This passage shows that when God is at work in your life and you are joining Him in the work He is doing, you will very likely face opposition from the enemy. That is because the enemy despises seeing God’s kingdom expand and people turning to the Lord. In his application commentary, Pastor Jon Courson does an excellent job of showing how this passage illustrates some of the ways that our enemy Satan tries to attack you when you are trying to go in God’s direction for your life. I’ll summarize those ways in the verses that follow.
Ezra 4:1 (NIV)
When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel…
On verse 1: When the Jews returned to Jerusalem and settled in their towns, their enemies made no issue of it. It was only when they saw that the Jews were building a temple for the Lord that they now tried to distract, discourage and delay their progress.
What can we learn from this? Satan is happy for you just to focus on building your own kingdom and settling into your own house. If you live for your own happiness, prosperity and comfort, Satan doesn’t need to attack you in any other way because you’re already moving in the direction he wants you to go. It’s when you start prioritizing God’s kingdom that Satan will really try to “discourage” (v4), “work against” (v5), and “lodge accusations” (v6) against you.
Ezra 4:2 (NIV)
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.”
On verses 2-3: Other groups approach the Jews and ask to help with building the temple, claiming that “like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him” (v2)? Were the Jews being selfish, bigoted and prideful by not letting these other groups assist them? Pastor Jon Courson does a good job of explaining the background behind the Jews’ refusal to let these other groups help them with the build:
Who were the ones who said, “Let’s work together. Let’s help one another. Let’s build the temple cooperatively?” They were Samaritans. Many years earlier, the ten northern tribes had been carried off into Assyria. Assyrians, in turn, took up residence in the land vacated by the ten tribes. But when mountain lions began to wipe out the Assyrians, they sent a message back to Assyria, saying, “Send back some of the priests to help us worship the god of this land. We’re getting eaten alive by lions. God is punishing us.” So certain priests were sent back who built altars to Jehovah, but who also worshiped the gods of the Assyrians. Intermarriage followed soon after and a new race called “Samaritans” emerged. It was to these people that Zerubbabel said, “You have no part here whatsoever.”
You see, the enemy’s tricks are always the same. Initially, he persecutes. As you study church history, you see this in the brutality of the Roman empire. But an interesting thing happened. The more the early church was persecuted, the more it prospered. The greatest peril to Christianity, therefore, is not persecution. It’s prosperity. We’re lulled to sleep. So Satan changed his strategy to something much more devastating. Instead of fighting the church, he decided to join it. As he attempted here, he seeks to mix religion with culture and compromise. And that has proven to be a very effective tactic to this day. (from the Jon Courson Application Commentary)
Ezra 4:5 (NIV)
They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans
On verses 4-5: The Jews’ opponents seek to discourage the people by bribing officials to frustrate their work. What can we learn from this? The enemy likes to rally influential but weak-willed people whose integrity is lacking and whose loyalty can be bought to stop those who are doing God’s work.
Ezra 4:15 (NIV)
…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.
On verses 6-24: After King Cyrus of Persia dies, the Jews’ opponents go to Cyrus’ successors King Xerxes and later King Artaxerxes to lodge accusations against the Jews. They accuse the Jews in front of the king and call for a search of the historical records to show that the Jews have a history of rebellion, which is true. King Artaxerxes finds these records showing the Jews’ rebellious history and orders a stoppage in the work.
What can we learn from this? Another tactic of the enemy to stop you from doing God’s work is to search through your history and lodge condemning accusations against you, reminding you of all the ways you have failed to meet God’s standards. Whenever he does this, remember that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1) and that if anyone is Christ he is a new creation; the old is gone and the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
No matter how many ways the enemy can attack, never give up. God is able to rescue you and protect you from every evil attack of the enemy. Being aware of how the enemy likes to attack helps you to defend yourself and gain victory in the end.
Heavenly Father, thank You for showing us in Your Word how our enemy, Satan, attacks so that we can know how to defend ourselves and come out victorious. May I always be alert against Satan’s attacks and when those attacks come may I not be discouraged. For greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!