Ezra & Nehemiahby Robert M. Solomon
The narrative breaks off here and moves forward a few decades. We know that this passage refers to later events because the Persian kings mentioned, Xerxes (the same as Ahaseurus in Esther) and Artaxerxes (the king at the time of Nehemiah), came to power long after the reign of Cyrus.
By this time, the Jews have rebuilt the temple and have started repairing the walls and the rest of the city. However, their enemies persist in trying to obstruct their progress. Today's reading shows us how chronic the opposition to God's work was. The resistance that the Jews face is not a one-off event, but a perennial spiritual situation.
The enemies of the Jews complain to the Persian kings, dispatching a formal letter to Artaxerxes accusing the Jews of acting treacherously against the king (Ezra 4:6). The letter is crafted with political and psychological shrewdness. The host of leaders who sign the letter stress their impressive credentials and claim to have the popular support of the king's subjects in the province of Trans-Euphrates, of which Judea was a part (vv. 9-10). They inform the king that the troublesome Jews are now ″restoring the walls and repairing the foundations″ of Jerusalem (v. 12). They then call Jerusalem ″that rebellious and wicked city″ (v. 12), and suggest that historical records will prove how troublesome and rebellious the city had been in the past (v. 15). If the city is rebuilt, they claim, the consequences for the king and his empire would be grave. The city would stop paying taxes and royal revenue would be adversely affected (v. 13). The king, they warn, ″will be left with nothing in Trans-Euphrates″ (v. 16).
The writers claim to be loyal citizens who have the king's interests uppermost in their minds, and are therefore under obligation to report to the king what is going on. It is all intended to make the king react angrily against the Jews. God's servants may be falsely accused from time to time. Jesus himself was falsely accused (Matthew 26:59-60); so was Moses (Numbers 16:13), Paul (Acts 21:28), and so many others.
Perhaps this passage is speaking to a situation you may be facing today-at home, at your workplace, or in church. You may be accused of something you did not do, or your motives are being questioned and maligned. This can be very discouraging, and it may seem easier to pursue the path of least resistance-but this may lead you away from what God has asked you to do. If you are experiencing false accusations, take courage and comfort, because God has promised to protect you against hostile weapons and words, for this is ″the heritage of the servants of the LORD″ (Isaiah 54:17).
Was there any truth to the enemies' accusations of the Jews? Have you experienced facts being twisted by Satan to work against God's forgiven children? What was your reaction?
How can the enemy bring fear into the hearts of God's children? How can you counteract this if it happens to you?