Ezra 4:13–16: “Now let it be known to the king, that if that city is rebuilt and the walls are finished, they will not pay tribute. . . . and it will damage the revenue of the kings. . . . It is not fitting for us to see the king’s dishonor. . . . You will have no possession in the province beyond the River.”

Observation: Cyrus, king of Persia, had conquered Babylon and then decreed that the city and temple of Jerusalem be rebuilt. Zerubbabel had led Jews back to start construction; however, local Samaritans were opposed. They first attempted the Trojan horse approach by saying that they were seekers of God themselves who wanted to “help” with the project. They next wrote to king Ahasuerus telling him that he would be harmed in three ways if he permitted the rebuilding to continue: (1) he would suffer financially, (2) his honor would be damaged, and (3) he would lose that part of his kingdom.

Application:  Satan always uses the same tired, old strategy. If you obey God, you will lose everything: money, reputation, and the security that your efforts have earned you. There is no evidence that Cyrus had become a believer, but the Word is clear that his proclamation to restore Jerusalem had been motivated by Jeremiah’s prophecies, which the Lord used to “stir up” his spirit (see Ezra 1:1). Cyrus wrote in his decree that “The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem” (verse 2). It was exactly this God-breathed proclamation that the enemies of Israel now plotted to undermine. 

The first and most obvious lesson I draw is that God can use anyone to accomplish His purposes, even the king of Persia (today’s mullahs of Iran). Second, there is no new and improved version of the enemy’s lies. “If you do what God has told you to do, you will suffer loss; it’ll cost you big time.” He always attacks my obedience since that’s the thing God values above all else. How often have I faltered in obedience to the Lord’s instruction when the enemy’s whispers caused faintheartedness? His weaponry is limited to mere words. With them he seeks to thwart the advance of the kingdom, but it advances, all the same. Am I an instrument fit and available for His use in its advance, or must He look for another?

Prayer: Father God, I am filled with remorse when I reflect upon past assignments I have dodged, past invitations I have not acted upon. Forgive me, Lord, and stir again in me the same kind of zeal You brought to Cyrus, zeal enough to birth obedience in him. I declare that with Your help, the words of the enemy will no longer have power to mold my response to You.