What do believers do when someone or something comes against us unjustly and we feel helpless to stop them?
This happened to the people who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon after seventy years of exile. Even though they were simply obeying God and following His will to begin rebuilding the temple, local residents began to oppose them and their work in the strongest manner. So great was their resistance that work on the temple was ceased not long after it began.
4 Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building, 5 and bribed advisers against them to frustrate their advice all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. Ezra 4:4-5 (NASB)
By bending the truth in their communications back home, the opposition gained the support of the leadership and work was brought to a halt on the temple reconstruction project.
23 Then as soon as the copy of King Artaxerxes’ decree was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their colleagues, they went in a hurry to Jerusalem to the Jews and stopped them by military force. Ezra 4:23 (NASB)
The half-truth is an effective tool of opposition used throughout the ages and is almost impossible to defend against on our own. Satan has used this tool from the garden of Eden to Jesus’ temptation in the desert and continues to use it today.
Face it – we all come up against strong opposition from time to time. But how are we supposed to respond to it? When we seek to retaliate using our own will and thinking, we usually end up increasing the problem and strengthening the opposition.
God has established a pattern and a method for us to use when in such unpleasant circumstances:
14 The Lord will fight for you, while you keep silent.” Exodus 14:14 (NASB)
As I write this, I am in the middle of an ongoing, unresolved dispute with someone. We both believe that we are in the right and are trying to maintain cordial relations. But it is a raw and emotional issue for each of us, and we patiently look forward to a righteous resolution in God’s time.
It is difficult not be angry when in the middle of a conflict, but anger is something we absolutely must avoid. As a good friend counseled me, “D” plus “Anger” equals “Danger”. The root of anger is fear, and when we lean on God in faith, the fear begins to subside, and we trust that the future is in God’s hands.
In the meantime, we are learning to be patient, to do right, to live in peace as much as is in our control, but at the same time not to be a doormat to be trampled on.
The returned exiles in Jerusalem also felt powerless to defend themselves and ceased work on rebuilding the temple of the Lord. In fact, they had no choice in the matter as the authorities ordered them to stop. That can happen to us today, as well, when our opposition gains the ear of those in power.
But over time, God turned the favor of the authorities back towards the exiles to the point where they were actually financially supported in their work. God prompted the new king, Darius the Great, to go back to look for the initial decree that had been ordered by Cyrus to commence the temple work. He found it, and work on the temple was ordered to begin again with full provision provided by the royal treasury.
1 Then King Darius issued a decree, and a search was conducted in the archives, where the treasures were stored in Babylon. 2 And in Ecbatana, in the fortress which is in the province of Media, a scroll was found; and the following was written in it: “Memorandum— 3 In the first year of King Cyrus, Cyrus the king issued a decree: ‘Concerning the house of God in Jerusalem, let the temple, the place where sacrifices are offered, be rebuilt, and let its foundations be repaired, its height being sixty cubits and its width sixty cubits…
8 Furthermore, I issue a decree concerning what you are to do for these elders of Judah in the rebuilding of that house of God: the full cost is to be paid to those people from the royal treasury out of the taxes of the provinces beyond the Euphrates River, and that without interruption. 9 And whatever is needed, bulls, rams, and lambs for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, and wheat, salt, wine, and anointing oil, as the priests in Jerusalem order, it is to be given to them daily without fail, 10 so that they may offer acceptable sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the lives of the king and his sons. Ezra 6:1-3,8-10 (NASB)
When God settles our conflicts, the results far exceed whatever we could hope to achieve using our own power and will.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. Psalm 34:19 (NKJV)
What conflict do you find yourself in today? Does it seem hopeless? We turn our trials over to the Lord seeking His righteous resolution.
Lord, grant us the faith to trust You to handle our conflicts in a righteous way today. Keep us from anger and resentment and give us Your love for others as we patiently wait on Your saving hand. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.