Monday after the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Ezra 4:1-24 (NKJV)
1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the descendants of the captivity were building the temple of the LORD God of Israel, 2 they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the fathers’ houses, and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do; and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.” 3 But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the fathers’ houses of Israel said to them, “You may do nothing with us to build a house for our God; but we alone will build to the LORD God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.” 4 Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building, 5 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.
6 In the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.
7 In the days of Artaxerxes also, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabel, and the rest of their companions wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the letter was written in Aramaic script, and translated into the Aramaic language. 8 Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes in this fashion:
9 From Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions—representatives of the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the people of Persia and Erech and Babylon and Shushan, the Dehavites, the Elamites, 10 and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnapper took captive and settled in the cities of Samaria and the remainder beyond the River—and so forth.
11 (This is a copy of the letter that they sent him)
To King Artaxerxes from your servants, the men of the region beyond the River, and so forth:
12 Let it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you have come to us at Jerusalem, and are building the rebellious and evil city, and are finishing its walls and repairing the foundations. 13 Let it now be known to the king that, if this city is built and the walls completed, they will not pay tax, tribute, or custom, and the king’s treasury will be diminished. 14 Now because we receive support from the palace, it was not proper for us to see the king’s dishonor; therefore we have sent and informed the king, 15 that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. And you will find in the book of the records and know that this city is a rebellious city, harmful to kings and provinces, and that they have incited sedition within the city in former times, for which cause this city was destroyed.
16 We inform the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, the result will be that you will have no dominion beyond the River.
17 The king sent an answer:
To Rehum the commander, to Shimshai the scribe, to the rest of their companions who dwell in Samaria, and to the remainder beyond the River:
Peace, and so forth.
18 The letter which you sent to us has been clearly read before me. 19 And I gave the command, and a search has been made, and it was found that this city in former times has revolted against kings, and rebellion and sedition have been fostered in it. 20 There have also been mighty kings over Jerusalem, who have ruled over all the region beyond the River; and tax, tribute, and custom were paid to them. 21 Now give the command to make these men cease, that this city may not be built until the command is given by me.
22 Take heed now that you do not fail to do this. Why should damage increase to the hurt of the kings?
23 Now when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem against the Jews, and by force of arms made them cease. 24 Thus the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem ceased, and it was discontinued until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.
At first glance, it would appear that the Israelites had it coming to them. Some people offered to help them build the Temple but they refused the offer. The king is told about it and stops the work on the Temple. These people sounded nice enough, “Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do.” But our text tells us otherwise. They were “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin.”
Second Kings 17:41 offers some additional insight to these people who wanted to help, “Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their ancestors did.” These were people who had merely given lip service to the true God, but really didn’t believe in Him. For them, the true God was just one of many gods.
The true worshipers of God recognized the ruse. They would have compromised their confession of faith by allowing idolaters to take part in building the Temple. By not cooperating with these “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin” the people of Israel paid the price, a delay in rebuilding the Temple.
Today, the Church faces similar problems. Pressures are mounting on faithful pastors and their congregation to not preach the truth of what God’s Word has to say about certain sins that are now deemed socially acceptable. Lies and half-truths are spoken against the faithful in an effort to smear them before the public. Such are the tactics of Satan.
Yet, in the face of all that befalls us, God remains faithful to us and thus keeps us faithful to Him. Nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We pray: O Lord keep us faithful for the sake of Jesus. Amen.