“THE STRATEGY OF THE ENEMY”
(A Series on Ezra: Building His Church)
Westgate Chapel 3/26/95 a.m. Ezra 4:1-24
PROPOSITION: Satan will do everything in his power to stop the building of the Church of Jesus Christ, and we must be aware of his schemes and determined to not allow him to succeed.
- THE book of Ezra, in the Old Testament, is the story of the rebuilding the city of Jerusalem and the Temple of the living God.
- THIS amazing feat was accomplished by a small remnant group of Jews who had been in captivity in Babylon for over 70 years, but had been allowed to come back to the City of God....by the Persian king, Cyrus.
- JERUSALEM had been destroyed 70 years before by Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army....as the discipline of God.
- THE Temple had been leveled, the city of God had been burned and the people carried of as slaves to Babylon.
- GOD had allowed all of this to bring His people to repentance....and ultimately back to Himself.
- IN Ezra 1, God dealt with Cyrus the king of Persia who issued a decree to set the people of God free to go home and restore the City of God.
- IN Ezra 2, only 50,000 of the millions of Jews living in captivity in Persia responded to the call and went home....God’s remnant people.
- IN Ezra 3:1-6, the Children of Israel arrived home and immediately rebuilt the altar and established sacrifices.
- IN Ezra 3:7-13, this remnant people started work on rebuilding the Temple of the Lord.
- THE lessons that we learn from these Israelites are crucial for our lives today....because God has called us to take part in the restoration of the Church of Jesus in our times.
- GOD has chosen to focus His work in the world through the Church of Jesus Christ.
- HE is doing one thing in the world today....building His Church.
- AND if you are a born again follower of Jesus....your sins forgiven.....your future assured in heaven....then you are called to be a builder of His Temple, His Church.
- YOU are NOT saved and called of God to be healed, happy, fulfilled, contented, and consumed with building your own kingdom.
- YOU are called to be a builder of God’s Temple, His Church.
- SATAN is obsessed with ONE thing in the world today....to steal the glory that is due to the One and only true God.
- AND how is he going to do that? By trying to stop the one thing that God is doing....by trying to stop the building of the Church of Jesus.
- SO, wherever the building of the Church of Jesus is taking place...what is Satan doing there, at that address? Trying by whatever means at his disposal to stop the work.
- JESUS told us about Satan’s work in John 10:10,
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy."
- LET’S be wise about his ways, vigilant about his schemes, but determined to overcome him wherever there is work stoppage.
- TURN with me please to Ezra 4:1-24.
- IN this chapter the returning people have arrived back in the Promised Land, they have set about rebuilding the Temple of the Lord.....and the enemy finds out and gets upset.
II. the reality of the opposition
- LET’S read from Ezra 4:1,
“When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, (2) they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families....”
- WHEN the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the rebuilding had begun.
- JUDAH was the tribal lands where the City of God was located, where Jerusalem was situated....the city from which Jesus will one day rule the new heavens and earth in righteousness.
- BENJAMIN was the town where, 400 years from this time, heaven would touch the earth, Jesus would be born.
- IS it any wonder that there would be an enemy lurking around?
- WHENEVER God moves and His work begins in earnest it should not surprise us when the enemy shows himself.
- THE apostle Peter writes about our enemy that,
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (9) Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (10) And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1 Peter 5:8-10)
- HERE are the two things to remember from Ezra 4:1 and 2.
1. There is an enemy of God who WILL oppose the building of the Church of Jesus.
2. He will show up at our address, and that shouldn’t surprise us, he showed up at Zerubbabel’s address.
- THE apostle Paul says, on several occasions that Satan had prevented him from getting to a place where the building of the Church of Jesus was going on...so it shouldn’t surprise us when he tries the same thing in 1995 in Seattle.
- DON’T be surprised when he shows up in your life.
- BUT also remember what Dean Sherman says about this age-long battle....we are NOT to be impressed with him.
- DEAN teaches us that we are to be AWARE of the enemy and IMPRESSED with God.
iii. the nature of the opposition
- NOW, let’s take a look at the nature of the enemy’s attack on the building of God’s Temple...His Church.
- IN EZRA 4 it came in two ways....and since Satan has lacks the creativity of heaven, he has not varied his tactics any in the last 2,400 years.
- THE two strategies of Satan’s attack are;
1. Corruption of the goal and pollution from within by mixing the pure with the impure, the holy and the profane.
2. Outright frontal attack that comes from outside His Church.
- LET’S find these in the text. Ezra 4:1-2,
“When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, (2) they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, ‘Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.’”
- HERE is enemy strategy #1....corruption of the purposes of God from within.
