Devotional Thoughts for Today
Mk. 4:18-20 (ESV): “And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word,  but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”
It had been nearly 70 years since many Israelites (including Daniel and Ezekiel) were forcibly taken to Babylonia as exiles, but unexpectedly, their life there was comfortable as Jeremiah had prophesized: “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I carried you into exile” (Jer. 29:7). But one day, God moved their heart (Ez. 1:5) through Cyrus, the king of Persia, who said to the Jews, “Anyone of his people . . . let him go up to Jerusalem . . . and build the temple of the LORD” (1:3).
Whereas all the Jews in Egypt who suffered as slaves left for the Promised Land, only a minority of the Jews (42,000) of Persia left for Jerusalem. It was understandable since the Jews had settled comfortably in Persia and moving to Jerusalem, which was still lying in ruins, didn’t appear attractive. In addition, the dangerous trip would last four months (7:9). Instead, those who stayed just contributed funds (1:6); those who left contributed funds as well—1,100 pounds of gold, which would be equivalent of about $20 million (2:69).
Upon arrival, they worked feverishly to lay the foundation of the temple, and when this phase was finished, some “wept aloud” while “others shouted for joy” (3:12). Unfortunately, their enemies, who opposed the temple project from the outset, managed to halt the work after convincing the new Persian emperor that the reconstructed temple wouldn’t be in Persia’s best interest (4:1-24).
But around the time the work had ceased for 16 years, God sent Haggai to remind the exiles about why they had left Persia in the first place. Their response was so underwhelming that God said, “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built. . . .’ Is it a time for you and yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin” (Hag. 1:2-3)? These once-committed people had become callous, and instead of admitting their unwillingness to rebuild the temple, they flippantly said that it wasn’t the right time. Meanwhile, they busied themselves by building a mansion (paneled house) for their own home.
What happened? Like weeds that sap nutrients that the plant needs to grow, “the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things choke[d] the word” (NASB), making them unfruitful. This happened to the best of the committed; so watch out! Try to live as close to Apostle Paul’s philosophy of life: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Tim. 6:6-8 NIV).
Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 19-20