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Dealing With Opposition

Having responded enthusiastically to the challenging permission to return to Judah, that small ininority of the Jews known as the Remnant now had to face up to the challenge and fresh problems of settling down in the land and resuming the life of the people of God in an environment that would never again be as straightforward as that enjoyed before the catastrophe of the Babylonian captivity.

For one thing their world was a rather different one. No longer a nation state looking out at the world, this Remnant found themselves living among peoples who had nothing in common witil them. These peoples' attitude to God and the things of God would soon become one of the principal challenges to the continuance of tilat dynamic desire to complete the reconstruction of tile Temple and once more engage in acceptable service to God.

Added to tilat was the drag on their spiritual progress from their own human wealiness as they so quickly lost heart and busied themselves with tile reconstruction of their own homes, farms and businesses, having conveniently decided tilat "the time has not yet come for the LORD'S house to be built"1. And behind all this spiritual lethargy was an active enemy, Satan. He was leading those forces of evil which are man's principal enemy2. He is active in bringing accusations of incompetence, unworthiness and guilt. Against him only the Lord Himself is strong.

Opposition From Outside

The first attack upon the leadership of this new movement was as subtle as it was real. "Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and,hav~ been sacrificing to Him since tile time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here"3. Wisely the leaders rejected such an offer and these "enemies of Judan and Benjamin"4, smarting under tile rebuff, then changed tactics and showed their true colours. These people were the descendants of settlers brought to tile land under the conquering Sargon, Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal who had been encouraged to worship the Lord yet who had brought with them ideas and practices inconsistent with this. From them came the Samaritans of tile Lord Jesus' time, with a centre of worship in opposition to the one place, Jerusalem.

That first attempt failed to infiltrate tile project, but it was stopped by direct action as the tactical weapons of discouragement and frustration5 were used. Ultimately an injunction was obtained from Cambyses II (the son of

Cyrus) prohibiting futther work. "Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Irarius king of Persia"6.

Opposition From Witkin

The years which followed were

years of diverted effort until the Lord sent the prophet Haggai to point out the problem. Having no cause to pursue, the people lost all courage and enthusiasm, and they lost their sense of priority, turning instead to building and decorating theirown houses, tending their own smailholdings and seeking to raise their standard of living. The results were disastrous on both fronts: the Lord's house remained a ruin and their own economy remained in perinanent recession. "Give careful thought to your ways"7 said the prophet. Two months later from Zechariab came a straight call to repentance coupled with a reminder of the ceatainty of judgement if the warning was not heeded. The Lord was not looking for a people of nominal followers, but being "very jealous for Zion"8 He required a people who feared the Lord9, whose spirits were stirred to begin work on the house of the Lord Almighty10 and whose social lives were consistent with the Lord's own mercy and truthfulness'1. The leaders responded, and the people too.

As the Temple was being built a further problem emerged. There were those who remembered the glory of Solomon's Temple and to whom the present building seemed "like nothing"12. Haggai had a message from the

Lord for the leaders: "Be strong

and work. For I am with you"13, was the positive message. To Zechariah was posed the negative side: "Who despises the day of small things?"14 To those who despaired was given the assurance that they would rejoice'5, just as God had given His assurance that He would take pleasure in it16. It is instructive and encouraging for us today to note that it is not the size of a project or its earthly glory that is important, but rather the fact that the Lord Himself takes pleasure in what is being done.

The Lord was not looking for a people of norninal followers, but being very lealous for Zion, He r~uired a people who feared me Lord, whose spirits were stirred to begin work on the house of the Lord Almighty.

Opposition From Satan

One of the visions given to Zechariah is instructive in revealing the role of Satan, arch-enemy of God and His people, who is described elsewhere as "the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night"17 and who is specifically depicted attacking the leadership of God's people18. Satan, the leader of the "spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms"2, must be resisted'9 and is vulnerable to God's rebuke! In casting doubt upon the spiritual worthiness of their leader, Satan h6pes to discredit the people of God. In his vision Zechariab sees the purposes of God unfold

as Joshua is cleansed and justified and the covenant relationship is restored on the same basis as formerly. "If you will walk in My ways and keep My requirements.. "20 Satan may oppose and accuse but he is powerless against the Word of the Lord.

