Archive for January 10th, 2018

Whenever there is a work of God, you can be sure there will be those who oppose it. The Jews, not long back from their Babylonian captivity, have begun the re-building of Jerusalem. Almost immediately, they were met by persecution on a small and large scale. In the verse which precedes our passage today, we read, “They hired counsellors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia” (4:5). This was a long-drawn-out campaign which would test the resolve of the Jews.

The methods employed were devious. Talk of counsellors suggests some sort of psychological tactic – perhaps trying to twist the minds of the Jews so that faith would diminish and they would abandon their plans. More than that, the opposition leaders appealed to King Artaxerxes himself, newly into his reign and therefore with a sense of “getting in quick.” With the commanding officer uniting with judges and other officials from a widespread area, they formed a formidable committee.

Actually, the new Temple would have done them no harm. Was their opposition – fuelled by fear – coloured by the prophecies against their own gods, perhaps? The letter itself was a tissue of lies, of course. To call Jerusalem a wicked and rebellious city was an enormous stretch of the facts. Whilst the people living within it were at times scarcely worthy of God’s name, nevertheless, it was God’s Holy City and “the joy of the whole earth” (Ps 48:2). They exaggerated the progress of the project, too, referring to the walls being restored and the foundations rebuilt when it hadn’t reached anything like that stage yet.

The reference to the non-payment of taxes and excise (v.13f) is an interesting one. The claim was that the Jews would behave dishonourably towards the king, whereas the opposing men were in the pay of the court and therefore their loyalty was unquestioned. Did they not recall Daniel who, although dedicated to God, proved worthy to his king? The two were not mutually exclusive. Furthermore, during the captivity, the Jews had been urged by Jeremiah to “seek the peace of the city” (Jer. 29:7) and to pray for the place of their captivity. They hardly had a reputation as subversives. But, such is opposition to God and His ways. The work on Jerusalem had to stop, for now; but a new day was coming…














Pray for the persecuted church worldwide, especially individuals you may know of. Pray that God’s truth will prevail and they will have the strength to stand firm.

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