Today’s Reading: Ezra 3-5
Today’s Reflection: Ezra 4:1-5
1) Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the LORD, the God of Israel, 2) they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” 3) But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.” 4) Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build 5) and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.
Israel was not the only people to have a people given permission to return to their homelands. Other nations of Canaan had returnees under the authority of King Cyrus of the Persian Empire. But only Israel had been given specific authority and resources to rebuild the temple of their God (Ezra 1:3-4). This attracted the interest and envy of the surrounding peoples who first offered to help the Jews in their efforts. When the Jews declined, the once kind offers quickly became threats and conspiracies to stop their work.
There are people who are happy to destroy you if they cannot control you.
We live in Canada and we currently enjoy the freedom to worship God as we choose, on whatever day we choose, wherever we choose, and even to have tax exempt status for our religious institutions. I’ve often seen churches invite politicians and government officials to their services and sing the national anthem in honour of them. But as we do this we should pay attention to some critical things.
That same government may someday soon strip tax exempt status from religious organizations that refuse to recognize or even perform ceremonies for same-sex unions and marriages. That same government may be pro-choice and advocate points of view on the abortion debate inconsistent with your religious beliefs. That government may act in ways completely at odds with your understanding of God’s Word on a variety of issues. It doesn’t take much for that seemingly helpful friend to be revealed to be an enemy, willing to destroy you if it can’t control you. And these changes can happen quickly. Before 1933, Germany was a great place for Jews to live and raise families, but it didn’t take long for it to become a nightmare.
While we should appreciate the freedom we are blessed with, we must always remain aware that being friends with God means being at odds with this world, and thus be wary of those who offer assistance under the guise of false friendship.
James 4:4 – You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.