* “Let us help you build...”
• By this statement it would APPEAR that the enemy wants the Temple of the Lord re-built.
• But appearances can be very deceptive.
• These people from Samaria were only interested in building their own kingdom and keeping it secure.
• Be wary of this tendency in you and/or those who would join you in building the Church of Jesus.
* “We, like you....seek your God and have been sacrificing to Him...”
• This was part truth, part lie.
• Yes, they had been seeking God...but they had simply added Jehovah to the long list of other things they worshipped.
• Their sacrifices were mixed in with the blood of goats offered to the popular gods of their region.
- IT all looked fine on the outside....and all of the right words were being used.
- BUT it was the enemy in disguise.
- BEHIND that slick veneer of following God there lurked the very mixture of holy and profane that would be the downfall of any rebuilding project in the economy of God.
- AND that is what we must be alert to today.
- THIS strategy of corruption of the purity of God’s purposes from within has been going on for thousands of years.
* King Saul. The surface looked good, but the fear of man and the love of himself was his downfall.
* Samson. The surface looked good, but the love of himself and the pursuit of personal gain and pleasure felled this great man of God from within.
* Demas, in the book of Acts. Looked good on the outside but the love of this world took him down.
- WE cannot mix the holy and the profane and still rebuild the City of God.
- AREN’T you glad that Zerubbabel and the heads of the households were on to the enemy. Ezra 4:3 says,
“But Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, "You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”
- THE second part of the enemy’s strategy then went into play.
- WHEN he can’t make progress against you by polluting the goal from within, this is what he will try. Ezra 4:4,
“Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building.”
- THE enemy will try to stop the rebuilding of the City of God through DISCOURAGEMENT and FEAR.
- THIS is the attack from outside.
- VERSE 5 says that they hired counselors to work against them.
* Some commentators believe that these counselors were likely members of the royal household of Zerrubbabel who could be bought.
* These were the guys who kept saying, “We will never make it. It cannot be done.”
* These were strategically placed spies who frustrated the purposes of God for some 16 years.
- THEN in verse 6 it says that the enemy started a campaign of false accusation against them with the king of Persia.
- THEY wrote a letter to Artaxerxes in Persia, who was a usurper of the throne of Persia for a short, stormy period of the empire’s history.
- LET’S pick it up in verse 12 for the substance of the letter.
“The king should know that the Jews who came up to us from you have gone to Jerusalem and are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are restoring the walls and repairing the foundations. (13) Furthermore, the king should know that if this city is built and its walls are restored, no more taxes, tribute or duty will be paid, and the royal revenues will suffer. (14) Now since we are under obligation to the palace and it is not proper for us to see the king dishonored, we are sending this message to inform the king, (15) so that a search may be made in the archives of your predecessors. In these records you will find that this city is a rebellious city, troublesome to kings and provinces, a place of rebellion from ancient times. That is why this city was destroyed. (16) We inform the king that if this city is built and its walls are restored, you will be left with nothing in Trans-Euphrates.”
- NOW, here is the scary thing about the enemy’s frontal attacks. This letter has a mixture of partial truth, exaggeration and outright lies.
- FOR example, they were not rebuilding the walls of the city at that time. Nehemiah did that some years later. They were just rebuilding then Temple of the Lord.
- THERE had been one isolated and weak rebellion there some 60 years ago, but no signs of it at that time.
- JUDAH never had and never did stop paying its taxes, so that was an outright lie.
- LIES and accusation!
- SOME things never change do they.
- REVELATION 12:10 says about Satan at the end of time,
“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.”
- NO wonder Paul write in Romans 8:1,
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, (2) because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”
- IN fact, back in the passage about Satan’s accusations in Revelation 12:11 it says,
“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”
iv. the effects of the opposition
- WELL, what the attack from within couldn’t accomplish, the attack from without was able to do.
- ARTAXERXES writes a letter back effectively stopping the construction of the Temple of the Lord.
- THE last verse of Ezra 4 says,
“Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.” (vs 24)
- WHEN you read this chapter AND the first few chapters of Haggai, you find out what the attack of the enemy had accomplished amongst the people of God.
1. They became discouraged and fearful.
2. In the absence of pursuing the purposes of God they turned to a love of the world and the things of the world to satisfy their longings.
3. They served the Lord with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him.
4. They became selfish. Taking care of #1 first. The House of the Lord became neglected.
- BUT the greatest tragedy of this period in Israel’s history is that the building of the Temple of the Lord stopped.
- THE Temple precincts were silent.
- SATAN had succeeded for a season.
- WHAT is it that has stopped the work of God in your life?
- ARE you going to let the enemy win?