"Then Ceased The Work"
July 13, 2023
“Then Ceased the Work”
Ezra chapter three concludes with an account of mixed emotions among the people of God over the laying of the foundation of the house of God. God’s people had been living in captivity in Babylon because of their sins, and now the Lord was raising up laborers to return to the land and revive the work and worship of God. The older generation wept when they saw the foundation of the new temple because it was so inferior to what had once been, the present generation shouted for joy because the work had begun. There was a mixture of grief and gladness.
This account should draw our attention to this text. We are living in a time when the people of God have suffered many a defeat through compromise with this world, yet in the midst of this captive culture, the Lord is still raising up laborers to build his house. As the work goes forward there is grief for many who have seen the glory of former days, yet there is gladness on part of those who are seeing the work of God advance in their time.
As you move into Ezra chapter four, you realize that just because the work was inferior to that of former days, it wasn’t exempt from adversaries who wished to make it cease. As soon as the foundation was laid, the work was met by opposition. The adversaries had been in complete control of the land and weren’t about to stand for the reestablishment of the worship of God.
As Ecclesiastes 1:9 states “…there is no new thing under the sun”. The tactics used then are still being used now. The account of Ezra 3 and 4 gives us a vivid picture of what anyone involved in the building of the “house of God” can expect to encounter. Obviously, I am not referring to the building of a physical building but the building of churches, the building of God’s people. 1Timothy 3:15 plainly tells us that the house of God is the church of the living God. As we do the work to see souls added to his churches and then built up in their most holy faith, we must be prepared to face opposition from a godless world.
I would like to consider six methods the adversaries used to “frustrate” the purpose of building the house of God for the worship of God.
Adulteration of the Project (Ezra 4:2) – The first thing they sought to do was to join them in the work. They endeavored to remove the lines of distinction between the people of God and the idolatrous enemies of God.
Abatement of Their Power (Ezra 4:4a) – When their first effort failed, they became a little more open in their purpose. They weakened the hands of the workers. Unable to infiltrate the work they resorted to hindering it by reducing the vigor of the laborers.
Agitation of the People (Ezra 4:4b) – The text says that they “troubled’ them. This word carries the idea of causing them fear or terror. At this point one can see a systematic and strategic effort. A weak person is much easier to intimidate than a strong one. They first weakened them, then troubled them.
Advisement for Their Purpose (Ezra 4:5) – It is apparent that the adversaries realized they were making progress. At this point they invest in counsellors to advise them as to how to “frustrate” the purpose of building the temple. Their true motive can now be seen. The adversaries didn’t care that this temple was smaller than Solomon’s, they were determined to cause the work of God to cease regardless of its relative size or significance.
Accusation of Their Purity (Ezra 4:6) – While using sinister methods to accomplish their purpose, the adversaries wrote an accusation against the people of God.
Assault by Power - Mixing truth with their false accusations they ultimately received authorization to make the work cease by the use of force and power (Ezra 4:23-24).
Make no mistake, there are adversaries in our world today who are seeking to accomplish the same goal. They have used all the above methods and will not stop until the law is on their side to make the work of building God’s house cease by force and power. Perhaps the saddest part of this account is that, instead of boldly continuing to build and challenge the adversaries, the work was simply abandoned. The work ceased until Haggai and Zechariah were sent by God to challenge the people to cease being intimidated by their adversaries and get back to the work.
If you are laboring to “build the house of God” please remember that the adversary is interested in one thing; causing the work to cease. He doesn’t really care why you quit, as long as you quit. We have been duly authorized to build until our King returns. You may be tired and troubled, but by all means keep doing the work! In these perilous times we must not bashfully diminish our labor, but boldly continue by God’s grace and strength to work until we have finished our course.