Ezra 4:6 In the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.
In verses 1-5 the adversaries were opposing the construction of the Temple. They were unable to completely stop the rebuilding of the Temple, in fact, it resumed under Darius a few years later. They shifted their tactic a bit by starting to oppose the re-building of the city, namely the protective wall that would go around the city. They used the tactic of ganging up by writing to every king until one would listen. They utilize this tactic of “ganging up” by finally striking a chord with King Artaxeres. Notice the crafty letter starting in verse 11-
Ezra 4:11-16 11 This is a copy of the letter they sent him:“To Artaxerxes, from your loyal subjects in the province west of the Euphrates River.12 “Please be informed that the Jews who came here to Jerusalem from Babylon are rebuilding this rebellious and evil city. They have already laid the foundation for its walls and will soon complete them. 13 But we wish you to know that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, it will be much to your disadvantage, for the Jews will then refuse to pay their tribute, customs, and tolls to you.14 “Since we are loyal to you as your subjects and we do not want to see you dishonored in this way, we have sent you this information. 15 We suggest that you search your ancestors’ records, where you will discover what a rebellious city this has been in the past. In fact, it was destroyed because of its long history of sedition against the kings and countries who attempted to control it. 16 We declare that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, the province west of the Euphrates River will be lost to you.”
Commentators disagree with whether the Jews could have really begun laying the foundation for the walls of the city by this time. Most think this was all part of the strategy to play upon the insecurities of the King to delay or stop the restoration of Israel. Whatever the case, it is a vivid illustration of the tactic of “ganging up”. The king takes the bait, a nerve is obviously struck-
Ezra 4:17-22 17 Then Artaxerxes made this reply: “To Rehum the governor, Shimshai the court secretary, and their colleagues living in Samaria and throughout the province west of the Euphrates River.18 “Greetings. The letter you sent has been translated and read to me. 19 I have ordered a search to be made of the records and have indeed found that Jerusalem has in times past been a hotbed of insurrection against many kings. In fact, rebellion and sedition are normal there! 20 Powerful kings have ruled over Jerusalem and the entire province west of the Euphrates River and have received vast tribute, customs, and tolls. 21 Therefore, issue orders to have these people stop their work. That city must not be rebuilt except at my express command. 22 Do not delay, for we must not permit the situation to get out of control.”
Certainly some among the Jews had wondered why they ever left Persia. It hearkens back to the day when the Jews left Egypt and some wanted to go back to Egypt. "Why Lord?", Many had to have asked. The cosmic conflict was showing itself. The Jews, who were being revived spiritually by God, were meeting resistance. Revival is always met this way.
Do you see the pattern in Ezra thus far? It is a natural pattern for resistance to take. First, it tries to assimilate us. Then, if that doesn’t work, it tries to disprove us or discourage us by ganging up.
A similar pattern has been witnessed in American Church history. In the early 1900’s as much of the American church fell to religious liberalism as a concession to secular humanism we witnessed the first tactic- “come now, we’re all the same.” Then, for those who resisted in the early 20’s through the 30’s and 40’s, the tactic of discouragement set in. Our adversaries said- “your bible is empty”, “it’s wrought with error”, “evolution has disproved the Scriptures”, “The Christian faith is dead”.
So what are we to make of Ezra 4? Is the fire of revival really being threatened, or is it all part of a bigger plan? Is it safe to say that resistance is actually part of revival? How could this be? If God is sovereign over all things, we must conclude there are no mistakes in the affairs of the world. Even in this cosmic conflict, when things seem to oppose God, He is still sovereign over every event. The words of Paul in Ephesians help here-
Ephesians 1:11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will...
God works all things according to the counsel of His will. Not some things or the major things, but all things! I must conclude that the trials we face, the resistance we experience in our walk with the Lord are actually part of the revival or growth the Lord is granting!