October 30, 2022
This week we read the book of Ezra. The author also wrote 1 and 2 Chronicles. Remember at the end of Chronicles the people of Judah were taken captive for 70 years by the Babylonians lead by king Nebuchadnezzar. He carried off all the articles from God’s temple, set fire to the temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem.
The Babylonians were then overtaken by the Persians as predicted in Isaiah 44:28. The king of Persia said this, “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:
2 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. 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.’”
Thus, because the Jews disobeyed God, they were taken into Babylonian captivity for 70 years. It was God’s plan to then have them released and the temple rebuilt through the orders of Cyrus, the king of Persia, even though he was not Jewish himself.
This caused a lot of excitement amongst everyone. There were many that went back to Judah, and the rebuilding of the temple ensued. The temple altar was made, the people worshipped and sacrificed burnt offerings to the Lord.
After the altar was finished, the foundation was laid for the temple. The people praised and worshipped the LORD saying in Ezra 3:11, “He is good; his love endures forever.”
Everything was looking wonderful for the people of Judah. They were able to go back to their own country again and started to build their temple. They were praising God.
But what happened? Opposition stepped in and tried to thwart the ministry and will of God.
Let’s look at the book of Ezra and see the opposition the people of Judah received, and then how they handled it.
The first opposition the people of Judah face is somewhat hidden. Ezra 4:1-3 states, “When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, 2 they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”3 But Zerubbabel, Joshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”
- The people wanted to distort the truth of God and try to draw you away from His will. These people wanted to help with the building of the temple. That does not seem to be opposition. The problem was they were enemies of Judah and Benjamin. They also were being disingenuous about seeking after God and sacrificing to him. 2 Kings 17:33 states, “They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought. ”They wanted the people of Judah to think they were like them, and that stated they wanted to help, but they truly were enemies. We read a warning that relates to situations such as this in Acts 20:28-31, “28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,[a] which he bought with his own blood.[b] 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard.”
- The people tried to discourage and make them afraid. Ezra 4:4-5 states “Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They hired counselors 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.” There was further opposition under king Xerxes and Artaxerxes. We do not know exactly what was done to discourage the people but we do know it went on for a long time because it was 16 years from the reign of Cyrus to the reign of Darius.
- The people frustrated their plans. Ezra 4:6 says, “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.
- The people falsely accused them. At the beginning of the reign of Xerxes,[b] they lodged an accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem. They even wrote a letter to the king.
- They people threaten them. Ezra 4:15 says, “Furthermore, the king should know that if this city is built and its walls are restored, no more taxes, tribute or duty will be paid, and eventually the royal revenues will suffer.[e] 14 Now since we are under obligation to the palace and it is not proper for us to see the king dishonored, we are sending this message to inform the king, 15 so that a search may be made in the archives of your predecessors. In these records you will find that this city is a rebellious city, troublesome to kings and provinces, a place with a long history of sedition. That is why this city was destroyed. 16 We inform the king that if this city is built and its walls are restored, you will be left with nothing in Trans-Euphrates.”
After this Ezra 4:24 says, “Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.”
They stopped building the temple for about 16 years. Then Haggai the prophet came and prophesied and they started rebuilding the temple again. This was without the knowledge of the king. The new king found the wording that Cyrus wanted the temple built. Ezra 6:14 says “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.”
I think we can learn something from the book of Ezra and the Israelites.
God had a plan for the Israelites to go back to Judah and rebuild the temple. They started implementing the plan, were excited, and then met opposition.
I know I have felt like the Israelites in the past when trying to accomplish or live by God’s will. I started a ministry, things were going well, and then was met with a lot of opposition. There was a lot of discouragement and fear. Through a lot of prayer the ministry continued, but it was not easy.
Remember, Satan does not want God’s will to prevail and he will try to derail the work of God. God allows it to test our faith. The question is, “how will we respond to opposition?” Do we lose sight of God’s will for us? Do we stop what we are doing? The Israelites had to stop because they were met with physical force. But once they heard from the LORD through the prophet Haggai, they started the work again. Ultimately, they were able to complete the temple as God commanded.
When we are starting something new that God wants us to do, we will have opposition. It may be in the form of distorting the truth, discouragement, fear, frustrated plans, being falsely accused, threats, or something else. Satan does not want God’s plans to continue. Remember what Jesus said in John 14:1, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” We also need to remember what 2 Corinthians 15:58 says: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”
When we find opposition to the work of the Lord, we need to stand firm, seek the Lord through prayer, and give ourselves fully to Him. Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We also need to seek Him through his Word for encouragement. Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”
Next week we will read Nehemiah, the entire book.