257. HOPING TO UNDERMINE BUT SERVING TO STRENGTHEN
(The Faith Forum Series – Batch 7)
Sometimes, enemies really intend to UNDERMINE you but what they do, only serves to STRENGTHEN you. Blessed be the name of the Lord!
As Joseph in the Old Testament could attest when he considered his life story and all that God had done in his providence (even in the face of his brethren who had positioned themselves as his enemies), whatever people intend for evil, God can take it and turn it around for good! (Genesis 50:20).
This victory which God secures for us, in the face of wicked opposition and attack was also demonstrated through the Lord Jesus Christ. While on earth, his enemies, commissioned by the main enemy of our soul, satan, sought to kill him and eventually did. They thought that they were victorious and that that was the end of Jesus and our hope but to their dismay, it was not!
Jesus rose up from that grave on the third day (because he is Lord) and now grants us redemption through his blood. In particular, the Word of God tells us that he uses his blood that was shed, to wash and sanctify all those that believe in their heart, in his resurrection and confess with their mouth that he is Lord, to grant them forgiveness and cleansing from their sin, to render them justified in the sight of God and to grant them access to enter into the holiest (Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 1:7; Romans 5:9; Revelation 1:5; Hebrews 10:19).
Despite the enemys’ plans to destroy him who was and is perfectly righteous therefore, Jesus rose from the dead and in so doing, secured victory for all who would believe on Him and the testimony given of him. By virtue of what he did, salvation is now open and available to all. He invites whosever will, to come through faith to receive forgiveness for their sins, so that they can partake of an eternal inheritance and be pardoned from the penalty of their sin.
John 3:16 testifies that, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Romans 10:13 tells us further, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Of what Jesus did for us and how he foiled the plans of the enemy, Colossians 2:10-15 states:
- “…ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, TRIUMPHING OVER THEM in it.”
There are other examples in the Word of God, of situations where the enemy’s wicked plans to undermine God’s people backfired, where their efforts did not work to destroy God’s people but instead, benefitted and strengthened them.
Take the story of Haman and Mordecai in the book of Esther for example. Haman hated Mordecai so much, that he made a gallows in his home in anticipation of one day having the opportunity to hang Mordecai on it. Instead, he ended up having to personally make arrangements, upon the command of the king, to have Mordecai publicly acknowledged and honoured. As if this was not enough, Mordecai was eventually promoted, whereas he was demoted. In fact, the very gallows that he built for Mordecai, the king commanded that he himself be hanged on it (Esther 6-7).
A similar principle is evident in Ezra 5 and 6, where the Jews, acting after they had received word from God through the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, began to build the house of God. Enemies came to oppose and stop the work (because the main enemy of God’s people, the devil, never likes to see God’s work advance but will send people to try to undermine it) but the beautiful providence of God intervened to ensure, that what they sought to do, backfired to the benefit of His people.
Ezra 5:1-5 reads:
- “Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them. Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them. At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall? Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building? But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then they returned answer by letter concerning this matter.”
So determined were the enemies of the Jews to stop the work, that, when all their efforts would not work to cause God’s people to stop the work, they went as far as penning a letter to king Darius, to report or carry news about what the Jews were doing and asking him to investigate the matter. See, the Jews had told them that they had been authorized to build by a previous king but they did not believe. They therefore sent letter to king Darius, asking him to search the historical records to see if it was true or not. They did this because they expected that there would be no such record found and that king Darius would use his power to put a stop to the work but the exact opposite happened.
In fact, Cyrus a previous king of Persia, had indeed made such a decree. Of the time when he reigned, Ezra 1:1-4 states:
- “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, THE LORD STIRRED UP THE SPIRIT OF CYRUS KING OF PERSIA, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and HE HATH CHARGED ME to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem. Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, WITH ALL THEM WHOSE SPIRIT GOD HAD RAISED, to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.”
It is instructive to note, who was at the centre of this work, from the onset. It was God himself. He was the one that stirred up the heart of a heathen king, causing him to make the proclamation that the house be built in the first place. He was the one, after the proclamation had been given in obedience to his will, that raised up the spirit of the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and the Levites, to go up to build his house at Jerusalem.
