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The Scriptorium


What else is new? Ezra 4.1-16

Return from Exile: Ezra 4-6 (1)

Pray Psalm 2.11, 12.
Serve the LORD with fear,
And rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry,
And you perish in the way,
When His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.

Sing Psalm 2.11, 12.
(Agincourt Hymn: O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High)
Rejoice with fear in Jesus’ grace, and worship before His exalted face!
Beware His anger and judgment grim: How blessed are all who rest in Him!

Read Ezra 4.1-16; meditate on vv. 3-5

1. What were the adversaries of God’s people seeking?

2. What did God’s people tell them?

We return to the history in which the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah occur. The adversaries of the Lord’s people offered to join them in the work of building the temple (vv. 1, 2). Doubtless, they hoped that by being brought into the project they could either divert or subvert it altogether. The heads of Israel knew, however, that letting the Samaritans work with them would just be another form of captivity (v. 3).

That’s what happens when you bring the world into doing the work of building God’s Church. It seems like such a great idea to set aside ancient and Biblical forms of worship, protocols for ministry, and ways of shepherding God’s flock to embrace the forms and practices current in the world. But God honors His work when it’s done His way, not the world’s.

Subterfuge didn’t work, so the Samaritans began to discourage the people in other ways, “troubling” them as they pressed on in their project (v. 4). A good part of the prophecy of Zechariah was aimed at helping the people stay the course through these threats and troubles.

In addition, the Samaritans wrote to the Persian kings, lying words designed to provoke them to thwart the people of God and their project. This went on for many years, from the days of Cyrus until those of Darius (vv. 4, 5). They hired lawyers and wrote letters to keep the Jews from finishing the temple, and they floated all manner of lying warnings to bolster their argument (vv. 6-16). They suggested to Artaxerxes that he search the records to learn how rebellious and troublesome the Jews had been (vv. 14, 15). A search would, indeed, be made, but much to the Samaritans’ dismay.

We must always remember that anytime we make friends with the world we’re making ourselves enemies of God (Jms. 4.4).

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162.
Religious liberties infracted! Trampled first amendment rights! All the things we moan about as believers. But in some cases, not all, but some, Christians have invited the world into their work, and then gone crazy when the world pushed back. For example: Christian schools that took government money for lunches and now the government wants to tell them who can work there, who can attend there, etc. Then the Christian “legals” come swooping in and spend tons of money suing the government for wanting to have a say in this work. Then the headline comes out, “The government taking food out of the children’s mouths.” What I always shout back at the news I’m reading is, “Why did you take the money in the first place? God owns everything, as He said, ‘For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills’ (Ps. 50.10); why didn’t you trust Him to supply the needs that you had for lunches for the children?”

Sleeping with the enemy never works and should never be necessary. If Christians obediently tithed their income there would be plenty of money for school lunches. (Just a thought.)

Jesus warned us from the start that “in the world you will have tribulation”; but He also finished with this promise: “be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16.33).

The command that Paul gave does not merely apply to marriage, but applies in all situations:
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.
For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?
And what communion has light with darkness?
And what accord has Christ with Belial?
Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?
And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?
For you are the temple of the living God…”
“‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord’” (2 Cor. 6.14-16, 17).

Is there real and undeserved persecution of Christians today? Absolutely. Are horrific things happening to our brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world? Sad to say, yes. Do they deserve more than one day, the “Pray for the Persecuted Church” day, to be prayed for? YES! Should their plight be heavy on our hearts and minds always? Most assuredly.

True persecution is not the topic of discussion. Faux persecution is, because we have invited unbelievers into the camp, to have a say in our worship, and work, and guidelines. They have said, “Let us build with you” (Ezra 4.2) and we have said, “OK, and bring your money and suggestion box with you”. Then we’re captive.

Will we all be troubled and persecuted because we are believers? Yes, we will. We can count on it. Because our enemy does not want us to ever succeed. But we dare not cozy up to the enemy for any reason whatsoever. It is never necessary: God will take care of us. Trust Him.

“For in time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place
of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock” (Ps. 27.5).
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust’” (Ps. 91.1, 2).
“You, O LORD, are in our midst, and we are called by Your name; do not leave us!” (Jer. 14.9).
“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear.
What can man do to me?’” (Heb. 13.5, 6).

“We must always remember that anytime we make friends with the world we’re making ourselves enemies of God.” And we never, ever, want to do that!

For reflection

1. What can you do so that your faith in Jesus will not be compromised by worldly views and ways?

2. Should we expect people to oppose us when we take a stand for Jesus? Explain.

3. Whom will you encourage today to praise the Lord with you and to persevere in faith and obedience?

Every attempt to revive true religion will stir up the opposition of Satan, and of those in whom he works. The adversaries were the Samaritans, who had been planted in the land of Israel, 2 Kings ch 17. It was plain that they did not mean to unite in the worship of the Lord, according to his word. Let those who discourage a good work, and weaken them that are employed in it, see whose pattern they follow.
Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Ezra 4.1-5

Pray Psalm 2.1-10.

Pray for Christians who are enduring persecution. Praise the Lord for their courage and ask Him to use their witness and suffering for His glory. Pray for lost and rebellious people everywhere. Pray that God will give you an opportunity to praise Him to someone today.

Sing Psalm 2.1-10.
(Agincourt Hymn: O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High)
Why do the nations vainly rage, conspiring together from age to age?
Earth’s kings and all of their counselors stand against the Lord and His Right Hand:

“Now let us cast His yoke below, His Kingdom authority overthrow!
Throw off His Law, reject His Word; no more be governed by this Lord!”

The Lord in heaven laughs in wrath at all who embark on this cursèd path.
His angry Word to them is plain: “Yet shall My King in Zion reign!”

Proclaim the message far and wide, that God has exalted the Crucified!
From heav’n He sent us His only Son, Who has for us salvation won!

To Christ the Lord be given all who humbly embrace Him and on Him call.
Be wise, be warned: His judgment comes to break the prideful, sinful ones.

T. M. and Susie Moore

Two books can help us understand our own captivity and lead us to seek revival and renewal in the Lord. The Church Captive asks us to consider the ways the Church today has become captive to the world. And Revived! can help us find the way to renewal. Learn more and order your free copies by clicking here and here.

Support for Scriptorium comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available free by 
clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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