Building For God

The prophets stirred the leaders and the leaders roused the people and the building that was central to God's desire to dwell among them was begun. And, of course, opposition came too. Those who had successfully stopped the project earlier were not going to sit back now. "But the eye of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they were not stopped"21. When the people's attitude is right and God is in it, a divine work is unstoppable. "Be still before the LORD, all mankind, because He has roused Himself from His holy dwelling"22 was God's message through Zechariali. A brief history of the background to this project was given to Tattenai the governor (readers are referred to his letter recorded in Ezra 5:11-16!) and confirmation was received from Fcbatana that they did indeed have the authority to build. "So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo. They finished building the Temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Aataxerxes, kings of Persia"23. Thus it was that in 516 BC after four years' work that the Temple was complete and the

rededication could take place. This was a time of great joy, the service of God being set up "according to what is written in the Book of Moses"24. There followed a great time of fellowship in God-honouring service as the Passover was kept and God's house was functioning once again. There had been a separating from the unclean practices of the world around and now, together, they were able to enjoy those privileges and responsibilities that go hand-in-hand in the service of God's house.

History Repeated

It is interesting to compare history and note similarities, all the more so when those details of the earlier period are recorded in God's Word for our instruction. God had a people and a house in which He lived with them from the time of Moses, through Sol~ mon and down until the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC. This was brought about because of disobedience, defiance and acceptance of wrong practices. There followed an interlude in which there was no house for God and then by the Spirit of God the movement already described began to re-establish the divine order and ceremony of the original, albeit on a less grand scale.

Many years later the Lord Jesus declared, "Look, your house is left to you desolate"25. Then God's purposes changed from a physical building, the Temple built by Herod in Jerusalem, to a spiritual building made up of "living stones"26 in which He would live. That too was conditional and in

the course of time there was extensive departure frnm those God-given principles called The Faith27. "The Process of deterioration continued and serious liberties were taken, in particular with the apostolic principles 6.f church constitution and government. At the same time the fundamental doctrines touching salvation and service were corrupted beyond recognition"28. As at the time of the Remnant of Israel, so late in the nineteenth century the Spirit of God began working in hearts to make possible a return and rebuilding. Since the fiery days of the reformation back in the sixteenth century one and another - great men of God - had arisen to give prominence to long neglected truths. But by the middle of the nineteenth century the process was accelerating until elders of companies of born-again, baptized groups of disciples were able to write letters setting out the reasons why they felt compelled to separate from the confusion of doctrine and practice and make their way back to the spiritual house which was in process of reconstruction. "From such places as Cardiff and C?omer, Liverpool and London, Belfast and Glasgow and from many other gatherings came brief but positive statements in all of which real exercise of heart was evident, together with a clear appeal to Scripture. The leading of God's Spirit was clearly felt... "29 and opposition was bound to

arise. Some questioned their motives, others their authority, but as in those momentous days of Ezra, Haggai and Zechariab so it was in 18924 and onwalds, the eye of their God was watching over them and they were not stopped. It is no c~incidence that these later and more recent events mirrored in so many ways those equally momentous, but far off events. True to pattern but smaller, surrounded by an unsympathetic world, but spurred on by leaders who feared the Lord, both groups found in their building for God comfort in the assurance that it was "'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD Almighty"30

All Scriptural quotations are from the New International Version.

1. Haggai 1:2; 2. Eph. 6:12; 3. Ez.

4:2; 4. Ez. 4:1; 5. Ez. 4:4-5; 6. Ez.

4:24; 7. Hag. 1:5; 8. Zech. 8:2; 9.

Hag. 1:12; 10. Hag. 1:14; 11. Zech.

7:9-10; 12. Hag. 2:3; 13. Hag. 2:4;

14. Zech. 4:10; 15. Zech. 4:10; 16.

Hag. 1:8; 17. Rev. 12:10; 18. Zech.

3:1-2; 19. James 4:7; 20. Zech. 3:7;

21. Ez. 5:5; 22. Zech. 2:13; 23. Ez.

6:14; 24. Ez. 6:18; 25. Mat. 23:38;

26.1 Peter 2:~5; 27. Jude 3; 28. The

Search For The Truth of God p.10; 29.

The Search For The Truth of God

p.36; 30. Zech. 4:6.