Old enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building The Temple of the GOD of Israel. They came to Zerubbabel and the family heads and said, “We’ll help you build. We worship our God the same as you. We’ve been offering sacrifices to him since Esarhaddon king of Assyria brought us here. Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the family heads said to them, “Nothing doing. Building the Temple of our God is not the same thing to you as to us. We alone will build for the GOD of Israel. We’re the ones King Cyrus of Persia commanded to do it.” So these people started beating down the morale of the people of Judah, harassing them as they built. They even hired propagandists to sap their resolve. They kept this up for about fifteen years, throughout the lifetime of Cyrus king of Persia and on into the reign of Darius king of Persia. In fact, in the reign of Xerxes, at the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against those living in Judah and Jerusalem. (Ezra 4:1-7)
It never takes long for the old enemies of our lives to hear about the work of God within our midst. Their response is often one of resistance to the things of God – whether it is out of envy or fear. The enemies of our soul are never content to see our forward progress or to see new foundations of growth built in our lives. Their response to assist us in some way is often nothing more than a smoke screen to entice us into allowing the old way of living into our new way of living – infecting the new with that which is not pure or holy.
The offer is to help with the building. The premise of their offer is that they worship the same God that the Jewish people do – this had become their “custom” since entering the land under the rule of King Esarhaddon. It was not uncommon for the people of that day to just “adopt” the traditions of worship in the land to which they were exiled. The exiled people never really converted to the true heart worship of the God of Israel – theirs was a lip service, a worship of convenience, a religious pursuit of no heart value. Therefore, their offer to assist in the rebuilding was not from a heart moved upon by the passion of seeing God’s name lifted high, nor his people rightly restored into fellowship with their God. These were men and women that served any god of the land – possibly even all the gods of the land. They had no singleness of worship.
The enemy of our soul knows the value of religious pursuit without any change of heart toward the God we serve. He knows that religion binds – relationship frees. The tactics he uses is to dupe us into believing that all worship is the same – that no difference exists between the one true God and the gods of this world. If he is successful in duping us into this mindset, he is safe in the stand he has in our lives. These people did not see the passion of heart that drove the Israelite in their pursuit of this rebuilding work. They did not fully appreciate the purpose with which the Jew sought restoration. They simply acknowledged that the work was good and they wanted to be on the work crews so they could say they “belonged” as part of the work.
We cannot lose sight of the first words of this passage – they were old enemies. Not just people that happened upon this rebuilding effort, but people who had actually stood in opposition to the Israelite nation in the past. Oftentimes, our worst enemies are those that continue to resurface, presenting fresh resistance each time. As the old enemies arise to oppose the work they had begun, the exiles that had returned from Persia may have felt that a simple “turning away” of the offer of help was enough. This may be the response of our hearts when the “old enemies” of our lives come across our paths, holding out enticing offers of assist. We may think we know how to resist them and even think we can dismiss them. Yet, as so often is the case, the enemies of our soul often do not take our first “no” as an answer they will submit to. They continue to oppose us, attempting to weasel their way into our lives again and again.
It is important to note here that the people knew that the rebuilding of the temple was not the same thing to these old enemies as it was to them – they understood the significance of fellowship with their God, the enjoyment of the presence of the God of Israel in their midst. These old enemies could only relate to what they had heard about God – theirs was not a personal, intimate knowledge of God. Often, our old enemy presents what appears to be God-worship on the surface, but is actually something quite short of the intimate fellowship in the presence of God that is available to those who abandon to God with their full heart, soul, and mind. What tactics is the enemy of your soul using to entice you to allow him into the rebuilding effort of your life? Tomorrow, we will explore some of the tactics the enemy uses to entice us into believing his intentions are pure.