Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Devil Defames but God Sustains

We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth

Ezra 4:1-24; Ezra 5

Background Story:  Zedekiah, Judah’s last king was carried away into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 BC. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed and the Temple burnt in 586 BC (2 Kings 24). Many citizens of Judah along with Daniel and Ezekiel were also carried to Babylon. In 539 BC Babylon fell to the invading armies of the Medes and Persians led by Cyrus the Great. The Babylonian king at that time, Belshazzar, was executed (Daniel 5).  Cyrus then placed his able Army General, Darius the Mede, as king over the city of Babylon.  During Cyrus’ first year reigning, he issued a decree which permitted the Jews to return and rebuild their Temple at Jerusalem. Both Jeremiah and Isaiah had predicted the length of the captivity and that Cyrus would issue the decree letting the Jews go home some 170 years before.

In 535 BC under Zerubbabel the construction of the Temple began; but for some time the work was halted by various satanic activities. It is on the satanic activities that we shall focus our attention today.

Before we do this, let us briefly look at Zerubbabel himself and some of the promises God made to him. He was the grandson of Jehoiachin (Ezra 3:2; First Chronicles 3:17). He faced a very difficult task in rebuilding the Temple and was often personally encouraged by God Himself.

  • Haggai 1:14 – The Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel. 
  • Haggai 2:4 – God urged him to take courage.
  • Haggai 2:21 -23 - God revealed to Zerubbabel His plans for the heavens and the earth and assured him of his safety for He (God) had chosen him.
  • Zechariah 4:6-10 - God assures him that he will be victorious over all problems not by might, nor by power, but by His Spirit.

When the devil knows of our stand and utilization by God, he never rests until he attempts marring our testimony. If any has found the Christian life smooth going without interference from the devil, I have not and many Christians have not told me so. We should not confuse the sustaining grace of God with non-interference of the devil.

Back to the passage at hand. The devil tried two methods to defame Zerubbabel and his other workers in the rebuilding of the Temple.

1. Compromise Ezra 4: 1-3: All through the ages the devil has used this method. He used it in the Garden of Eden. He used it in the case of Daniel and the three other Hebrew children; he used it in the case of Job. He used it in Abraham, and Joseph. He used it in the wilderness when he came to Jesus Christ. He still uses it today. The content of his compromise may change but the objective and commitment remain unchanged.  “No harm is done if you do it a little” “A little compromise here does not do any harm” and before you know it untold harm has been done. He has used it on me and I am sure he has used it on you too. Let us beware!

2. Slander Ezra 4: 4-24: again this method is as old as the Satan himself. He has used it all his life. He tried on God Himself in the Garden of Eden –”You shall not surely die; God knows that the day you eat of the fruit, you shall be as wise as God, knowing good and evil” – slander. He is saying to the woman –”God is not truthful and seeks to hide the truth from man” He used it again on God in the case of Job “God bribes men to worship Him”. He tried it on Christ “if You are the Son of God ...” He used it on Daniel. He used it on Joseph. He has used it on me several times, perhaps he has used on you.

The Bible says that the devil is daily defaming (accusing) the Christians before God (Revelation 12:10)

In spite of all these God was and is at work. In sustaining the Jews who returned from exile to rebuild the Temple, God did two things. First on the Jews themselves and Second, on their adversaries.

On the Jews themselves, God raises two prophets of comfort:  Haggai and Zachariah (Ezra 5: 1-2) Listen to the message of Haggai in Haggai 1:5, 8-9; 2:4:

Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: “Consider your ways!

Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,” says the LORD. “You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” says the LORD of hosts. “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house.

Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ says the LORD; ‘and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,’ says the LORD, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the LORD of hosts.

See also the message of Zachariah in Zechariah 4:6-10: “So he answered and said to me: “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the LORD of hosts.  ‘Who are you, O Great Mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”’” Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying:  “The hands of Zerubbabel Have laid the foundation of this temple; His hands shall also finish it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. 
For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the LORD, Which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.” (NKJV)

Why a message of comfort at this time? God still does that today. He does so and gives us comfort in the midst of it all so that we have a chance to give testimony to the glory of God.

In Ezra 5: 3 - 4 we hear the enemy ask “Who gave you this authority...? Oh that every Christian would know to answer this question correctly.

In Ezra 5: 5 we hear God saying that “the Eye of their God was upon ——”. Our God gives His sustaining abiding presence in the midst of struggle and persecution if we are engaged in His business.

In Ezra 5: 8 the unbelievers, the Samaritans recognize and call the temple “house of the Great God” If we shall present our God truly and fairly and tell it as it is, God’s word will always stand its ground and achieve its purpose

In Ezra 5:11-12 we hear the children of God give the answer that is authoritative: “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth.” How I wish that all Christians will realize the full import of this statement. Our God is not a local deity – we worship the God on whom the whole creation depends and therefore ought to be protected and assisted by all and hindered by none. Their account in verse 12 reminds us to learn with meekness and fear to give a reason for the hope that is in us (First Peter 3:13); rightly to understand and readily to declare what we do in God’s service and why we do it. Notice that the children of Israel recognized that their plight in Babylon was a just recompense for their misdeeds. (Ezra 5: 12)

Jesus Himself declared to Pilate - if God had not given you the power from above, you could not have done anything to Me” (John 19:10-11) We all should realize this – all power comes from God even that of the devil and his agents. Except God gives them permission they can do nothing against us. If God allows them to have power over us, it is to our good and to God’s glory (Romans 8:28)

The account of the Jews as in this letter by Tattenai very much looks like Paul’s defense before Governor Felix in Caesarea – despite all the sweeping accusations of Tertulus; Paul simply stated the facts as they were (Acts 24) Note especially the last verse in the letter of the Jews in Jerusalem. They totally resigned their case to God’s will. This to my mind is in consonance with God’s promise to all who would trust Him in Isaiah 54:17 and Isaiah 43:1-7

How do we react even when we know that our cause is just?
Once someone asked Billy Graham: When is it just for a Christian to lose his temper?  Billy answered- When you are right, there is no reason to lose your temper; when you are wrong, you cannot afford to lose your temper. But remember that your temper is a part of your constitution and it makes you complete – you are incomplete without it. So at all times keep your temper.

I pray that God guides us when we work for Him to keep the right mental and spiritual attitude.

God bless you all.

No comments:

Post a Comment