Keeping this in mind, the first lesson we shall learn or that we would do well to be reminded of is this: Whatever God sanctions, whatever he has personally endorsed and willed, CANNOT be disannulled by the enemy. It may be delayed, yes and God’s people may face much opposition and discouragement as they seek to do the work that He has willed but what God has purposed CANNOT be denied. What God has purposed WILL be done.
Under king Cryus’ reign, the work had begun therefore but the enemy’s of God’s people actively worked to frustrate and discourage them, hoping that they would abandon their God-given mission. Ezra 4:1-7 reads:
- “Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel; Then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither. But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.
- Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, And hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue.”
Not content in trying to harass, provoke and frustrate God’s people as they pursued HIS WORK therefore, the Jews’ enemies capitalized on what they saw as an opportunity, when the kingship changed from king Cyrus to king Ahaseurus. They wrote a letter to him accusing the Jews. This apparently not having worked, they again wrote to the new king Artaxerxes to report what the Jews were doing. They painted such a bad picture of the Jews and their efforts and feigned such concern for the king’s welfare, that the king believed that the Jews were up to mischief and ordered that the work (which the Lord himself had personally willed to be started), cease.
Ezra 4:7, 11-22 states:
- “This is the copy of the letter that they sent unto him, even unto Artaxerxes the king; Thy servants the men on this side the river, and at such a time. Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations. Be it known now unto the king, that, if this city be builded, and the walls set up again, then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings. Now because we have maintenance from the king’s palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king’s dishonour, therefore have we sent and certified the king; That search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers: so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time: for which cause was this city destroyed. We certify the king that, if this city be builded again, and the walls thereof set up, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side the river.
- Then sent the king an answer unto Rehum the chancellor, and to Shimshai the scribe, and to the rest of their companions that dwell in Samaria, and unto the rest beyond the river, Peace, and at such a time. The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me. And I commanded, and search hath been made, and it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made therein. There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, which have ruled over all countries beyond the river; and toll, tribute, and custom, was paid unto them. Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until another commandment shall be given from me. Take heed now that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings?
- Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power. Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.”
The enemies of the Jews therefore must have rejoiced, as they thought that that was the end of the matter. They thought that their wicked attempts to stop the work had finally been successful. However, when king Artaxerxes ordered that the work be stopped, this was just a temporary setback. For, this was not any old work. This was a work commissioned by the God of heaven, a work that HE desired to see completed and therefore, given that HIS POWER AND AUTHORITY TRUMP ALL (including all earthly authority), he again intervened to get it going again.
When Darius replaced king Artaxerxes, in the second year of his reign, God used two of his prophets to speak to the people in his name, to get the work that HE HAD SANCTIONED, going again. Pursuing the will of God and acting in obedience by faith, based on that prophecy, Zerubbabel and Jeshua therefore rose up and began to build, along with the prophets of God, who helped them. Ezra 5:2 states: “Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadack, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.”
Not surprisingly though, the scriptures continue, that “At the same time came to them Tatnai, governer on this side the river, and Shethar-boznai, and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up the wall?” (Ezra 5:3). At the very start of the rebuilding therefore, opposition again reared its ugly head BUT GOD! This time, God had purposed that they would not be allowed to delay the work any longer. It would continue WITHOUT CEASING, no matter what they did or what they tried.
This reminds me of Nahum 1 where it declares of God:
- “WHAT do ye imagine against the Lord? he will make an utter end: affliction shall NOT rise up the second time. For while they be folden together as thorns, and while they are drunken as drunkards, they shall be devoured as stubble fully dry. There is one come out of thee, that imagineth evil against the Lord, a wicked counsellor. Thus saith the Lord; Though they be quiet, and likewise many, YET thus shall they be cut down, WHEN HE SHALL PASS THROUGH.”
The enemies of the Jews therefore wrote to Dairus as they had done to previous kings, hoping that what Dairus found in his investigation, would work in their favour and the work would cease as it did before BUT IT BACKFIRED!
