THE PURSUIT OF SPIRITUAL RESTORATION
“Encouragement to Pursue the Will of God” Ezra 5
Problems, setbacks, and opposition are a very real part of life. Opposition to do the right things, the will of God, can affect the outcome of our obedience. The Bible warns us of this kind of opposition but always encourages persevering and not being alarmed by opponents. Why? God will encourage us in these times so that we can face opposition to his will in our lives with courage. Ezra 5 the work on the Temple has been postponed because of opposition. From the beginning of the construction project the Israelites have been harassed and for some years now the work has been suspended 4:24. God’s will for the people is not being pursued. We need to understand that God’s will is not an option and He will encourage us to pursue it in spite of opposition because He causes His people to triumph over persistent opposition to His will.
GOD BRINGS HIS WORD TO CONVICT & MOTIVATE US TO PERFORM HIS WILL WHEN IT IS OPPOSED
Into this dark situation God sheds a ray of light in the form of messengers of His Word vs 1. These messengers are the prophets Haggai, and Zechariah. God interjected their ministry into the situation. First, they were brought in to specifically address the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem. The reason is because it is precisely this group that needs to get with the program. He does not bring them to the opposition. You would think that God would send these prophets—literally His Word—to the harassers and tell them a thing or two. Why doesn’t God do that? Because God is not primarily concerned with delivering us from our circumstances. That is our primary concern but not Gods. This is why so many Christians become frustrated with God. They expect God to come through for them the way they perceive He should. And then He does not. God has a different agenda. It is not deliverance from circumstances but development of our character—our Christ likeness—our maturity—our rewards.
Second, notice they bring a Word ‘in the name of the God of Israel’. All throughout the narrative we have been told of this particular God. He is Israel’s God, unique and set apart. This further delineates them as special agents with a message only for the persecuted Israelites. Third, then this God is described as the one ‘who is over them’. God has something at stake here greater than the opposition of His people. It is His name, His reputation, His glory—the One who is over them!
The interjection of these two prophets is significant. The Returnees had stopped building the Temple for two reasons. 1. The enemies of Judah had discouraged and frightened them from doing so. 2. The Jews themselves had in the meantime concentrated on their own welfare, planting fields, dwelling in their own homes, and God ‘called for a drought…on all of the labor of your hands’ Hag 1:1-11. Ezra only focuses on the outward opposition that stopped them but Haggai identifies the preoccupation of the people with their own affairs as another reason. The appearance, then, of God’s messengers implies that the God of Israel is still at work behind the scenes convicting and encouraging His people to stay on task—perform my will. He does this by not removing the opposition but interjecting His Word to convict and motivate the people while being opposed.
We should not wait until there is no opposition to perform the will of God. Don’t think that if such and such happens or if threatening possibilities are removed then I will step out and do what God wants. At times like this God will specifically bring His Word to you to convict and motivate you of your need to comply. He can work behind the scenes to do so even with the opposition still in play so you can see around that juggernaut and discern the hand of God in control of all things.
GOD’S ENCOURAGEMENT CONTINUES WHILE BEING OPPOSED TO PERFORM HIS WILL
Stirred by God’s Word and supported by the prophets, the leaders renew the reconstruction of the Temple vs 2. Zerrubabel the civic leader and Jeshua the religious leader spearheaded the building project and encouraged the people to step it up and restart work on the temple. This resulted in two outcomes.
1. Opposition immediately resumes in vss 3-4, 6-17. Once again we observe the tenacious resistance to this project form the peoples of the land. In this case, Tattenai, responsible for Persian governing authority in the territory asks for an explanation and names of those in charge vss 3-4. This is then included in another letter, this time to King Darius, requesting information and direction as to how the Persian authority should proceed. Now performing God’s will incites stronger opposition.
2. But 5:5 reveals that God was, in faithfulness to His promise, watching out for the good of His people. This omniscient perspective once again renews our awareness of God’s sovereign control—the elders were not stopped because God’s eye was upon them. Clearly, Ezra wants his group of returnees to know that God was and is working in spite of the opposition. We can mistakenly assume that because it is difficult to perform Gods will that God is unconcerned or uninvolved in the process. The point of the entire book of Ezra is to revive His people’s hope for the future by looking back at how God had caused His people to triumph over dogged opposition. He can do it again in the future. This hope is grounded in observable evidences of God’s sovereign providence.
3. Apparently they were making rapid progress vs 8. So Tattenai drafts his detailed letter to the king as to what should be done from here on out. In the meantime, the Israelites, convicted and motivated by Gods message from Haggai and Zechariah, and encouraged with the knowledge that God is still working in spite of oppressive opposition, continue on with the work. This occasion of this letter also advances the theme of God’s sovereignty thought the testimony of the Jewish elders vs 11-16. In other words, the opposition provides opportunity for greater display of faith and glory of God than without it! What good is faith if the circumstance does not require a need for it? We face difficulties in performing the will of God because it is an opportunity for our faith in God to be displayed—and on this side of the grave that is paramount to God. Notice how the occasion of the letter advances their faith and conviction:
A. They assert the supremacy of God vs 10. They do not claim to be servants of Persia! The true God, Israel’s God, the maker of heaven and earth—the creator of all—is superior to all others, even the gods of Persia. So God’s reputation, His character, His position is exalted by his people by testimony.
B. They admit they angered this God who judged their disobedience and forgetfulness vs 11. That beautiful temple of Solomon was now rubble because of them. Nebuchadnezzar was the agent of that judgment. The people were deported—lost their homeland and heritage. God’s wrath was not arbitrary but deserved. Here is humility and confession.
C. They attest that God is sovereign over their plight. He is in control of it. So much so, that even now God has begun restoration with the decree to return with all of the temple utensils vss 13-15 and the rebuilding of the temple vs 16. God is behind all of it. He gets the credit to the minutest detail. All of this testimony is to unbelievers because of their opposition. God uses this to encourage his people to commit to the will of God.
PT: The restoration of the temple vessels was a significant issue to the priests and people of Israel. Ezra’s account of their restoration both in Chapter one and now here indicates how significant these utensils were (1:7, 11; 5:14-15). These vessels serve as a direct link with the worship of pre-exilic Israel and establish their role in linking these Returnees spiritual continuity with Israel.
When opposed to do the will of God assume that God is already working in it and through it for His glory and your good even though you cannot see how or where. Use opposition to perform God’s will as an opportunity to testify of Gods sovereignty, providence, and glory. Instead of being discouraged by the kinds of difficulties you experience to do the will of God, be encouraged through the Word of God and in faith through the providence of God to encourage while being opposed.
1. Pray that the opposition will not motivate you to despair.
2. Listen to the will of God and keep it as your North Star focus.
3. Remain determined to please God knowing He supplies encouragement to perform His will to the end.