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.
The rebuilding of God’s temple started small. It began with a simple altar to sacrifice offerings according to the Law of Moses. This likely would not have drawn the attention that the construction of the temple building would draw. Still, Zerubbabel and the other men who helped him were afraid that this construction would incite conflict from other people groups. That fear, however, did not stop the plan. It began with an altar and eventually ended with a temple but not without the conflict that these men had feared.
Those who chose to build the new altar did so in the face of expected opposition. They took a step in faith and built the altar, but that did not mean that the path to rebuilding the entire temple would be smooth sailing. Opposition came from many sides as feared, and it took approximately 20 years for the project to be completed. During that time, discouragement set in and made the plan seem moot. After a prophecy from Zechariah, Zerubbabel and Jeshua began the construction anew but this time without stopping until completion.
Encouragement from people is one thing; encouragement from God is quite another. When we begin work that God has ordained for us, and we encounter opposition on every side, we can be tempted to cower and stop the work. When God encourages us to collect our courage and continue, it takes faith to ignore the things that broke our confidence in the first place and trust God to carry his plan to completion. Taking a step in faith does not ensure that we will not encounter opposition, but God ensures that we are able to overcome it. Father, give us the faith required to start our daily work for You with a clean slate, forgetting our past failures and trusting that You will complete the work You have begun.