God Uses Our Enemies!
Our goal in studying God's Word is to have our lives changed, to influence our homes, our jobs, heal relationships, and most of all, to make us more like Jesus. As I read through Ezra, I discover a new desire to become as he was - hungry for more of His Word.
Father, I want to be a serious student of The Word and a lover of the Lord. I ask You to adjust my life to Your leading , to obey Your truth and to practice what I learn from Your Word. I yield my heart to Your divine intervention, to orient my life around Your Word so I will not lose touch with people, nor become conceited or severe. I ask You to keep my heart humble and gentle enough to be broken by the pain of others. Help me remember that You often work through unbelievers to accomplish Your will. You are God, and You can use whomever You want to, however You want to, and whenever You want to! I love the report of Ezra and how You "moved in the heart of Cyrus, King of Persia," to release Your people from captivity. Help me learn all I can from his example and Your Word!
As I was reading about the reconstruction of the temple, I wondered if I had been present, would I have been aware of His move, or would I have been so caught up in my own circumstances that I would have missed Him altogether!? I hate to admit it, but I think the latter may be true.
I love the part of the story that tells how the sound of the people rejoicing is described-
With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD: "He is good; his love to Israel endures forever." And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.
But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy.
No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.
Can't you just hear it? Some were shouting for joy and others were weeping, but no one could distinguish the sounds. Now that is intense emotion!! How the hearts of the "old folks" must have been almost breaking with the joy of finally seeing the temple come into being! How long they had waited for this day!
Opposition came, just as it does today. When the opposition could not succeed from the inside, (Ezra 4:1-3) they "set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans."
Next, they lodged a complaint, and wrote a letter to the king. The written accusation was aimed at stopping the work and used the king's ego and greed to motivate him to follow through:
"...if this city is built and its walls are restored, no more taxes, tribute or duty will be paid, and the royal revenues will suffer....it is not proper for us to see the king dishonored."
Of course there was a response to this threat and the work was stopped! Did the people lose their vision and joy? Did they just give up and go away? What would we have done? What do we do when opposition comes?
Haggai and Zechariah then came on the scene. God will always provide the encouragement and leading we need, no matter how strong the opposition! The people began the work again because "...the prophets of God were with them, helping them." When asked by the officials what they thought they were doing, they had an answer because "...the eyes of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they were not stopped until a report could go to Darius and his written reply be received."
More letters were written, and the king not only allowed the building, but told the officials of the province, "Stay away from them. Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God." He made arrangements to pay the expenses from the royal treasurery "so that the work will not stop. Whatever is needed......must be given them daily without fail, so that they may offer sacrifices pleasing to the God of heaven and pray for the well-being of the king and his sons." He also declared if anyone changed the edict, he would be punished severely (death).
So, they prospered and built under the teaching of Haggai and Zechariah, and finished the buiding of the temple. Then they celebrated with joy! They were able to do this "because the Lord had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria, so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel."
Did you get that? Read it again :
They were able to do this "because the Lord had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria, so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel."
SO, how many times and how often are we discouraged because of someone else's attitude stopping our "work?" We must remember this example - God can and does use ungodly people to further His work. He can and does change their attitudes and bless us through them! They don't have to become believers in order for Him to do that!
We will always be tempted to compromise our convictions. Sometimes we will have to stand up for them even when it is not "politically correct." Discouragement is one of the enemy's strongest tools - if he can't thwart our work, he'll bring in reinforcements all around us. He often uses rumor and innuendo to circumvent the work of God - filling people with lies about intentions. It may seem like satan has succeeded in stopping God's work, and a period of time may pass before we start again. We must be strong and stay true to the task, never being intimidated by the enemy nor compromise our victories.
Please take the time to read this account and let the Lord speak to you about your own calling. I pray He will open your heart and mind to see how this relates to you!
Father, how much we love Your Word! How blessed we are that we are able to hear from You in such an awesome way! I thank You for the people who loved you centuries ago and were obedient to You! I praise You for bringing their stories to us so we may learn from them! I ask that You will help us to remain open to Your teaching, and that we will be obedient servants of Yours. Give us a hunger for You and Your Word like Ezra- a hunger that we know cannot be satisfied by any other source! I praise You that in time of depression and discouragement, You will come to us and and feed us with Your Word. How awesome You are and how humble we are in the light of Your love! Let us never be satisfied with what we know of You , but let us always be seeking Your face. Fill us with Your love and power and lead us on Your path. Forgive our impatience and slow us down so we may hear You speaking! In Your Son's precious name I pray these things, Amen.
Please write and let me know of your thoughts as you read through this passage, and/or if you have prayer requests.
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