THE PURSUIT OF SPIRITUAL RESTORATION
ďGod uses opposition to His advantageĒ Ezra 6
††††††††††††††† God has no rivals. God oversees everything that happens. Any opposition to His will is overcome by His sovereign control. There are many times it looks like the opposition is winning. But the testimony of scripture is that God is in control and His plan is accomplished over the opponents. Taniís life was taken in an evil blood feud. In the prime of his ministry at 33 years of age it may appear that the opposition won. But yesterday in a rally against blood feuds in the capital, Tirana, Elona, Taniís wife spoke and said, ďToday many of you might ask, 'Why didn't God protect Pastor Tani?' But I want to tell you that God DID protect him. Yes, yes, He preserved him for a higher purpose. He preserved him for a reward - for the crown of life, for the crown of glory." This is the message of Ezra to the Returneeís. The outcome is recorded in vs 22. God had turned the heart of the King of Assyria toward them to encourage them in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.
GOD CONTROLS OPPOSITION TO ENSURE THAT DECISIONS ARE MADE TO SUPPORT HIS PEOPLE
Here is King Dariusís response to the opponents of the Jews who had returned to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem 1-12.
††††††††††††††† First, he searches the archives and finds Cyrusís decree for the Jews to return and rebuild the Temple 1-5. The documentís proclamation is threefold: (1) The Temple is to be 90 ft high by 90 ft wide with 3 layers of huge stones and one layer of timbers. (2) The project was to be financed by funds from the royal treasury. This kind of financial commitment indicates how earnest Cyrus was about this decree to rebuild. (3) The gold and silver utensils of the temple are to be returned and placed back into this rebuilt one. It is clear that Cyrus intended for this project to be thoroughly completed.
††††††††††††††† Second, he radically reverses the opposition against the Returnees and instructs the opposition to help the Jews 6-12. This is indicated by three instructions: (1) Leave the Jews alone 6-7. They are to keep away form the area. Stop hassling the Jews. Donít interfere any longer with their efforts. They are to leave the work on this house of God alone. Do not hinder its construction. They are to let the civil and religious leaders rebuild this temple on its site. Get out of the way and stay away! (2) The regions tax money is to be used to finance the project with whatever is needed to get it done 8-10. This is to be done immediately as an additional decree of Darius. Whatever is needed for daily offerings is to be fully supplied. Darius interpreted these items as necessary for worship to their God on behalf of the king and his sons. So he seems to have a vested interest in this project. (3) Anyone disobeying these orders will be gruesomely killed and disenfranchised vs 11. Darius wanted no disturbance in this part of his realm and acknowledged that this God should overthrow anyone changing his decrees!
First, the oppositionís tactics completely backfired. Instead of stopping this temple construction the exact opposite happened. Not only must it proceed but the opponents must offer their personal and financial resources in its rebuilding.
Second, this complete reversal testifies of Godís oversight and faithfulness to his people. God uses Dariusís unqualified support of the Returnees as a significant victory for His people to support them in the work. Not only does he stop Tatnai from bothering them any longer but the combined resources of these people are garnished for the very thing they are against.
Third, God is responsible for this radical turn of events vs 22. His sovereignty is not just abstract theology but a practical necessity for the success of His people. The consistent opposition of the peopleís of the lands, beyond the river reveals that they are Godís enemies too. Yet God is greater than the opposition for he controls the heart of the kingóthe decision maker (Proverbs 21:1).
When you come face to face with opposition to perform the will of God, understand that God is in charge of that opposition. You are not going to be a victim. Whatever the outcome, it is Godís outcome. Tani did not go home too early! Dariusís decree was not too late! God can use power brokers to accomplish and achieve his own purposes. It can seem that the opposition will be successful. God has purposes we cannot comprehend but we must never assume that any opposition hinders those purposes. God manifests His control when the hand of God overrules the oppositionís purposes.
GOD USES THOSE DECISIONS SO HIS PEOPLE CAN ACCOMPLISH HIS WILL
Here the Temple construction is finally completed as God overrules the opposition to its construction 13-22
††††††††††††††† First the Temple is completed 13-15. With the royally mandated support of the governor and the support of the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, the temple reconstruction prospers. The decree is carried out with all due diligence! The point is made in vs 14 that these kingsí decrees were simply echoing the decree of the God of heaven who is behind the accomplishment of this entire project. It is the Ďcommandí of the God of Israel that provided motivation for the decrees of the kings of Persia. The interjection of Artaxerxes foreshadows what is to come 57 years later when he decrees in 7:1 on behalf of the next group of returnees who return with Ezra. In both cases, with the rebuilding of the Temple, and then the rebuilding of the walls and other projects later, is the overarching theme of Godís sovereign control. The completion of the temple is dated in vs 15 dating to 701/2 years after the Babylonians had destroyed the temple in 586 BC.
††††††††††††††† Second, the temple is now dedicated 16-18. Godís will for the people is accomplished. He used the opposition and then countered it with the decisions King Cyrus and then Darius so the people could accomplish what He commanded them to perform. They offered a small number of animals for sacrifices. When Solomon had dedicated His temple they used 22000 cattle, 120000 sheep and goats (1 Kings 8:63). These post-exilic Returnees still viewed Israel as a unified tribal group with the offering of the twelve goats. The religious leaders here in vs 18 are qualified according to the Law of Moses. So there seems to be a sincere attempt to live up to their covenantal responsibilities as Godís people under the Law. This group of exiles is intimately associated with the pre-exilic group and thus must abide by these stipulations to avoid judgment.
††††††††††††††† Third, the Passover is celebrated 19-22. The month after completion of the temple, the Passover was re-inaugurated. This was the first time in seventy years that the people celebrated this feast, which commemorated their release from Egyptian bondage. Everything is now falling into place. Notice in vs 21 that two groups participated. ĎAll those who had separated themselves from the uncleanness of the nations of the land to seek the God of Israelí join the purified priests and the sons of the Exile for the Passover. This tells us something about the nature of holiness. (1) Negatively these proselytes were separated from all uncleanness. (2) Positively they were separated unto God. The fact that these were permitted to join the Returnees in celebrating the most sacred feast reveals that true holiness knows no ethnic boundaries. Anyone who is willing to renounce all uncleanness and wholly set their hearts to follow the Lord is welcome to worship and serve Him with His people.
First, the storyline reiterates the genetic, geographical, national, and spiritual continuity of these returning exiles with their forefathers indicating that these are indeed Godís people. They have taken a census, they have carefully followed instructions; they have specifically obeyed stipulations in the Law; and have performed according to the religious ritual of the people of Israel. These are Godís chosen people.
Second, the significance is that roadblocks are removed and overcome so the people can actually step out and perform the will of God on their behalf. God will not just remove opposition and roadblocks without some blood, sweat and tears! God uses opposition to hone us into he people He desires us to become. But never with the ultimate purpose of making the performance of His will elusive and impossible. It is clear that Godís will is to return and establish the people back in the land with temple worship. It is also clear that God takes time to work with and through the opposition so His people can perform His will for them. This takes timeótime which we usually do not wish to take.
We often ask why this opposition; why this hardship; why this difficulty? We can be discouraged to perform the will of God if we do not have the perspective and understanding of God working behind the scenes, governing the opponents will and bending it to His own. It may look like a defeat but with eyes of faith we can say with Elona, ďToday many of you might ask, 'Why didn't God protect Pastor Tani?' But I want to tell you that God DID protect him. Yes, yes, He preserved him for a higher purpose. He preserved him for a reward - for the crown of life, for the crown of gloryĒ.