Ezra 5:3 – Who Gave You a Decree?

The enemy is insidious and extremely persistent.  When he sees the people of God gaining ground that he thinks is his, he’ll do whatever is necessary “by any means possible” to take it back, no matter how underhanded.  Satan is the prince of the earth and of the power of the air.  He has claimed this planet as his own.  Despite Satan’s knowledge of future disaster, coming from the mouth of God Himself that He wins in the end, Satan in his deception believes that he can overcome his creator.

In his zeal to destroy God to prevent his own demise, Satan empowers his minions both in the spiritual realm and on the earth to fight against God to the very end.  This war takes on many forms.  We see one such instance of it in our reading today.

King Cyrus had been prophesied to release the Judean captives from Babylon.  In his time, he did just that.  What an astounding act of God!  Cyrus is a pagan king who suddenly decides that the Jews in their midst can go back to their homeland!  What conquering nation in their right mind would do such a thing, to allow its enemies a foothold to regroup and potentially rise again?

It made no sense to the pagan people who had populated Israel in the intervening years.  Egged on by Satan, they became adversaries and persistent thorns in the sides of the Jews in their God ordained efforts.  Just because God gives us an open door, doesn’t mean that He’ll remove all obstacles.

As the Jews returned and began their project of rebuilding the temple, we see in Ezra 4:4-5 some of the efforts to dissuade them:

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.

To this end of obstructing this work of God, the elites in the land appealed to the Persian king some years later for his assistance. This particular king was unaware of what Cyrus had decreed and was encouraged to review the history books of Israel’s prior status as a dominant nation. The obstructors in their letter to this king said the very things that were in their own hearts. They called the Jews rebellious and wicked – projecting their own character onto God’s people. In response, the king ordered the building project halted.

Some time later, God sent His prophets to re-energize His children and to begin building again. With that encouragement, they did. Naturally, the enemy couldn’t stand that and had to block their efforts. Indignant, they came to the Jews, as we see in Ezra 5:3-4:

At the same time Tattenai the governor of the province Beyond the River and Shethar-bozenai and their associates came to them and spoke to them thus: “Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?” They also asked them this: “What are the names of the men who are building this building?”

They spoke in the natural in their indignation: “Who gave you a decree to build this house and to finish this structure?”  But the Jews had heard from Yahweh.  The answer was obvious: God Himself.

The other insidious thing they did was to try to learn the names of all those involved in the rebuilding of the temple.  The enemy always wants names so as to intimidate and harass.

When the Jews refused to give in to the demands of the pagan elites to stop building, they again wrote the king; now a different one from their previous attempt.  In the letter noted in Ezra 5:11, look at what they had to admit:

And this was their [the Jews] reply to us: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the house that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished.”

They had to repeat what the Jews had told them.  They were the servants of the God of heaven and earth.  They inadvertently proclaimed who God is even as they tried to tear Him down!

One of the many lessons we learn in this narrative is that the enemy continually opposes the work of God.  He will work through generations to accomplish his purpose of  countering that which God decrees.

In our nation today, in fact around the world, the enemy has been working tirelessly to ruin what God says is good.  One of the foremost efforts in this regard involves our children.  A major initiative on Satan’s part has been the spread of the communist ideology.  In that perverse approach to life, communists over the years have known the value of reaching children, indoctrinating them, and turning them from all that is good and Godly.

Consider what Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union, said:

“Give me four years to teach the children, and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted. Give us the child for eight years, and it will be a Bolshevik forever. Give me just one generation of youth, and I’ll transform the whole world.”

Is it any wonder that our education system has been corrupted with racial animus through Critical Race Theory, Common Core, the throwing of history in the memory hole where it’s completely forgotten, the sexualization of young children, and so many other despicable studies and practices?

The enemy has a long-term mindset.  He works subtly and never gives up.  Because it’s a long, hard slog, people of goodwill, including Christians, get tired and give up the fight.  Satan and his minions never do.

We are at the end of the Age of Grace.  Lawlessness is rising and will soon overtake the world following the Rapture of the true church.  Satan knows his time is at hand.  He wants to gather as many around him as possible to frustrate and harm God.  This begins with the children and is pervasive throughout society.

For a time it will look like he’s winning, just as it did in the rebuilding of the temple during Ezra’s era.  But God is long-suffering.  He has greater patience than Satan.  Jesus Christ has already won the war.  We just have to continue fighting the battles God allows us to enter until He decides the time is right for His intervention.

In the meantime, we are to fortify ourselves and never grow weary.  As difficult as things may be, and as appealing as resting our minds and bodies is, our job is to continue in what God has set our hands to until the very end.  Because of our faithfulness, God will then say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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