Week 6 – Lessons from the Prophets Cont’d
Day 3 – Zechariah and the Challenges of Ministry – When the Enemy Volunteers: Ezra 4
So, you may be thinking, wait a minute, Zechariah and Challenges of Ministry – so why are we reading from Ezra? The answer is simple. The ministry of Zechariah overlaps the ministries of Ezra and Haggai and much of the historical background is found in those two books. It is an interesting time in Israel’s history. The people have been allowed to return to begin rebuilding the temple. You would think that this would be a time of rejoicing, of diligent labor and of honoring God’s commandments – after all, they have just come through a period of God’s judgment upon them for disobedience. This, however, was not always the case.
These three books, Zechariah, Ezra and Haggai, present some very important truths. From the three, only one verse actually deals with the fatherless, but there are also some very poignant and tangible lessons for us in the story itself that can, and should, be applied to ministry to the fatherless. Over the next few days we will look at nine lessons that we can take away from these passages.
Ezra chapters 4-6 give us the full, historical account of this story. Zerubbabel was leading in the work of rebuilding the temple. When the adversaries of the children of Judah realized what was going on, they came to him and said, “Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esar-haddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.” (4:2)
Zerubbabel and other leaders made a wise decision. Their response to these men was, “Ye have nothing to do with us to build a house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.” (4:3)
Lesson 1: Sometimes the enemy volunteers to help. Not everyone who volunteers to help us in ministry, ought to be helping in our ministry – they may even be our enemy. The thought of this can be overwhelming, especially in times when the work itself is overwhelming and there is a great need for more workers. Does this mean that we never let anyone help? Does it mean that we should be suspicious of everyone who offers to help? No. Nothing would ever get done that way. In fact, this very attitude has been a great hindrance to some ministries to the fatherless over the centuries. What it means is that we must be discerning. We must also follow the guidelines that Scripture has set out for those who are qualified for ministry. This is also one of the reasons that it is important for a ministry to have set guidelines and requirements for their workers: A clear testimony of salvation, faithfulness to church services, daily devotional times and so on. The key is discernment and the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Lesson 2: Take a Stand. This can be hard, but if someone does not belong in the position that they are wanting to hold, don’t give it to them. If someone’s life shows them to be an enemy of the cross, don’t admit them to the Savior’s work. Israel’s adversaries had no business building the temple. Zerubbabel made no bones about that fact. There are those who have no part in the ministry that God gives us to the fatherless. Does this mean that we should be rude or offensive in our way of dealing with these situations? No. Contention and strife are neither one listed among the fruits of the spirit. In fact, James chapter three refers to envy and strife (both of which often crop up in these situations) as “earthly, sensual, devilish” – not things that we as Christians want to be our defining characteristics. It is possible to be humble, kind and firm all at once. It is not easy to tell someone who may have a very sincere desire to help, no, but there are times when we must.
Up Next: Week 6: Day 4 -A When the Enemy Frustrates our Purposes
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