In the book of Ezra, we read how King Cyrus of Persia ordered some of the Jews in exile to return to Jerusalem and rebuild its walls and the temple which had been destroyed a hundred years prior. God had given favor to the Jews in the eyes of King Cyrus to the extent that, not only did he allow them to return, but he financed the rebuilding project as well. The construction of the temple and the outer wall in Jerusalem would continue uninterrupted through the reign of King Darius.
So, Ezra and many of the Jewish people in exile returned to Jerusalem to start building the temple and the walls of the city. However, they were not met with “welcoming signs” and “friendly faces.” The people now living in the area did not want the Jews to return. They did not want the temple rebuilt. They were happy with the “status quo.” So, they went to the Jewish leaders and offered to help build because “like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him” (Ezra 4:2). This, of course was a lie. Their goal was to sabotage the effort, not contribute to it. When the Jews did not fall for that deception, those opposed to them hired people to discourage the workers and even to threaten them with violence. When they saw the resilience of the Jewish people and their unwavering dedication to finish the task before them, they employed a more drastic measure.
They wrote a letter to King Artaxerxes, now reigning in Persia, telling him what was happening in Jerusalem: the wall and the temple were being rebuilt and, once completed, the Jews were going to rebel and no longer pay their “fair share” of taxes to the king. They described the city as a rebellious city that was destroyed because of its long history of rebellion. This startled Artaxerxes and he ordered the building to stop immediately.
Of course, these were only half-truths and assumptions. Yes, Jerusalem was considered a “rebellious” city and it was destroyed – but it was destroyed because of Judah’s rebellion against God, not the king of Babylon. Furthermore, what the opposition failed to mention was that King Cyrus gave his permission, blessing, and the finances needed to rebuild the temple and city walls. Conveniently, they left that part out of the letter.
These are the tactics of the enemy before us. He comes to us as a friend, wanting to help, but his agenda is to destroy. He tries to discourage us from our work and even threatens us instilling fear and anxiety. When that does not work, he will use people to bring lies against us, hoping to persuade people to oppose us. Nothing has changed in his tactics in the last 2,500 years.
Despite King Artaxerxes orders, the building continued into the reign of King Darius. These men were on a mission from God, called to do a job and they were not going to let anyone stand in their way – even if it was the most powerful man alive at the time. Ezra 5:5 tells us “the eye of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews…” When people questioned why they were still building when ordered to stop, instead of caving into the pressure, they themselves sent a letter to King Darius, now ruling in Persia, asking him to investigate the matter. They gave their side of the story. Thank God that King Darius investigated their claims and found that the Jewish people were in the right. He allowed the walls and the temple to be rebuilt to completion and commanded the opposition to stay away from them. He even ordered that supplies be provided to them daily to ensure they can complete the task.
The enemy before us is not a man, but the father of all lies. We must be diligent to see through his lies and deceptions and stay focused on the task before us. Being led by the Holy Spirit is the first line of defense against such attacks. We must rely on the Lord to lead us through this maze we call “life” and be our advocate and defender. As we trust God, speak the truth in love, and remain focused on our task, He will vindicate us. 2nd Chronicles 16:9A states that “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” We have a God who loves us so much, He cannot take His eyes off us! He is always looking out for you and for me. So stay alert, be brave, and remain focused on the task before you. The eyes of God are watching – not to judge you, but to defend you.