“Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, 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.’ 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.’ Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build 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. And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.” Ezra 4:1-6
As so often happens, immediately after a victory, the enemy sets his target on the victor and pounces. The returned exiles had just celebrated the completion of the temple’s foundation, and their adversaries attacked. The first ones set out to edge their way in to be co-builders, attempting to deceive them with claims of a common faith and distracting them from the work. Then the people of the land discouraged them through intimidation and frustration, including false accusations of ulterior motives. The attacks were relentless, and as with wrestlers attempting to disable the opponent, no holds barred to stop the building. (Ezra 4:23-24; 1 Peter 5:8)
Ezra’s account is a warning to us that in any endeavor for the Lord, we will meet opposition. The enemy hates joy and fruitfulness, spiritual commitment and progress, the unity of the church and increase in faith. His M.O. is to steal, kill and destroy, and as Christians, it is as though we have a bulls-eye for a birthmark that he constantly keeps in his scope. He is unabating in his distractions, deception, lies that make us fear and doubt, and discouragement. Our key to resisting the devil is to stay focused on the One Who has called us, Whose kingdom we are building, and Who is worthy of our persistence and fidelity. Jesus Himself, when tempted by the wily one, said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,’You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” Then the devil left him. (Matthew 4:10-11; John 8:44; 10:10; James 4:4)
My King, it is You alone I want to serve. Untangle me from the enemy’s snares. Keep me watchful, keen to discern his schemes and vigilant in resisting them. Keep me focused on You, my hands diligent in working for Your kingdom purposes and glory.