Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building,Ezra 4:4(NASB)
The returning exiles held a great celebration when the first section of the Temple was completed. They had worked hard and happily to construct the Temple foundations, and the whole congregation rejoiced together. The priests stood in their priestly apparel with trumpets raised, and the Levites joined in the triumphant chorusa, banging loud cymbals. Together the congregation praised the LORD just as David the king had directed.
"The Lord is good. His lovingkindness is upon Israel forever", was the ecstatic song they sang. It must have been wonderful to see the people singing praises to God and offering thanksgiving for His faithfulness, in bringing them back to the Promised Land. The noise of their grateful thanks could be heard far away, and it alerted their neighbours to the success of the Israelite's building programme.
Far from rejoicing, because of their success, Israel's mean-spirited neighbours, who had settled in the land during their time of exile, were dismayed with the progress that had been made, in the rebuilding of the Temple. They sought to disrupt the next building phase, by offering to join in the rebuilding project, so that they could hamper any progress from within!
However, Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers' households refused to allow them to work alongside the Israelites, for to do so would have compromised their covenant with the Lord, Who charged His people to be a holy nation, and to separate themselves from all their pagan neighbours. "You have nothing in common with us in building a house to our God," Zerubbabel told them, "but we ourselves will together build to the LORD God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia has commanded us."
The leadership were correct in this decision, but their neighbours felt slighted. Their pride had been wounded, and so Israel's enemies redoubled their efforts to hamstring the rebuilding project... and we read, "Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building. They hired counsellors against them to frustrate their counsel, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia."
The onslaught of the enemy was continuous and relentless. Their first assault on Israel came through discouragement and fear... but from then on the enemy engaged in an ongoing, long-term and relentless attack, which caused the people of Israel to become greatly discouraged and fearful.
Discouragement and fear are two of the main weapons in the satanic armoury of our enemies. The first step is to dishearten God's people - to crush their spirit, depress their soul, demoralise their confidence in God, and dash their hopes into the ground. Once someone has become downhearted, disappointed and despondent, the next weapon is fear.
Fear is the opposite of faith, for when fear increases it causes faith to decrease - and when faith stands firm on the promises of God, fear flees far away, just as Scripture teaches. 'RESIST the enemy'. is the instruction from James, the apostle. "Submit to God. Resist the devil, and if you do, the enemy will flee from you."
The Church today is the Body of Christ, which is being built into a spiritual Temple and the onslaught against believers, in this Church dispensation, has been continuous and relentless. But just as Israel discovered that praise and worship is a fundamental key, in fulfilling God's work and discouragement and fear are tools the enemy uses to prevent spiritual effectiveness, we must also recognise this truth, and take steps to deal with it.
Just like the Israelites, in Zerubbabel's day, we are to come out from among them and be separate. We are not to compromise our faith by joining in the world's frivolities, nor are we to embrace worldly endeavours or fleshly standards, in our Christian work and witness - to do so gives the enemy a foothold, which will cause us to fall prey to the enemy's attacks.
The biblical way to dispel fear is to rejoice in the Lord, no matter what difficulties or dangers we face. Paul tells us to "rejoice always, pray without ceasing and in everything give thanks, for this is God's will for us". He knows that the joy of the Lord is our strength and that depression and fear are an enemy of our soul, and tools the devil will use to shipwreck our faith.
May we resist the devil - whether he comes to us as an angel of light or a roaring lion, for his singular aim is to prevent us from finishing the good work that God has prepared for us to do. May we trust in the Lord with ALL our heart and not lean on our own understanding, for the Lord KNOWS the path we take, and has scheduled every day of our life for our eternal good and for His greater glory. May we run the race that is set before us looking to JESUS, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
As we read through the Old Testament, as well as the New, may we recognise the lessons God would have us to learn. May we foster a teachable spirit and develop a willingness to put the lessons we learn into practice, as we occupy until Jesus comes, so that we may finish the good work that God has prepared for us to do and hear Him say - well done good and faithful servant.
Heavenly Father, thank You that I am part of the Body of Christ and together, with other believers, are being built into a spiritual Temple for Your greater glory. Keep me from falling prey to discouragement and fear, for I realise that they are counter-productive to a fruitful Christian life. I pray that I may rejoice with all the saints and worship before Your throne, knowing that the joy of the Lord strengthens the inner man and helps us to grow in grace and in a knowledge of Jesus. I pray that I may submit my life to you and be ready to resist the devil, whether he comes as an angel of light or a roaring lion, and I pray that I may finish the good work that You have prepared for me to do, for my eternal benefit and Your greater glory - this I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.