When I first began this little study of Ezra, I started doing a once through and only got through the first seven chapters doing that. I just get excited to dig in and take a deeper look that I jumped right in! I am so glad my God is such a patient and loving God! I don’t know how He puts up with me. It is a testament to His awesome love, and I do so know how He loves me. He has been so patient when I put this study on hold to do a couple of others I am doing and when I wasn’t feeling well for a couple of months and He just loved me when I couldn’t even pick up my Bible some days. Today though, I am praying He will return with me to Ezra, just as He returned with those who came to rebuild the temple and show me through His mighty Word more about who He is.
Opposition…even the word makes me uneasy. It makes it so clear that it comes from a position opposite mine. I know it will make me uncomfortable and sometimes even strike fear in my heart. This chapter of Ezra is all about opposition. When you look deeper you will see that it is also all about our God.
Verse 1 tells us that this opposition was coming from their enemies. I don’t want to spend too much time focusing on the enemies here as my study is about who my God is. I will search a bit to find a little about them. Here are a few things we find about them:
- Verse 2 – they told the lie, we are like you. They claimed to seek the same God and said they had been sacrificing to Him since they had come there.
- Verse 4 – they set out to discourage the people of Judah. To set out is to have a purpose and plan.
- Verse 4 – the goal of their plan was to make them afraid to go on building. Fear is so often the tactic of the enemy of our soul too. Fear can paralyze, fear can immobilize and sidetrack.
- Verse 5 – they hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans through the reign of Cyrus of Persia and into Darius who followed him.
- Verse 6 – the enemy lodged an accusation against them to Artaxerxes King of Persia 50 years after the first opposition in verses 1-5.
- Verse 7 – They wrote it in the Aramaic language. Would they even be able to know and understand what they are being accused of?
- Verse 12 to 16 – They called Jerusalem a rebellious and wicked city. They acted like they had just gone on their own to rebuild it not mentioning that King Cyrus had sent them to do it and even helped finance it. They cast them as rebellious and troublesome and said that was why they were destroyed. They cast themselves as being under obligation to report to the king because they didn’t want Him dishonored. They end with a fear tactic for the King. “You will be left with nothing in Trans-Euphrates.”
What was the result of the opposition? The king demanded they stop working on the Temple. Why? “He was concerned about the detriment it could be to royal interests.
Verse 24 – “Thus the work on the house of the God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.” This was around 16 years.
Wow! If you only read chapter 4 of Ezra it appears that the opposition won. They seemed to be victorious in shutting down God’s plan to have the temple rebuilt. What did the exiles do in those 16 years? That is a really long time! Did they just go through the day to day of life as we sometimes do? Did they give up on their calling because of discouragement, frustration or fear? How were they spiritually? Did they trust God that in His timing He would bring it about or were they saying, “Where is our God?” Did they feel they had moved their families and relocated for Him and now they were stuck here and doubting He had ever even wanted it?
Have you ever been there? I know I have at times. What do we learn about God in Ezra 4? Sometimes He allows opposition in our lives. He could intervene but He doesn’t. We have an enemy and we know our God is stronger but sometimes the enemy will lie to us, strike fear in our hearts, frustrate us when we are doing what God has called us to do, lie about us and cast doubt on our motives. What we choose to believe about God during those times is up to us. Life is not always easy. Life is not always fair. After 52 years of knowing my God the one thing I know for sure is He loves me! During times of opposition in the past on this faith journey I didn’t know that for sure. Not because of Him but because I knew I didn’t deserve His love. When opposition would come I would think He had let go of me. Now I know He is holding me ever more closely in those times.
This section is really long but I felt it was important. Be patient with me and patient with the study as we move into chapter 5. Will we see a change? What will we learn that can help us grow in knowing God? I can’t wait to see! What did you get out of chapter 4? I would love to hear about it! Blessings to you and yours!