King Dairus caused the house of rolls to be searched and found out that king Cyrus had indeed made a decree that the house of God at Jerusalem should be built and that the golden and silver vessels of the house of God which had been taken out of the temple at Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzer and brought to Babylon, be restored. In light of this written record, king Dairus wrote back to Tatnai and Shethar-boznai, telling them what he had found and directing them to, not only leave the Jews alone to continue building but to also give them money to help them with the work and a daily provision of animals for their burnt offerings to God and salt, wine and oil.
God certainly has a sense of humour. The very people who had tried to stop the work and had gotten Darius involved, the king was now commanding them to not just leave the Jews alone but to provide finances to be used in the furtherance of the work and to supply them daily with the provision that they would need!
Ezra 6:6-10 reads of the king’s letter:
- “Now therefore, Tatnai, governor beyond the river, Shetharboznai, and your companions the Apharsachites, which are beyond the river, be ye far from thence: Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place. Moreover I make a decree what ye shall do to the elders of these Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king’s goods, even of the tribute beyond the river, forthwith expenses be given unto these men, that they be not hindered. And that which they have need of, both young bullocks, and rams, and lambs, for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the appointment of the priests which are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail: That they may offer sacrifices of sweet savours unto the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons.”
The king went even further. He wrote:
- “Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this. And the God that hath caused his name to dwell there destroy all kings and people, that shall put to their hand to alter and to destroy this house of God which is at Jerusalem. I Darius have made a decree; let it be done with speed.” (Ezra 6:11-12)
God therefore had the final say and the last laugh. He was the one that caused Dairus to adopt the position he did and to decree that HIS WORK should be supported with finances and other resources. Proverbs 21:1 tells us that “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.”
God completely foiled the work of the enemy, so that not only were they silenced but now, they had to devote their time, resources and effort to seeing to it that the Jews had all that they needed, for the work to be completed and in the quickest possible time.
Verses 13 16 read:
- “Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river, Shetharboznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily. And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king. And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy.”
God is so awesome, that, when the Jews started to rebuild in faith, based on the prophecy from God, they may not have even had near the amount of finances that would be needed to take the work to fruition or even considered that they would need considerable expenses to get it all done. Yet with willingness of heart, they began in faith with what they had and God, who owns the cattle on the hills and whose storehouse is abundant with provision, then used the actions of their enemies, to ensure that the work would be financed. God considered the finances seemingly before the Jews themselves had cause to really wonder how they would raise it and how the work would be sustained! This is how God moves when he is behind any kind of work being done. He provides for whatever work he desires to be completed and bountifully.
It is refreshing to know that the God back then is the same God today. His power remains the same and so does his character. He still moves the hearts of those in authority, dignitaries and those occupying high offices, to do as he pleases. Whatever work he has sanctioned to be done and impressed upon the hearts of any one or a group of his children to get done for HIM, even if there is ugly opposition, lots of harassment, discouragement, provocation and frustration along the way and even if the work at times is delayed by those who position themselves as enemies of THE WORK THAT GOD HAS BLESSED, the work STILL gets done. God STILL gets his way. He STILL intervenes to ensure that it reaches completion and that his name is glorified.
(Written on 22nd August, 2022)
Dear Reader, if you found the above Article to be interesting, informative, beneficial or edifying, you may also be interested in reading the following:
- Note 153 – ‘Note To Self – Keep Building’
- Note 170 – ‘We Are Soldiers’
- Note 174 – ‘Grace & Glory – The Lord Will Help Me’
- Note 173 – ‘Showdown In Egypt – God’s Power Trumps All’
- Note 183 – ‘The Beauty Of Being About The Father’s Business’
- Note 186 – ‘There Is Beautiful Provision In Obedience’
- Note 187 – ‘Stirring Up The Gift – Getting God’s Work Done’
- Note 189 – ‘Dear Sanballat And Tobiah…’
- Note 224 – ‘Dear Enemy Of My Soul: I Will Not Retreat!’
- Note 244 – ‘Stay In Your Lane’
- Note 251 – ‘Fixated On Me? Focus On Him!’
- Note 252 – ‘Working For The Lord’
- Note 255 – ‘Facebook Says I Went Against Community Standards’
- Note 256 – When You’re A Target Of Raging Warfare’
Additionally, under the ‘SINGLE Daughters’ page:
- Note 189 – ‘Dear Sanballat And Tobiah’