Ezra 3-4, Psalm 92
Resistance is all around us. Gravity keeps us from flying, jumping high, and getting out of bed. New ideas are typically rejected outright, especially when they appear counter to the norm. And money is an obvious punch in the face for the majority of folks.
But resistance is also quite helpful. Weight lifters understand that resistance is the key to building muscle. Some of the greatest leaders in history faced social resistance for long periods of time before breaking through, coming out stronger than when they’d begun.
Take Rocky, for example. I’m aware he’s not a real person, but it’s perfect example of a man encountering great odds, yet persisting and coming out stronger in the end.
But I think Christians are afraid of opposition, unfortunately. Most people are, in fact. However, one would think that Christians would be compelled by the love of Christ and carry forth in their ambitions to do what’s right despite major resistance.
And some are indeed compelled to press on. I just think more should be stronger in this way, don’t you? Imagine millions of Rocky Balboas running around on steps and punching stuff. That would be awesome.
BETTER THAN EZRA
This historical account of the Jewish people attempting to rebuild the temple shows us why starting strong is just as important as finishing well.
In 3:1, we see the Jews coming together “as one man.” All you have to do is drive down the street and see that people are as divided as ever. And that goes for Christians as well. It’s imperative that we stick together, putting aside our personal peeves in order to make something happen, namely seeing the gospel perpetuated and making disciples.
This is not the only instance in the Bible that illustrates the theme of being persistent and consistent, but it’s a good one. We see the Jews offering sacrifices “morning and evening” in 3:3, and this is done despite fear of the surrounding nations. Yeah, they were freaked out, and that’s fine. But they did their worship anyway. Psalm 92:2
Sometimes we’re more interested in drawing attention to ourselves, both as individuals and as a church body, rather than actually doing what God says. In 3:4, the Jews remained obedient to what was written in the law, doing their feasts regularly — which, really, doesn’t seem so bad — in order to demonstrate their adherence to God. You want to demonstrate strength? Do what the Lord says from the start. This could be a nice New Year’s resolution, for those of you who are interested in that kind of thing.
Verse 3:5 shows the Jews’ propensity for integrity. There’s not much of that among the nation of Israel in biblical accounts — and really, humans as a whole aren’t brilliant in this department either — but we get a rare moment here. The people are making sacrifices, but they do MORE than what’s required, just because. This is a called a “freewill offering.” When’s the last time you did or gave sacrificially without expecting something in return? And no, Christmas doesn’t count; you know you were hoping for stuff.
In all this, the foundation of the temple wasn’t laid yet. (3:6) These guys hadn’t so much as picked up a hammer. That’s some quality preparation, my friends. Personally, I get annoyed with the way a lot of Christians use the term “prayed up” like it’s some magical spirit-o-meter being refreshed similar to video game hit points. It doesn’t work that way at all, but there’s something to this idea of aligning yourself to God before going about His business. We don’t pray in order to get God involved in our stuff. We pray so we might be nearer to what He’d like to do.
We can also draw a parallel to Jesus here, who would eventually be the one to lay the ultimate foundation for the temple (His church) by laying down His life.
SMELLS LIKE TEAM SPIRIT
Finally, the Jews start getting to work. The first thing they build, naturally, is the aforementioned foundation. And they’re excited about it. They recognize the symbolism of their activity, and their response is more worship (3:11).
Then we see the opposition show up in chapter 4. To summarize, the surrounding nations within the Persian empire are upset about the Jews getting together and starting the construction of the temple, and they write a letter to the king to let him know about it. Of course, rather than expressing their disgust with a foreign God being worshiped nearby, they attempt to deceive the king and proclaim that the Jews are beginning an insurrection.
It’s important to recognize that the majority of opposition that takes place against God’s work is in the form of deception. It started with Adam, and the lies from hell continue today. People will say that the church is hateful, spiteful, and out to fling stones at anyone that’s different. While the behavior of the Christian church might reflect some of their claims, the general idea is certainly not so.Opposition through deception.
It’s also important to see that this opposition is temporary. It might feel like it’s going on forever, but if we persist, the Lord is faithful and the lies of the wicked will be seen for what they are. Psalm 92:7 reflects this sentiment.
Of course, this letter convinces the king, after he takes a look at the history of the Jewish people, to forcefully cease the building project. This work stoppage, however, as we discover, is temporary. Psalm 92:8-15 affirms us in the same way, that His work will continue.
Do not be discouraged, then, when we face opposition. Jesus talked about this. So did Peter. Though we might see delays and setbacks in our lives, remember that the Lord ordained His people, those who have vowed to commit their whole wills to Him, to be faithful in His work that He shall complete. As one might say, it’s all good, so finish up!
You’re going to see opposition — that’s a promise. But how we begin and end in the midst of it is imperative. So let’s stop running and hiding! Let us be faithful in all circumstances to be obedient, consistent, and to recognize deception, so that the Lord might be glorified in all we do.