I love hearing kids telling stories of events that have happened in their day. They seem so intent in their observations. But I really enjoy the smiles on children’s faces when they have heard a “kid’s joke”, dying to tell it to you by asking the set-up question:
“How do mice kiss?” ANSWER: Mouse-to-mouse (mouth-to-mouth).
“How did the patient get to the hospital so fast?” ANSWER: Flu.
And then I heard this riddle the other day which gave me an idea for this BIBLE STUDY:
“How do you keep a rhinoceros from charging?” ANSWER: Take away his credit card. [See Footnote [i] ].
KEEP YOUR EYES ON A ‘CHARGING’ CHURCH –
Anytime that people, the CHURCH, undertake to BUILD…there will be challenges, there will be opposition…
There will be challenges…
There will be opposition…
There will be trials and troubles.
BUT we must give a “full court press” (a basketball term)–never giving up in the process.
- The CHURCH (the people) must charge forward…
- The CHURCH must be built.
- The CHURCH must grow.
I’m not referring here to church BUILDINGS. I’m pointing out something vital to the CHURCH–THE PEOPLE,
WE MUST CONTINUE TO BRING PEOPLE INTO THE “FAMILY OF GOD” BY THE WAY OF SALVATION!.
BUT, sometimes, the church DOES stop growing. And that’s NO JOKE!
It happened in EZRA…and, in looking at what happened to the people of God in Ezra chapter 4, I pray that the people of God in our communities avoid the same pitfalls.
Ezra 4:1-6, 23-24
 When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel,  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.”  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.”
FIRST of all, there will be opposition to moving forward. The church will not grow while her enemies look on, doing nothing.
We see here in the following verses that the ENEMIES of God heard about the goings on…so they put their heads together and they came up with a very cunning plan. They came to the leaders of the Church, and offered to HELP them! I’m pretty sure that the leaders would have been tempted by their offer. Who wouldn’t want some help in any rebuilding effort?
They even gave a believable explanation why they were offering their services. They said, “WE ARE JUST LIKE YOU…” and we know, from reading God’s Word that they DID sacrifice to God.
BUT…that wasn’t the WHOLE truth.
We find the REST of the story in 2 Kings 17, where we read about the people who settled in the area; how they came to arrive there and some of the trouble they got into.
And in 2 Kings 17:33 (AMP) we find the rest of the story –
 They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods, as did the nations from among whom they had been carried away.
So, when the Samaritans, “the enemies” came to Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the other leaders, their offer to HELP would have been tempting…who wouldn’t want some help.
AND their statement about worshipping God was also true.
But they also served other gods as well, and their MOTIVE in offering help, WASN’T so they could be helpful, but their offer to help was so they could get in on the inside–
- SLOW IT DOWN.
- DISRUPT THE WORK
- TRY TO THROW A WRENCH INTO THE WORKS
- CLOG IT UP!
I might point out here that this plan has been copied over and over again right up to today where individuals or groups are trying to infiltrate the Church–
- To change it from within…
- To dilute the message…
- To try to stop the church from charging forward…
- To soften the message…
- To change our stance on issues.
We’ve already seen some church denominations embrace certain practices that are against Scripture. One such example is homosexuality.
We’ve got to be more like Zerubbabel and Jeshua!
We must stand for what’s right and stand for the truth…NOT truth as WE see it, but the truth as God sees it.
So, how do we know God’s truth?
It is REVEALED in His Word!
Thankfully, God’s people in Ezra’s day DIDN’T allow compromise to affect the CHURCH. And we see that Zerubbabel and the others said “NO”!
And the Church kept charging forward!
When those opposed to the Church were unsuccessful in getting the Church to compromise, they resorted to DISCOURAGEMENT and INTIMIDATION.
BUT THERE’S MORE…
They even hired antagonists (“counselors”) to work against them.
Psychological warfare has been used in battles for centuries and here, we see that those OPPOSED to the church began using psychological warfare against the church.
- Perhaps they tried to slow down the shipments of building materials from Lebanon to the building site.
- Perhaps they just continued chipping away at them to the arena of public opinion.
The USED whatever means they could when compromise didn’t work–using fear-mongering, intimidation, and discouragement.
The OPPONENTS to GOD’S WORK use the same methods today–
They try to create public distrust of Christians and Christianity: “we certainly can’t have prayer in schools”…we’ve got that ‘separation of church and state’ thing.”
“We can’t post the TEN COMMANDMENTS in public areas because that’s a ‘Christian’ thing”…
“We can’t have a Nativity or sing Christmas carols in school…BECAUSE ‘God forbid’ someone actually starts to follow Christ.”
So the enemies of God’s people create fear and distrust OUTSIDE the Church, and it appears they have been quite successful at it.
