We WILL face OPPOSITION in doing GOD’S WORK: "Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. In the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem." (Ezra 4:4-6)
The events described in the above passage illustrate the kinds of hostility that the Jews faced sometime between 486 and 465 B.C. while rebuilding the temple of the God of Israel. Any good work for God can expect opposition from Satan and his cohorts. The adversaries of Judah and Benjamin (v. 1) were descendants of colonists from other countries who had been planted in the land when Assyria took the northern kingdom into captivity. These colonists had intermarried with the Jews who remained in the land, and their offspring became known as Samaritans.
These Samaritans came to Zerubbabel and other leaders proposing to assist in the rebuilding of the temple (v. 2), but for them since Jehovah was only one of their gods, their proposal was turned down (v.3). This proposal was actually dangerous since it came under the guise of true religion (2 Cor. 11:15; 2 Cor. 6:17). Angered by the refusal of the Israeli leaders to allow them to participate in the construction project, these Samaritans then tried to stop the building of the temple. They probably threatened the people with physical force and thus made them afraid (v. 4). They also hired counselors to lobby against Israel at the royal Persian court to frustrate the Jews through the use of scare tactics and tried to misrepresent the Jewish community. They also vented their hostility by sending letters to Ahasuerus (v. 6) and Artaxerxes (v. 23), and all these went on for a period of fourteen years (v. 5). Thus, the work on the temple eventually came to a halt (v. 24).
The opposition against the work of God was not a brief and passing problem, but a foretaste of prolonged opposition to the people of God in rebuilding God’s ‘house‘—the temple, but also the city and the nation. As soon as we start doing the work of God and God starts to bless our efforts, the enemy starts to devise schemes against us. Satan is the thief who comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10) as he gets angry when God’s people unite to build!
In his commentary on this passage, the great Bible scholar Warren Wiersbe has listed three weapons that Satan uses to destroy the work of God:
- Cooperation (vv. 1–3). Remember that the Samaritans were the “mixed multitude” who would have corrupted the Jews and interfered with the work of God (Exod. 12:38; Num. 11:4). Beware of unsaved volunteers; they may be working for the enemy!
- Intimidation (vv. 4–5). Discouragement and fear are effective weapons, especially when the work is already difficult. When we start to experience fear, we should lean on Isaiah 12:2: "Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; 'For Yah, the Lord, is my strength and song; He also has become my salvation.'"
- Legislation (vv. 6–24). The people of the world will use “official influence” to hinder God’s work. They argued that Jerusalem had been a rebellious city and the king would be concerned about taxes. Their logic and tactic worked, and the construction was temporarily halted.