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How do you deal with opposition? How do we deal with people who don’t share the same opinion as we do? While the elements of this section of the story (Ezra 2-6) might be hard to follow and identify with the problems are not.
Ezra 2 tells of the people who returned from exile to the former homeland. Ezra 3 tells of the beginning efforts to rebuild the Temple: the heart of the Jewish faith and cultural identity. In Ezra 4 the trouble starts. The Israelites want to do the work themselves of rebuilding. Their “rejection” of the people of the land leads to opposition, adversarial interference and great fear. An exchange of diplomatic letters, (in Ezra 4-5) back and forth with the King Artaxerxes in distant Persia, results in interference, halt of construction, great disappointment, a return of hopelessness and finally vindication and victory as the Temple restoration is resumed and completed in Ezra 5-6.
This is all possible because there has been a change of kings, and so the new ruler (Darius) is unaware of the agreement and charge made by the earlier king (Cyrus). The adversarial attitude is first engendered by the extremist zeal of the returning settlers for ethnic and religious purity. Why won’t they work with the others? Why won’t they accept the help the freely offer? And why wouldn’t they want to testify to their God, to seek in a sense converts? In all of the meandering and often confusing story, the reality that God has made a call of the Israelites who are governed by human authority whether that be the distant King or local Persian governor. The people of God are forced to decide who they will follow. They act from a received Word of God, before they receive the permission from human authority. Maybe that is actually the reason for the hostility.
Questions for Going Deeper
We live in a time of great dissension, adversarial attitudes and hostile opposition. Out culture communicates to us that we cannot be associated or friends with those that don’t hold our same values or opinions. Think of how people respond around the issues of the Affordable Care Act, Marriage Equality, Sexual Orientation, taxation, abortion, government spending, living in a pluralistic world. Sometimes it seems like the most hostile attitudes and destructive actions even happen within the church among followers of Jesus!