Things are about to become messy concerning the chronology of Ezra. I think I’ve got a handle on it now, but as we go through the next several blogs, keep in mind that there is quite a bit of dispute on scholars, not only on the chronology of events, but on who is who. For the time being, I’m holding to the idea that Xerxes and Artaxerxes in chapter 4 of Ezra are the Persian kings who reigned between 486-423 B.C. Some hold that they were actually Cambysses and and Smerdis who reigned before Darius, which would make sense chronologically, but I’m not sure there’s enough evidence from history to say that they also held the names of Xerxes and Artaxerxes.
At any rate, speaking of things getting messy, things quickly got messy for the Jews who were rebuilding the temple. As they were doing so, some enemies, apparently Samaritans offered to help them in the rebuilding of the temple. These Samaritans were the descendants of the remnant of northern kingdom Jews left in Samaria after they were exiled to Assyria, and the people who were imported from Mesopotamia and Syria. They worshiped the true God, but not him alone. They mixed their worship of God with other gods. As a result, the Jews that came with Ezra rejected their help.
When this happened, they started to oppose the Jews, not only in the building of the temple, but in the restoration of the walls and the city, as we will see throughout Ezra and Nehemiah.
I think we can learn a lesson from this in our own lives. When we start to follow God, to build up and sanctify the temple of our body to Christ, and to build up our spiritual strength, there will be opposition.
Sometimes the people around us will be happy to see the positive changes in our lives, and will even support us. But when they start to see that what we believe is in conflict with what they believe, they try to get us to compromise our faith. In Japan, for example, there’s much pressure on the Christians here to offer incense at Buddhist ceremonies. But people will try to get us to compromise in other ways as well. They try to get us to compromise our ethics at work or in our personal lives. And if we don’t do so, they then start to become hostile.
Jesus never promised that if we followed him, everyone would like us. Jesus was perfect, and people still hated him. Jesus said,
If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. (John 15:18)
So the question we need to ask ourselves is, “Who are we trying to please?” Are we trying to please God or people?
Let us be people who seek the praise of God over all others. No matter the opposition, no matter the cost.