Problems and Postponement
While Ezra 3 began with great promise, Ezra 4 begins with great problems. While Ezra 3 closed with great rejoicing, Ezra 4 opens with the great resistance of the enemies of Judah. We must keep in mind that opposition often follows obedience.
Someone has said that if the devil is not bothering you, perhaps it is because you are not bothering the devil! Whenever God’s work moves forward, Satan mobilizes his evil forces to interfere with that work. Jesus outlined Satan’s agenda in John 10:10, “The thief [Satan] comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy.” And indeed, that was Satan’s agenda when the Jews began the great work of rebuilding the Temple.
Ezra 4:1 refers to the “enemies of Judah.” These “enemies” were people of mixed blood who were living in the land when the Jews returned from exile. They were Jewish “half-breeds” who eventually came to be known as Samaritans. They were hated by the Jews because they had intermarried with pagan peoples and had adopted pagan worship practices, including idolatry.
When these people learned that the returned exiles were rebuilding the Temple they offered their assistance. Their offer was turned down however, because the Jewish repatriates wanted to maintain the integrity and purity of their faith. They wanted to have absolutely no involvement with anyone who was involved in idolatry. After all, they had just spent years in captivity because of their involvement in idolatrous practices. They had learned their lesson the hard way.
Ezra 4:4 confirms the fact that opposition often follows obedience and that those who refuse to compromise must pay a price. When the Jews refused the help of the Samaritans their troubles began as they were intimidated, bribed, discouraged, and frightened from continuing the work. Their enemies even went so far as to hire “counselors against them.” These counselors were people in official positions who were bribed to cast the Jews in a bad light.
Ezra 4:5 leads us to the conclusion that the pressure was kept up until the reign of Darius (Ezra 4:24). The enemies of Judah caused so many problems that the work was postponed for some sixteen years! Ezra 4:6-23 is a parenthetical inclusion that details the opposition that the Jews experienced from their enemies after the rebuilding of the Temple and on through their work on the walls of the city. Ezra 4 should be read with this pattern in mind: Ezra 4:1-5 (6-23) 24.
Opposition often follows obedience.
Whenever God’s work begins to move forward, Satan does all that he can to hinder and interfere with that work. Whenever God’s people make a commitment to obey and serve Him, Satan will always marshal his evil forces to discourage and demoralize them. We should however, not allow opposition to discourage us from serving God.
We must guard against non-Christian influences in our lives.
The Jews did not allow the syncretistic Samaritans to assist them in the work of rebuilding the Temple. They did not want to endanger the integrity of their faith. We too, must be careful lest our faith in God be corrupted by the wrong influences. The Apostle Paul stated, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals'” (1 Corinthians 15:33).