The Dwelling Place
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The Enemy Isn't Idle: Ezra 5-6
Pastor Caleb Delzell - March 2, 2018

We came to chapters 5 and 6 in our Youth Sunday School study through the book of Ezra last week. If you're unfamiliar with the history of the times, let me fill you in.

The Jewish nation has returned to the promised land from their captivity to Babylon, which has since been taken over by the Medo-Persian empire, under the rule of King Cyrus. The people make the long journey home, and upon arrival begin the long process of rebuilding the temple of God, previously destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The work starts out well, with the altar and sacrifices being reinstated, followed shortly by laying of the temple's foundation. Progress is being made, the work that God had called the people to was being accomplished!

However the good time was short-lived. Immediately after the foundation is laid we see the enemies of Israel approach the people and, after being denied permission to work alongside them [article], we see these pagan enemies begin to discourage, frighten, and frustrate the people's efforts to rebuild (Ezra 4:4-5). They even go so far as to write multiple accusations against the the inhabitants of Jerusalem, claiming the people of the city we're rebuilding the temple and walls with the intention of starting a revolt and rebelling against the Persian empire (Ezra 4:11-16).

To make a long story short, the King at this time, Artaxerxes, issues a decree to put a stop to the rebuilding effort, authorizing the enemies of the Lord's people to use force if necessary. We see the work on the temple grind to a halt as the people are discouraged by the enemies' relentless attacks.

But the Lord's purpose for His people is certain and secure. God raises up the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to encourage and revitalize the people, and they, in turn, inspired by God's Word and assured of His presence, resume the work.

You can imagine what happens next. No sooner has the work begun anew than the enemies are immediately there, ready to once again sow the seeds of discouragement and affliction in their attempt to cause the workers to cease in their faithful efforts (Ezra 5:3-5). They employ the same strategy as last time, writing to the new king, Darius, in a desperate attempt to cease the progress bring made (Ezra 5:6-17).

Well, we know it's true, any time the people of God are involved in carrying out His purpose we know the enemy will be there to try and thwart it. This isn't a surprise, this isn't unexpected. We know that Satan is actively seeking to hinder the work of the Lord upon the earth. In fact, Scripture tells us that he roams the globe looking for these opportunities to destroy what God is doing (Job 1:6-7; 1 Peter 5:8; Matthew 13:18-19; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4; Luke 22:31).

It's easy to think that maybe our enemy is idle or passive, that he is lazy in his endeavor to bring God's work in His Church crumbling down, but we ought not be fooled. Satan is active and aggressive in his schemes, and he actually prefers it when we let our guard down. This is why we are warned time and again by the Holy Spirit to be on the alert, to be sober and aware, so that we would not be found unprepared and defenseless (Ephesians 4:25-27; 6:10-12).

What's the answer? How do we persevere in the work God has laid out for us when the enemy is actively coming against us, or subversively trying to render us complacent? The Word gives us one answer, time and time again: Resist him. It's a short, simple phrase, but when the power of the Holy Spirit stands behind it, it can cause the enemy of our soul's to flee. We resist him, not in the strength of our own might, but in the divine power the Lord supplies in His Spirit. And when we submit to the Lord, we are able to resist, and God is faithful to continue and complete His work in us (James 4:7-10; 1 Peter 5:9-11; Ephesians 6:13-17).

The work must continue, the labor must go on. The enemy will attack, either with outright aggression or with roundabout deception, but either way, he will attack. Be ready. Be prepared. Be alert. And when you've won one battle, stay humble and dependent on God, don't let your guard down, don't leave yourself susceptible. Instead, faithfully persevere, trust in God, stay ready. Our enemy doesn't take a break, so neither should we.

How does our story in Ezra end? The King orders a search be made of the royal archives and where he discovers the initial decree of King Cyrus to have the people returned home and the temple rebuilt. Darius informs the aggressors of this discovery and orders them to not only leave the people's work alone, but to actually pay for it out of their own tax revenue, threatening anyone who opposes the work with death (Ezra 6:1-12).

God's people were faithful to the work He called them to, not being dissuaded by the enemy's efforts around them, and so God was faithful to them, sovereignly moving the hand of the most powerful man alive to come to their aid. We can trust God to follow through on His Word. Our job? Continue the work and stay on the alert.

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THE DWELLING PLACE - March 17, 2018