Perspective is a wondrous and powerful noun, isn’t it? As we read these few short paragraphs, it’s easy to understand how outsiders could have viewed the Israelites as rebellious heathens. Let me repeat part of that last sentence … few short paragraphs. It only took a few short paragraphs for us to see and understand how others might have been able to view the Israelites as a gang of mobsters and no-goods, even though we have now read (according to my Bible) nearly 730 pages of trustworthy text telling us time and time again that the Israelites were good guys. I guess what I’m trying to explain in a nutshell is that it doesn’t take very long to get/give a different perspective. I realize we weren’t asking for a new perspective today, but we got one anyway, and that’s a good thing because it made us (or me, anyway) realize there are two sides to every story, even for God’s very own people. And it’s vital for everyone to get everyone’s sides before making harsh moves. Now, let’s look at King Artaxerxes. While it’s good to know his perspective, he reacted in the way we’ve been acting: he assumed. And he acted on those assumptions. What if instead of halting the construction of the Temple based on a report that technically was factual but highly skewed, King Artaxerxes just asked the Israelites what the heck was going on? Gosh, what a mature thing that would have been to do. And had he approached the situation right, he could have just laid all the cards on the table. Like, “Hey, Rehum and Shimshai and your colleagues, I got word that y’all are a band of rebels with a wild and wooly history. What say you about this report?” And Rehum, Shimshai and their colleagues could have set a meeting with King Artaxerxes to hash things out and come to some kind of agreement. But that’s how it SHOULD have been handled, and admittedly, that’s how we all should handle a lot of stuff, but just as this chapter demonstrates, we don’t.
I have to reminisce a little about the first part of this chapter also, as it reminded me of my old newspaper days when I was publishing a little community paper called The North Central Reporter. I had just gotten up and going when a lady from in town knocked on my door and asked if I needed any part-time help. Well, I wasn’t in a position to hire anyone at that time, really, but I also knew if I did hire anyone, it most likely wouldn’t have been her. Something about her just didn’t sit right with me, but I will ALWAYS wonder if things might have turned out differently had I let her do some part-time work for me after that day. I guess since I couldn’t/wouldn’t hire her, she went to the competing newspaper, and he scooped her right up. Together, they set out to absolutely destroy me and humiliate me at every turn. I’ve distanced myself from that time and don’t remember exactly how stressful it was, but a few days ago some of my Facebook memories popped up, and there I sat reliving some of those old memories. I remember how utterly frustrated I was when I wrote those posts. Verses 4 and 5 reminded me again of those times: “Then the local residents tried to discourage and frighten the people of Judah to keep them from their work. They bribed agents to work against them and to frustrate their plans.” And their plot succeeded, too. Eventually, the work of building the Temple was stopped, just as I stopped publishing my newspaper. I can look back on those days now, and while I know things could have been different (through some mature conversation, which I’m not sure either of us were mature enough to have at that time), I also see what has happened during the last 10 years of my life (and I get reports from back home about the lives of the two newspaper people who used to torment me). And I feel like God made good of all that mess in the best of ways. We can see, too, at the end of Chapter 4 that the same hope is alive and well for Israel.
Writing prompt: hashtag talkitout
Write about a personal situation that could have been better handled through a simple conversation, and/or write about some blessings that have resulted following complete chaos.