The king sent an answer: “To Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their associates who live in Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River, greeting. And now the letter that you sent to us has been plainly read before me. And I made a decree, and search has been made, and it has been found that this city from of old has risen against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made in it. And mighty kings have been over Jerusalem, who ruled over the whole province Beyond the River, to whom tribute, custom, and toll were paid. Therefore make a decree that these men be made to cease, and that this city be not rebuilt, until a decree is made by me. And take care not to be slack in this matter. Why should damage grow to the hurt of the king?”
Then, when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their associates, they went in haste to the Jews at Jerusalem and by force and power made them cease. Then the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. Ezra 4:17-24 ESV
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:28-30 ESV
In the United States, the Interstate 90 expressway runs from the city of Boston to the city of Seattle, all the way across the country. In the city of Seattle, there were many ramps leading on and off I-90 planned to be built to connect it with another interstate freeway as well as to other roads. But for almost three decades, these ramps weren’t finished. If you drove by, you saw a number of freeway ramps leading to nowhere, just ending, many of them pointing up and then suddenly ending in midair. What happened was that there were legal challenges to the work, as well as environmental issues, and so what was begun in the 1960s didn’t get completed till the 1990s. For many years, the unfinished project simply sat, with its ramps leading to nowhere.
The same kind of thing happened in Jerusalem. When the people started to rebuild their temple, and the city and its walls, their enemies started to give them trouble. They wrote a letter to the king of the Persian empire accusing the Jews of planning a rebellion, and when the king got the letter he wrote back saying that he agreed that rebuilding Jerusalem meant trouble for him. He had found in his historical records that Jerusalem had once been the capital of a powerful country with kings that had received tribute from surrounding nations, and also that there had been rebellions against powerful empires coming from Jerusalem. He would have read about the glory days of the kings David and Solomon, and also about the way Jerusalem had stood firm when the Assyrian empire had taken the northern kingdom captive. So the king of Persia decreed that the Jews had to stop their building project. For many years the city stood only partly finished.
Sometimes we have things in life that we want to get done, and then something gets in the way and we can’t finish our projects. It can be very frustrating when this happens, but it’s a reminder that there are many things in life that we can’t control. The most important thing to remember is that if we try to earn our way into God’s favor, we will never even come close to finishing what we need to do! We sin against God every day, and there’s nothing we could ever do to make up for the ways we’ve rebelled against him. But Jesus came to help us with this. He obeyed God’s law perfectly for us from the beginning to the end of his life, and then he laid his life down on the cross for us. The moment he died he said, “It is finished.” That means that Jesus did everything he needed to do to save us and bring us back to our Heavenly Father. As long as we live, we will be unfinished in becoming like Jesus, but we can always be sure that Jesus completely finished our salvation for us.
Dear Jesus, thank you for your perfect life, and for finishing our salvation by dying on the cross for us. Amen.