June 17: Learning from Enemies
Ezra 3:1–4:24; 1 John 3:11–18; Psalm 106:16–29
If a new venture is really worth pursuing, it will probably be opposed. Some people will refuse to get on board, and others will intentionally get in the way. While these people may be trying protect their own interests, it’s more likely that they don’t like change—even if it’s for the better.
God’s work among His people is not that different from innovation; after all, He is the Author of all good ideas since all ideas come from His creation. And just like new ventures, God’s work is often rejected. The difference between new ventures and God’s work, though, is that all people who oppose God’s work are opposing Him, their Creator; they’re choosing to put their own interests before His interests, which are only for good.
Jeshua and Zerubbabel faced this type of opposition in the book of Ezra. After they had restored worship in Jerusalem, they began to organize the effort to lay the foundation of the temple—the place where God’s people were meant to worship. Then, the unexpected happened: Enemies arrived and began to cause trouble (Ezra 3:1–4:5). We often view such people as hateful, but in reality they were acting in their own interests. These enemies likely didn’t realize the land they claimed as their own had been stolen from God’s people in the first place; they probably thought they were protecting what was rightfully theirs (compare Ezra 4:6–16; see 2 Kgs 24–25).
This is often the case in our lives as well: We think we’re doing what’s legally or morally right, but we may actually be opposing God’s work. Sometimes trying to act rightly can lead us to do the wrong thing. Rather than insisting on what seems or feels right, we must pause to pray about it. We must ask God what He is really doing. And if God is working through someone else, we need to step out of the way. He is innovating—are we willing to innovate with Him?
In what ways is God innovating around you? How does He want to use you in this process? In what areas should you step aside to let His work happen?
JOHN D. BARRY
- And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in their cities, the people assembled themselves as one man unto Jerusalem. Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the Priests, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and built the Altar of the God of Israel to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God, And they set the Altar upon his bases (for fear was among them, because of the people of those countries) therefore they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord, even burnt offerings in the morning, and at even. They kept also the feast of the Tabernacles, as it is written, and they burnt offering daily, by number according to the custom day by day, And afterward the continual burnt offering, both in the new months and in all the feast days that were consecrated unto the Lord, and in all the oblations willingly offered unto the Lord. From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the Lord: but the foundation of the Temple of the Lord was not laid. They gave money also unto the masons, and to the workmen, and meat and drink, and oil unto them of Zidon and Tyre, to bring them cedar wood from Lebanon to the sea unto Japho, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia. And in the second year of their coming unto the house of God in Jerusalem, in the second month began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren the Priests, and the Levites, and all they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem, and appointed the Levites from twenty years old and above, to set forward the work of the house of the Lord. And Jeshua stood with his sons, and his brethren, and Kadmiel with his sons, and the sons of Judah together, to set forward the workmen in the house of God, and the sons of Henadad with their sons, and their brethren the Levites. And when the builders laid the foundation of the Temple of the Lord, they appointed the Priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the Lord, after the ordinance of David king of Israel. Thus they sang when they gave praise, and when they gave thanks unto the Lord, For he is good, for his mercy endureth forever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. Many also the Priests and the Levites and the chief of the fathers, ancient men which had seen the first house, (when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes) wept with a loud voice, and many shouted aloud for joy, So that the people could not discern the sound of the shout for joy, from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud cry, and the noise was heard far off. But the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard, that the children of the captivity built the Temple unto the Lord God of Israel. And they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief fathers, and said unto them, We will build with you: for we seek the Lord your God as ye do, and we have sacrificed unto him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, which brought us up hither. Then Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief fathers of Israel said unto them, It is not for you, but for us to build the house unto our God: for we ourselves together will builld it unto the Lord God of Israel, as king Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. And in the reign of Ahasuerus (in the beginning of his reign) wrote they an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. And in the days of Artachshashta, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions wrote when was peace, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia, and the writing of the letter was the Aramites writing, and the thing declared was the language of the Aramites. Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions Dinai, and Apharsathcai, Tarpelai, Persia, Archevai, Bablai, Shushanchai, Dehave, Elamai, And the rest of the people whom the great and noble Osnapper brought over, and set in the cities of Samaria, and other that are beyond the River and Cheeneth. This is the copy of the letter that they sent unto King Artaxerxes, THY SERVANTS the men beyond the River and Cheeneth, salute thee. Be it known unto the King that the Jews, which came up from thee to us, are come unto Jerusalem (a cry rebellious and wicked) and build, and lay the foundations of the walls, and have joined the foundations. Be it known now unto the king, that if this city be built, and the foundations of the walls laid, they will not give toll, tribute, nor custom: so shalt thou hinder the king’s tribute. Now therefore because we have been brought up in the King’s dishonor: for this cause have we sent and certified the King. That one may search in the book of the Chronicles of thy fathers, and thou shalt find in the book of the Chronicles, and perceive that this city is rebellious and noisome unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition of old time, for the which cause this city was destroyed. We certify the king therefore, that if this city be built, and the foundations of the walls laid, by this means the portion beyond the River shall not be thine. The King sent an answer unto Rehum the chancellor, and Shimshi the scribe, and to the rest of their companions that dwelt in Samaria, and unto the other beyond the River, Shelam and Cheeth. The letter which ye sent unto us, hath been openly read before me, And I have commanded and they have searched, and found, that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and hath rebelled, and rebellion hath been committed therein. There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, which have ruled over all beyond the River, and toll, tribute and custom was given unto them. Make ye now a decree that those men may cease, ad that the city be not built, till I have given another commandment. Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to hurt the king? When the copy of king Artaxerxes’s letter was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in all the haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and caused them to cease by force and power. Then ceased the work of the throne of God, which was in Jerusalem, and did stay unto the second year of Darius king of Persia. Ezra 3:1–4:24
- For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, Not as Cain which was of that wicked one, and slew his brother: and wherefore slew he him? because his own works were evil, and his brother’s good. Marvel not my brethren, though this world hate you. We know that we are translated from death unto life, because we love the brethren: he that loveth not his brother, abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother, is a manslayer: and ye know that no manslayer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby have we perceived love, that he laid down his life for us: therefore we ought also to lay down our lives for the brethren. And whosoever hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue only, but in deed and truth. For thereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall before him assure our hearts. For if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we boldness toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things which are pleasing in his sight. This is then his commandment, that we believe in the Name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave commandment. For he that keepeth his commandments, dwelleth in him, and he in him: and hereby we know that he abideth in us, even by that Spirit which he hath given us. 1 John 3:11–18
- They envied Moses also in the tents, and Aaron the holy one of the Lord. Therefore the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram. And the fire was kindled in their assembly: the flame burnt up the wicked. They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image. Thus they turned their glory into the similitude of a bullock, that eateth grass. They forgat God their Savior, which had done great things in Egypt. Wondrous works in the land of Ham, and fearful things by the red sea. Therefore he minded to destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood in the breach before him to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them. Also they contemned that pleasant land, and believed not his word, But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord. Therefore he lifted up his hand against them, to destroy them in the wilderness. And to destroy their seed among the nations, and to scatter them throughout the countries. They joined themselves also unto Baal of Peor, and did eat the offerings of the dead. Thus they provoked him unto anger with their own inventions, and the plague brake in upon them. Psalm 106:16–29