a runner. You might have the right uniform and you might be running with all your heart but you are running in the wrong direction. Paul said Galatians 5:7 “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough. 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty.” Many have been persuaded not to follow closely the path required to find life and have found themselves on the path where the dead are. So like Israel, there is but a remnant left as the church has been greatly deceived. God will keep his promise to David and he will make a way back to the Promised Land. He will free us from captivity and return us to the land he had prepared for us just as he promised. The Promised Land for us is the gospel of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Just like Joshua was told Joshua 1:2 “get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 5 No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.” Paul said in Ephesians 6:10 “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.”
                Like Israel, we too disobeyed and were cast from the Promised Land, from the power of the gospel. The good news is that God will make a way back to the Promised Land. When Israel was freed from captivity, God was still in charge and one thing we must always remember is that God will always make a way but you can be sure there will be those who will try to oppose, they might even be giants. There will be obstacles. We see this all through the bible and some will be very diligent in their efforts to suppress the move of the Lord. They very easily join with evil forces to stand against you. But this is what I would like us to see today. God’s plan will not be thwarted. In the face of opposition, he will make straight our paths, but we must trust him. As the people returned to the land we not only see the hearts of those returning but the hearts of those around them turning to help them. We saw this when Israel left Egypt. Exodus 12:35 “The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. 36 The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.” They were also armed for battle. We also saw this with Balaam, the one called to curse Israel. Even though he was killed by the sword later God used him. Numbers 23:11 “Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but you have done nothing but bless them! 12 He answered, “Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?”
                Now we move ahead to the end of the Babylonian captivity. The remnant is returning to Jerusalem. When we look at Ezra we see the return and the construction of the altar and the temple. 2 Chronicles 36:22 “In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia so that he sent a herald throughout all his kingdom and also declared in a written edict: 23 “Thus says King Cyrus of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him! Let him go up.” So you see God is in charge of everything. This first part is repeated but Ezra goes on to say Ezra 1:4 “And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’”5 Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites—everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. 6 All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings. 7 Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god.
                So the remnant returns to rebuild the temple with much help but as always there is opposition.  Ezra 3:3 “Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices.” They then completed the foundation of the temple. “And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LordLord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. 13 No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.” So the rejoicing leads to more opposition. Ezra 4:4 “Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. 5 They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.” These opponents took it a step further. They sent a letter to the King of Persia. They ask for a search to see in the archives that these are a rebellious people and the building should be stopped. The king agreed and the work came to a standstill. A little later they continued to rebuild and once again opposition arose. Ezra 5:5 “But the eye of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they were not stopped until a report could go to Darius and his written reply be received.” So now another letter is sent in an effort to stop them. “9 We questioned the elders and asked them, “Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and to finish it?” They told them their answer. “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.” Then they continued and told them how King Cyrus issued a decree. So they asked for a search to see if this was true. This is the great part. The king responded and said it was true and told them not to interfere. But he did not leave it at that he said Ezra 6:8 “Moreover, I hereby decree what you are to do for these elders of the Jews in the construction of this house of God: Their expenses are to be fully paid out of the royal treasury, from the revenues of Trans-Euphrates, so that the work will not stop. 9 Whatever is needed—young bulls, rams, male lambs for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine and olive oil, as requested by the priests in Jerusalem—must be given them daily without fail, 10 so that they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven and pray for the well-being of the king and his sons. 11 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. 12 May God, who has caused his Name to dwell there, overthrow any king or people who lifts a hand to change this decree or to destroy this temple in Jerusalem. I Darius have decreed it. Let it be carried out with diligence.” The same happened when Ezra went up to Jerusalem. The king issued a decree to provide financially. Ezra 6:27 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of our ancestors, who has put it into the king’s heart to bring honor to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem in this way 28 and who has extended his good favor to me before the king and his advisers and all the king’s powerful officials. Because the hand of the Lord my God was on me, I took courage and gathered leaders from Israel to go up with me.” They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia.
                The same happened in the book of Nehemiah. He was told, “The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” He then prayed and asked the king to return to Jerusalem. He said Nehemiah 1:11 ‘Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” So he asked the king and “it pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.” “And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests.” He received timbers, cavalry and officers from the king. So we see God at work but we also see opposition right away.19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” And so began the rebuild of the walls and the gates. As they worked the enemy mocked and ridiculed and threatened them but they continued their work. They said “4 Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 5 Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.” The enemies continued to oppose them. Nehemiah 6:9 “They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” 15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. 16 When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.”
                Opposition is to be expected when you are doing what God has ordered. Sometimes there are insurmountable obstacles but God will make a way. Joshua 4:3 “For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” It might be an obstacle or it might be people as we saw with Moses. Numbers 16:3 “They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them. but God responded, “In the morning the Lord will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him.” Yes, there will be opposition along the way but the word of the Lord will always prevail and make His name known. 1 Thessalonians 2:2 “We had previously suffered and been treated shamefully in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition.” Look hat happened with the Thessalonians.
                As we rebuild what once was, opposition will come but as we have seen God will provide a way and use others to help do it. This why we are told do not worry about anything. God will provide a way. Ezra 8:31 The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way.” We do not have to fear the enemy nor do we even have to fear how the rebuilding will take place, we just trust the word of the Lord and do what we are told and keep going in the face of opposition. Yes, there will be those who are offended, and those who oppose but we have great hope as Joshua tells us, Joshua 21:43 “So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” Joshua 24:11 “‘Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The citizens of Jericho fought against you, as did also the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I gave them into your hands. 12 I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out before you—also the two Amorite kings. You did not do it with your own sword and bow. 13 So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.”
                Psalm 111:1 “Praise the Lord. I will extol the Lord with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly. 2 Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them. 3 Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever. 4 He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and compassionate. 5 He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever. 6 He has shown his people the power of his works, giving them the lands of other nations. 7 The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. 8 They are established for ever and ever, enacted in faithfulness and uprightness. 9 He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever— holy and awesome is his name. 10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have a good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.”