Last week we noted that once a new beginning of any kind in our spiritual lives is made, we should expect the opposition from the devil to start.
I promised you some new characters in our story. And we have met them. They were members of the Compromisers Club. Did you know they also had founding memberships in the Tattletales United Club, too?
Let's dive in!
Just like we see happening in our world today, the people in the land were using their power and privilege to stop something they didn't like.
First they started a "whisper" campaign; talk went around that was designed to discourage the Jewish remnant. Next, they bribed officials; they employed fear tactics; and then they went for the big guns -- they lobbied the king to stop the building project.
Hmmmmm. Looks a LOT like today, I believe!
Let's look at the Word:
Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. (Ezra 4:4)The devil often uses the tool in his kit called "discouragement." We don't know specifically how the locals did this. But I'm betting it was both vocal and a whispered effort. To their faces, they probably smiled at the people of Israel and said, "Awww, kids, why are you working so hard? And you won't let us help, either. You know, if you build this back, it might just get torn down again!"
Behind their backs, they may have been telling all the surrounding tribes that "thousands of people are going to be flocking to the city of Jerusalem for all of those feasts and worship times they have! Surely you understand what that is going to mean....so much traffic! All of the problems that come with increased population! They need to build somewhere else, or not build at all."
I'm guessing that if it were our world, today, there would be a vigorous Twitter campaign, and many would post opposition on their other social media platforms of choice. Not to mention groups that would protest outside the city hall about environmental impact.
Satan loves to use his tool of discouragement. It's one of the least strenuous efforts that he employs. Human nature being what it is, he can simply start the whispers and talk and then walk away. He whispers to us (or he uses someone else who says this to us) "you know, you're working SO hard. What you are doing won't make any difference in this world. Definitely won't affect anything in eternity!"
Or, "those people don't appreciate your efforts. Why bother with that?"
Or, "why are you trying so hard to make changes? Just quit and enjoy yourself. You worry too much."
He tries to discourage individuals. He tries to discourage pastors. Anytime that he sees someone working hard to make a difference, and to bring glory to God; anytime he sees someone making a new beginning with God -- that's his signal to pounce.
And there is another tool in his kit; it's secured to the belt, right next to discouragement. It's called "fear." It says they set out to "make them afraid to go on building." (v 4) When we are discouraged, fear has an opening to creep in. And boy, oh boy, can fear take over and run our lives! Many a believer has wrestled with thoughts like these:
"What if they tattletale to my boss?"
"Wonder if I will lose my job?"
"How many people have they told that lie to?"
"Will my friends and church members believe them, or me?"
"I'm so tired of trying. What does the future hold for me?"
The people in the land were unhappy with being rejected. They tried every way they knew how to thwart the building efforts.
Have we made a new beginning with God? Has someone that we know made a new start?
We must be prepared for the fact that Satan's attempts to stop us will be unrelenting. That he will use discouragement and fear as his "first round" of obstacles. That he will then ramp up the opposition. We will see this when we study again tomorrow. . . .