1. Application

Opposition Comes in Many Forms

Ezra 4:1–24 (ESV)

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,

The history of God’s kingdom on earth is a history of struggle and conflict because the establishment thereof is at the cost of subduing hostile elements arrayed against it.1

In Ezra 4, we learn about opposition against the Jews at the time of Cyrus, Darius, Ahasuerus, and Artaxerxes. This spanned a period from 539 to 445 BC in which the Jews were obstructed and prevented from building the temple and the walls of Jerusalem.

Opposition against the Lord has been seen since shortly after the creation of the world. In the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted Adam and Eve to into sin, hoping to destroy the world that God had made (Genesis 3:1–24). In the exodus from Egypt, Israel was attacked first by the armies of Pharaoh (Exodus 14:1–31) and then by the Amalekites (Exodus 17:1–16); both groups of people hoped to destroy them. In the time of the monarchy, when King Ahab and Queen Jezebel ruled over the northern kingdom, they tried their very best to kill the prophet Elijah and force the people to worship Baal (1 Kings 18:1–19:21).

Opposition to God’s work in history was also seen when Jesus Christ was on earth. Satan tempted him in the desert, saying, If only you will worship me all the kingdoms of the world will be yours (see (?)). Satan hoped that Jesus would fall into sin and that God’s plan of redemption would fail. But when he failed to stop Jesus Christ in his mission on earth, he then turned his attention to the new covenant people of God: Saul threw believers into prison (?), false teachers infiltrated the churches and confused God’s people (?), the Roman Emperor Nero fed them to the lions, etc.

Ezra 4 helps us to see that opposition to God’s work in history is very normal in this world. We should not be surprised when some people oppose the gospel.

We should remember, that even if God’s work in history faces opposition, such opposition is a lost cause. God is infinite and eternal, whereas the devil, his angels, and all human beings are finite. We only exist because we have been created by God. Have you ever thought about that? The fact that we are finite, the fact that the devil, for all the power he might have, cannot go everywhere and cannot be everywhere at the same time. He and his angels are limited by time and space in terms of where they can be. But God is not limited by time or space. He is infinite. He is eternal.

Opposition to God is a lost cause because God is all powerful and all knowing. No one on earth knows everything and no one on earth has the power to do everything they want to do. The devil and his angels are also limited in their power and knowledge. They cannot create out of nothing; they don’t know everything; they cannot intervene and influence our world unless God allows them to do so (e.g., ?).

And that means that God’s plans and purposes can never be stopped. God knows what the devil and his angels are planning before they know if themselves. He knows all about the evil and injustice that men and women want to do to his church, he knows about these enemies of Judah and their plans to infiltrate the building work on the temple.

Ezra 4 does not tell us how God worked to overcome the opposition faced by the Jews. In ? we will see what God did in response. The key message that Ezra 4 wants to teach us is simply that opposition to the Lord’s work in history is normal in a sinful world. We should not be surprised.