So the Jewish leaders continued their work, and they were greatly encouraged by the preaching of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo. The Temple was finally finished, as had been commanded by the God of Israel and decreed by Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, the kings of Persia. – Ezra 6:14
Evil has many faces. On some occasions it smiles seductively and lures the unwary. On other occasions it scowls fiercely and intimidates the insecure. Sometimes evil talks sweetly with offers of helpfulness and cooperation, while at other times it shouts its demands and dire threats of doom. Because evil appears in differing forms, it must be countered in different ways. But first it must be recognized for what it is.
Evil has many faces, but only one goal—to thwart the purposes of God. Evil and opposition sometimes wear a friendly face. The rebuilders of the temple were offered the cooperation of their enemies. These enemies claimed to worship the Lord, but they failed to mention that they also worshiped many other gods (see 2 Kings 17:24-34). Letting them help would have given them equal access to the temple and would have compromised the purity of the people’s worship of the Lord. The leaders of Judah and Benjamin rightly recognized that these enemies had “nothing in common” with them (Ezra 4:3), and gave them “no stake or claim in Jerusalem” (Neh. 2:20).
Thus rebuffed, the enemies of Judah and Benjamin became even more overt in their opposition (Ezra 4:4-5). Sterner threats required stronger responses. Later, when the building work was stopped by order of King Artaxerxes in response to spurious statements concerning the builders, it took the challenging preaching of the prophets to counter the evil and get the work moving.
When Tattenai the governor arrived on the site to question the rebuilders about their activities (5:3-5), he was civil and courteous, but committed to stopping the building nevertheless. He took down the names of the builders—an officious act with threatening overtones—and dispatched letters to King Artaxerxes to check out the returned exiles’ story. When the reply came that the Jews were indeed authorized to rebuild the temple, Tattenai had no alternative but to allow them to continue. Although he wanted to terminate the restoration of the temple, he was prepared to work within the framework of the law. So the danger passed. God’s people have sometimes benefitted from the fact that some of God’s enemies do respect law and order.
Wise men recognize evil in a smile or a sneer, and they tear off its mask and meet it face-to-face. But such is the subtlety of evil that wise men are well advised to take counsel with others of like mind, lest they mistakenly call evil good and good evil.
For Further Study: Ezra 4:1-5, 5:1-5, 6:1-18
Excerpted from The One Year Devotions for Men, Copyright ©2000 by Stuart Briscoe. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.
For more from Stuart Briscoe, please visit TellingtheTruth.org.