Ezra 4-5: Tactics of Defense
August 3, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
A great work is underway, and as usual opposition comes. Consider the cunning of the opposition and its very real threat to the rebuilding project:
- First, they attempt to infiltrate the ranks of the true followers of God (4:2) and so dilute their faith and compromise their efforts from the inside out. We should always want to include those who do not yet know Jesus and allow, indeed invite, them together with us to explore the Bible. But you cannot unite in the work of God until you are committed to the person of God. It would be counterproductive to have people who do not follow God be involved in the leadership of the church or a Christian organization, or be the messengers of a message which they do not believe.
- Second, they spread words of discouragement (4:4). If our enemy is not allowed a real foothold in the actual people of God, then he will attempt to discourage our work. What is the point? Where is it going? Why work so hard? These lies can have a devastating effect on the morale of those attempting to renew God’s work.
- Third, they make them afraid (4:4). If they cannot discourage, they will spread fear. Terror is a constant weapon of opponents the world over and down through history. Terror spreads, and its antidote is love—love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). While we will need to prevent and protect ourselves against real physical attacks that can terrorize us, the battle for the hearts and minds of our adversaries is won through the power of the love of Christ. When you are perfect in love, you find fear departs.
- Fourth, they resort to bribery (4:5). “Follow the money” has often been the sage, if sad, advice for those trying to unearth the hidden oil that smooths the way for the unconscionable. Bribery is not a subtle way to get what you want, but it is effective, though it ruins the briber quite as much as the one bribed.
- Fifth, finally they go to the courts. “They wrote an accusation” (4:6). They take the followers of God to the supreme court to get what they want—a cessation of the building of the wall.
These techniques, ancient as well as modern, can have a deleterious effect on the work of God. What should those who are concerned to “rebuild the walls” of God’s work do in response?
- First come the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah (5:1). Fear, laziness, anxiety, backward steps, lack of hope, and all demonic attacks against God’s Word cannot succeed in the long term where the Word of God is preached with power. At his name, demons fear and quail. Preach God’s Word. Proclaim the gospel. Put in the forefront of our churches and in the center of our worship—the prophetic proclamation of the Word of God.
- Second, they remember who is boss. It is “in the name of the God of Israel who was over them” (5:1). Ultimately, they do not answer to the empire, the emperor, or the king; they answer to God. When their conscience and faith allow, they are the best of citizens of even a pagan empire. But when the empire comes against them, in this case illegally, to demand that they cease from the work of God, they will remember who is boss. They serve not the city of man, but they are citizens of an eternal kingdom. Remember who is boss: God himself.
- Third, they give calm, truthful, confident, and public answer to the false accusation of their enemies (5:11-16). They do not stay bashful before these public accusations, but explain why they are acting as they are, and indeed appeal to the precedent that has been legally set, whose work they are performing in acting as they are. It is right and proper, when accused falsely before courts of law, to mount a truthful, powerful defense even on the basis of the law of the land.
Through it all, as the story of Ezra will narrate, God’s work goes forward with power. There is a gap here of some years while it ceases. But, before long, the renewal and reformation and revival and rebuilding continues. The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly small. Through the preaching of the Word, through a faith in the sovereign power of God active in the world today, through a calm, careful, reasoned defense, the work of God will continue and grow in his good timing and to his glory.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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