Ezra Part Two Deep Dive
HATERS GONNA HATE | KATIE HALDANE
No matter what you do for God, two things are guaranteed: God is going to be faithful to His promises and the enemy is going to try to stop what you are doing.
As you read Ezra, it is no surprise that after the incredible favour that God had given to the people of Israel in the first couple of chapters – to walk out the promise of God and come back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple; including an edict from King Cyrus of Persia, all the gold, silver and garments that the heads of the families provided for the house of God and the people that had come to help – we find, in Chapter 4, the heading ‘Opposition to the Rebuilding’. Now, as you read the rest of the story, I want you to notice how the enemy tries to stop the rebuilding. These are great lessons to learn for our own lives today.
When you step out for God, the enemy comes in, but have faith and courage, God’s promises will prevail – just keep building. As Taylor Swift put it so wisely, ‘Shake It Off’ and keep going! People are going to hate what you are doing when you are doing it for God.
Notice in Ezra that Satan doesn’t come himself to stop the building, he sends people to slow down the process. But don’t you love that God sends His people, Haggai and Zechariah to counter the attack? As you begin reading Ezra 4, remember this is their ‘game on’ moment, they know God will be faithful but it might take some courage, wisdom and strength to do it! You can imagine the Israelites quoting Isaiah 59:19.
Ez. 59:19 When the enemy comes in like a flood,
The Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him. (NKJV)
So who are these enemies? The first thing we notice about them is that they are the enemies of Judah and Benjamin (Chapter 4:1). The majority of people that came back to build the temple were from the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, the core tribes of the Southern Kingdom. MacLaren’s commentary tells us this about the enemies:
‘Opposition began as soon as the foundations were laid, as is usually the case with all great attempts to build God’s house. It came from the Samaritans, the mingled people who were partly descendants of the ancient remnant of the northern kingdom, left behind after the removal by deportation of the bulk of its population, and partly the descendants of successive layers of immigrants, planted in the empty territory by successive Assyrian and Babylonian kings. Esar-haddon was the first who had sent colonists, about one hundred and thirty years before the return. The writer calls the Samaritans ‘the adversaries,’ though they began by offers of friendship and alliance’.
Fast forward to the New Testament and you can see the hostility for the Samaritans in full swing in Jesus day.
So how did these enemies try and stop the building?
1.They joined the team
Ez. 4:2 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.
I know this one sounds really weird, but the first thing that these enemies did is try and help build by saying ‘we seek your God and have been sacrificing to Him’. But the Israelites are not convinced and quickly stop this seemingly kind gesture, and as we continue the journey they were right in their wisdom. These people were joining the team to stop the project.
Remember, be wise in your decisions, because the enemy can stop your plans with things that look like help but are, in fact, a distraction to building the things of God.
Ez. 4:4 Then the people around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building.
As the plan to infiltrate the team didn’t work, the next plan was to discourage the builders. This is a common way that Satan works, to bring discouragement to stop the promises of God. The author of Ezra tells us why they brought discouragement: to make them afraid to go on building. This was an intimidation tactic!
Don’t allow the enemy to discourage you or bring fear upon you, get your scriptures out and stand strong! Quote 1 John 4:4, ‘You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world’. Or 2 Timothy 1:7 7, ‘For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind’.
3. Frustrating their plans
Ez. 4:5 They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia ad down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.
How many times have I heard pastors say that when they tried to build their church, they were stopped by government officials, building permits etc? I am not saying that all government officials are corrupt, but we shouldn’t be surprised when, just as in Ezra, Satan uses different things to frustrate the plans of God.
Stand strong in the midst of your plans being frustrated, keep standing in the promise of God and keep submitting those building permits – God is faithful!
Ez. 4:6 At the beginning of the reign of Xerxes, they lodged an accusation against the people of Judah and Jerusalem. And in the days of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel and the rest of his associates wrote a letter to Artaxerxes.
Firstly, did you notice the mention of Xerxes in this statement? Some scholars believe that this is the same king as found in the Book of Esther. Like we chatted about last week, the matrix continues!
Now the enemies are accusing the people of Israel. To accuse the saints is another of Satan’s tricks, he is actually called the Accuser (Matthew 4:1), so he is now bringing out the big guns! As you read Chapter 4:6-4:24, this plan of the enemy works and the building of the temple stopped for 17 years. Look at Ezra 4:24, ‘Thus the work of the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia’. False accusations can come against us today. But remind yourself what it says in Revelation 12:10,
Rev. 12:10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.
Don’t fear, Haggai and Zechariah are here! After 17 years of delay, Haggai and Zechariah stir the people again. I love this – the Word of God comes in and sets the record straight. God Himself, through these prophets, fights for His people.
Unfortuantely, I don’t have time to go into the accusations of Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates and Shethar-Bozenai, that come against the building in Chapter 5:3, so perhaps you can study it yourself. But let me remind you that Solomon’s temple was built without any enemies coming in to stop it, yet this Second Temple was built in the midst of persecution and chaos. The enemy did not want this temple built, he didn’t want a place of worship in Jerusalem.
So as you finish reading Ezra, remember to not take opposition in your life as God saying that your project is not right. If you’re finding opposition to what you are doing, it is most likely because you are doing God’s will and the enemy doesn’t want you to do it! So keep going and be encouraged that God’s promises will come to pass, but it might take some wisdom, strength, prayer and standing on God’s word to get it done.
You are up for this! Let the haters hate and keep building!