Ezra 4:1-24. ENEMIES HINDER GOD’S WORK. 10-6-19 Devotional

Ezra 4:1-24. ENEMIES HINDER GOD’S WORK. 10-6-19 Devotional

Ezra 4:1-24                                                   Kevin E. Jesmer

Key Verse 4:3                                                10-6-19

“But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.” (3; ESV)

Dear Lord, thank you for the grounding you bring about from you’re the truth of your word. Thank you that we are not swayed here and there by “every changing of wind.” I can find peace and rest in you. Work through my family and I to preach the Gospel. Help us to properly advertise Christ in our lives. Help me to accept your word deeply in my heart. I thank you for this time and I pray in the mighty name of Jesus.

Part 1: We Will Build Alone (1-5)

Verses 1-5, “Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, 2 they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” 3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us. 4 Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build 5 and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.”

The historical enemies of Israel had been relocated in the northern kingdom. The people of the land said that they also worshiped God and they offered to help build the temple. But their religion was mixed with idol worship (2Ki 17). They were adherents to the worship of foreign gods. They absorbed some elements of the worship of the Israelites but they were not the people of God. They were just adding to their collection of idols.

They sought to infiltrate and frustrate the building attempts of the Israelites and so they offered to help with the rebuilding of the temple. They wanted to keep a close eye in what was happening. They did not want Jerusalem to become strong again.

The Jews refused their offer of help. Their refusal seems narrow-minded, but according to 4:1, the people who were offering their help were enemies. When God’s people refused to compromise, the people of the land actively sought to hinder them.

Believers can expect opposition when they try to do God’s work. 2 Timothy 3:12 reads, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, “ Unbelievers and evil spiritual forces are always working against God’s people. When people accept God’s mission and begin to do his work, the devil always sends enemies to harass them.

They faced discouragement and fear. Look at verse 4, “Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build “Discouragement and fear are two of the greatest obstacles to completing God’s work. Discouragement eats away at our motivations and fear paralyses us from acting at all. But they did not have to give into tools of the devil. God will always be there to help them to overcome. They have fellow believers that they can stand with.

But God protected his people and his work from those who would seek to infiltrate the work and hinder it. God stands with his people, protecting them and helping them to overcome fear and discouragement. It wasn’t always so. Without Christ we were enemies of God. God was not our protector. We were adrift in this world, victims of sin and fear and constantly becoming discouraged. But Jesus died in the cross to that we are forgiven of our sins. We have become children of God. God is our heavenly Father. God is now our mighty God and Savior. It is all because of what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross.

What kind of discouragement am I facing? What kind of opposition am I facing as I serve the Lord? I don’t face much opposition at all. I am serving God but there is not much opposition. It is because my Gospel ministry is serving based. There is not much preaching coming from my mouth. There is not much disciples raising. I am not become involved in the conversion of lost souls. If know that if I preached the Gospel to a person and they become a disciple of Jesus I would receive opposition from family members who don’t want to see their loved one becoming a Christian who follows Jesus. Opposition would happen even in the USA. Lord, help me to become actively involved in a conversion of new Christians and their discipleship. Grant me strength to bear up under any fear and discouragement.

I want to become involved in the building up of the congregation of KBC. God works through his church. When the church grows and becomes strong then the devil does not like that. The enemies of God do not like it. I am thankful for the studies of Ezra and Nehemiah. I pray that God may work through these studies for all of us to band together to help build up the work of God here at KBC and abroad.

I may be getting some opposition from being ignored. People close to me seldom visit. Maybe everyone experiences this. It could be because I live far away. It could be because I am boring. It could be because people are just plain old busy. But it also could be because my family is Christian. I am not sure. But no matter what, God is with me and grants me strength. He helps me to continually build up the work of God in my small portion of the world.

Part 2: Discouragement and Political Pressure (6-24)

Verses 6-24, “6 And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.

The Letter to King Artaxerxes

7 In the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam and Mithredath and Tabeel and the rest of their associates wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated. 8 Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows: 9 Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their associates, the judges, the governors, the officials, the Persians, the men of Erech, the Babylonians, the men of Susa, that is, the Elamites, 10 and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnappar deported and settled in the cities of Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River. 11 (This is a copy of the letter that they sent.) “To Artaxerxes the king: Your servants, the men of the province Beyond the River, send greeting. And now 12 be it known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. 13 Now be it known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be impaired. 14 Now because we eat the salt of the palace and it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, therefore we send and inform the king, 15 in order that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. You will find in the book of the records and learn that this city is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and that sedition was stirred up in it from of old. That was why this city was laid waste. 16 We make known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls finished, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River.”

The King Orders the Work to Cease

17 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 18 the letter that you sent to us has been plainly read before me. 19 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. 20 And mighty kings have been over Jerusalem, who ruled over the whole province Beyond the River, to whom tribute, custom, and toll were paid. 21 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. 22 And take care not to be slack in this matter. Why should damage grow to the hurt of the king?”

23 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. 24 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.”

This letter confirms the mighty work of God that God did among his people in the previous centuries. This was recorded and confirmed on the clay tablets. God did in fact bless his people so much in the past and he wanted to continually bless his people. I

Discouragement is the devil’s most useful tool. The enemies of God’s people worked hard to discourage the returnees. They planted fear; they tried to frustrate the work. When this failed, they seized an opportunity when Artaxerxes became Emperor. They wrote him and lodged a complaint. Artaxerxes did not want to help in the rebuilding of Jerusalem that historically had contained people that rebelled against kings. These leaders of the land were doing everything within their power to make the work of God grind to a halt.

His reaction makes sense from a worldly point of view. He did not want any trouble threatening his reign. But he could not see God. He was only concerned with his self-preservation. Because of this fear mongering the work of the temple did halt. Though their charge was groundless, the work was stopped for nearly 15 years.

God’s people could only pray and wait. That is how God’s people of every age need to respond. They need to pray and wait on God’s time to continue on with the work of the Lord. It is hard to relate to this in the USA where there is so much freedom to worship and serve God. But what about in countries where Christians are persecuted? They are facing so much persecution, including imprisonment and death. They really know how to relate to this passage.

Prayer:Lord, help me to overcome fear and discouragement, and to wait on your time and pray.”

One Word: Don’t compromise; wait and pray to continue building up the work of God. Trust God he will open up the way and rescue us from all fear and discouragement.

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