When was the last time you faced opposition in some part of your life? Maybe a co-worker had it out for you. Perhaps your spouse was not very supportive in an endeavor or dream that you have/had. Perhaps a teacher at school seemed to give you a harder time than other students. Maybe you were involved with a community project or group that was getting caught up in red tape or politics.
I would say that very few of us glide through life without experiencing opposition in some way at some time. Granted, some opposition we are glad to hit head on, glad for the opportunity to prove ourselves or our cause as worthy. But even opposition that begins by lighting our fire to fight harder can, over time, become a weight that drags us down and steals our motivation.
That is what happens in these chapters of Ezra. The temple foundation is laid, the people are moving on in the project, and some unsavory characters are beginning to display their dislike for the Israelite presence in Jerusalem and their determination to rebuild their former capital.
You might say; “But they brought the opposition onto themselves because they refused the help of the people living in the land.” Ezra 4:1-3 outline this. But you have to remember that this offer to help with the temple was not out of devotion to God. In the culture of the time, gods were seen as territorial and geographic. So when Babylon imported these people to inhabit Israel, they adopted the worship of Yahweh from the Hebrews and simply added him to their list of deities. 2 Kings 17:33 explains this reality.
Remember that part of God’s covenant with Israel was exclusivity, they were to be set apart solely to God with not influence from their neighbours. If these “helpers” had been allowed to participate in the rebuilding, they would have brought their own religious influence into the picture, something that Israel had already fallen prey to in the past.
You might get a bit confused reading chapter four and five. Think of chapter 4:6-4:23 as having giant parenthesis around them. The author interrupts his chronological narrative to explain that opposition to the rebuilding of the Temple started with this incident during King Cyrus’ reign and continued all the way through the reigns of the kings that followed him. The chronological narrative continues in chapter 4 verse 24.
The main thing I would like you to consider as you read these chapters is how the Israelites dealt with the opposition. They stuck firmly to their beliefs (4:4), they believed God when he told them that he would protect them (5:1-2) and they continued with the work even in the face of opposition.
That is really the key. There is the tendency, the leaning, the pressure to throw in the towel when opposition arises. The real question you have to ask yourself is: do I really believe in what I’m doing/saying? The Israelites really believed that God had directed them to rebuild the temple and Jerusalem, they really believed that he would protect them and see the project through, and so they continued even in the face of opposition.
If you don’t really believe in something, you will throw in the towel at the first sign of pressure to abandon it. That is actually one of the logic proofs that is used to defend Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The disciples DIED proclaiming that Jesus had physically been raised from the dead. If they really didn’t believe that or if they had made it up, there is no way they would have endured torture, exile and death (horrible death in some cases) defending it as true.
But they had seen him, touched him, heard him, ate with him, and so were confident to speak the truth even when opposition was life-threatening.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Haggai