Daily Reflections January 4, 2017
Infiltration has often been the strategy of our enemy. Note the opening words of Ezra 4:
1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the LORD, the God of Israel, 2 they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” (Ezra 4:1–2 ESV)
Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing! These folks are actually idolatrous halfbreeds. The Bible tells the story of how these folks came to be in the land:
24 And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel. And they took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities. (2 Kings 17:24 ESV)
After Assyria destroyed the Northern Tribes she exiled most of the people to various other places and brought other defeated people to Israel to take their places. These people intermarried with the few remaining Israelites that were left. These folks became religious syncretists – that is they worshipped the God of Israel AND the gods of their former territories. The Bible says:
So these nations feared the LORD and also served their carved images. Their children did likewise, and their children’s children—as their fathers did, so they do to this day. (2 Kings 17:41 ESV)
That’s who we meet in this story. These people said they were God’s children too, they said that they wanted to join in the work but the truth is that they were enemies and Zerubbabel and Jeshua wisely rejected their offer:
“You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.” (Ezra 4:3 ESV)
Very often our greatest enemies disguise themselves as fellow believers. Be on guard. If the devil can’t scale the walls he will often attempt to slip in through the front door disguised as one of the children.
In this chapter we begin to observe the remarkable change in the character and conduct of the disciples since the giving of the Holy Spirit. It is hard to believe that these are the same people – what has happened to them? The Holy Spirit has happened to them! Now they preach with boldness, now they testify under pressure and now we see thousands coming to faith through their witness. A few quick observations from this marvelous chapter:
i. The early church kept official records of membership and they knew who was in and who was out. See verse 4.
ii. The early church held to an exclusive understanding of salvation. There is salvation in no one else and no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. See verse 12.
iii. The disciples obeyed earthly authority but in cases where human authority contradicted God’s Word, they obeyed God and meekly received human punishment. See verses 19-20.
iv. While the Holy Spirit was decisively given in Acts 2, he is given again in Acts 4. We leak. We must be ever being filled as the Apostle Paul will later say.
v. The effect of this fresh filling of the Holy Spirit is further and bolder speaking and preaching. See verse 31.
vi. The early church members shared resources so as to care for the poor in their midst. See verse 32 and 34.
vii. The leaders of the church oversaw this process to make sure that it was prudently and fairly done.
Lord let your Spirit fall afresh in our day!
Pastor Paul Carter