But I’ve been concerned for some time that the enemies of God’s people are making inroads into the churches–creating fear and distrust WITHIN the Church. Making us afraid to take a stand; making us fearful to stand up for the TRUTH and making us afraid to speak out in the name of Christ.
And the psychological warfare continues on.
Finally, we read that the enemies of God resort to POLITICS to stop the CHURCH from charging forward. In EZRA 4:11-16, we can read a copy of a letter that the enemies of God wrote to the king.
And in Ezra 4:17-22 we READ the king’s response:
 The KING sent this reply: To Rehum the commanding officer, Shimshai the secretary and the rest of their associates living in Samaria and elsewhere in Trans-Euphrates:
 The letter you sent us has been read and translated in my presence.  I issued an order and a search was made, and it was found that this city has a long history of revolt against kings and has been a place of rebellion and sedition.  Jerusalem has had powerful kings ruling over the whole of Trans-Euphrates, and taxes, tribute, and duty were paid to them.  Now issue an order to these men to STOP WORK, so that this city will not be rebuilt until I so order.  Be careful not to neglect this matter. Why let this threat grow, to the detriment of the royal interests?
We see that while COMPROMISE was an ineffective tool against the church…and see that DISCOURAGEMENT & INTIMIDATION slowed things down, we now see that through the POLITICAL process, the church was stopped in its tracks.
As soon as God’s enemies, Rehum and Shimshai and their associates had their ammunition loaded against them, they went to God’s people and forced them to STOP building the church. And we find those fateful words in verse 24. “That put a stop to the work on The Temple of God in Jerusalem” (MSG).
I found it interesting to see who these ENEMIES of God’s people were.
Verse one calls them the “adversaries of Judah and Benjamin”, it doesn’t say, “the Chaldeans”, or “the Persians”. Matthew Henry’s commentary calls them “the rebels of the 10 tribes and the foreigners that had joined themselves to them” [See Footnote [ii] ].
I dare to mention that the enemies of God’s people are the same today. They’ll take Christianity, mix it and match it with all sorts of other thoughts and philosophies so that people today are then quick to say they BELIEVE in God– “But there are many ways to God…Budda, Mohammed, the worship of nature…”
But we stand on God’s Word, and God’s Word, in the words of Jesus Himself, says “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
THERE IS NO OTHER WAY!
The Church has always faced opposition,
There are people who don’t WANT the church to charge forward, and SOME of these people may even be people who USED to follow Christ Jesus.
But NOW, they’ve gotten sucked into worldly thinking–the church becomes just another sociological experiment, or the church becomes a pawn in political maneuvering.
But I SAY the Church is simply God’s people, going God’s way, and if we as the CHURCH start letting the opposition get a foothold, we’ll see the church come to a complete standstill, just like it did at the end of EZRA 4.
Is this a way then, to stop those who wish to STOP a ‘charging rhino’, the church?
There is, and I had to search closely for it all the way back to VERSE ONE where Scripture tells us, “the exiles were building a Temple for the Lord”.
It seems innocent enough at first glance but when we read it from the KJV (King James Version), it adds one more description:
“the children of the captivity built the temple unto the LORD”
It doesn’t say, “The children of GOD were building the Temple”…it says, “The children of the CAPTIVITY”.
I don’t believe that I’m reading too much into Scripture when I say this points to their thinking. They viewed themselves as “children of the captivity”, even though King Cyrus had issued the DECREE to allow the construction to begin.
These people of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin still felt the oppression of 70 years of captivity upon their shoulders. They still felt that these foreign rulers had AUTHORITY over them, and while for the most part, they did have CIVIL authority over them. GOD WAS STILL GOD, just as He is today!
GOD WAS STILL GOD, just as He is today!
And they had, not only a DESIRE to worship God together, but they had an OBLIGATION to worship God. No civil or government authority can take that away UNLESS we let them.
In EZRA’S day, they allowed the ENEMIES of God bring the Church to a standstill.
WHY? Because they were thinking like children of the captivity.
What does that mean for us today?
That meaning seems quite obvious to me. The KEY goes back to our thinking.
Do we think of ourselves as children of the captivity? People under the rule of governments and nations?
Or, do we think of ourselves as God’s children?
Scripture says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21), and what’s is God’s is our WORSHIP.
AS GOD’S PEOPLE…
We are OBLIGATED to see the Good News of Jesus Christ continues to spread like a ‘charging Rhino’; we will NOT allow the enemies of God cause us to compromise–TO BE STOPPED!
So, how’s YOUR thinking?
Are you a child of the KING, or a child of captivity?
The ANSWER to that question will determine the direction of the Church!
CREDITS & FOOTNOTES –
Footnote [i] : Oddball Riddles – Kid’s Jokes
Footnote [ii] : Matthew Henry’s Commentary, Vol. 2. EZRA 4.
Photos: Google Image Search, Advance Setting.
Bible Translation (s): New International Version (NIV), except where noted.