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This chapter relates an interruption to the labours of the people in building the temple from their enemies. Commandment issued from the king to put a stop to the work.
I beg the Reader to remark with me the several interesting circumstances which occur in this chapter. As an history they are deserving attention; but as a spiritual subject in reference to the building of the temple of God, they become much more so. Let the Reader observe how the adversaries of Judah speak of God's people reproachfully, in calling them the children of the captivity. And are not God's people in all ages branded with some reproachful name of contempt? And let the Reader remark further who those adversaries were. Not the Chaldeans, their old masters, nor the Persians, their new ones; but those of the land. Persons who lived near them, and carried on a mungrel kind of religion; who professed to call upon the Lord, and yet served their idol gods? Alas! who are the greatest enemies gracious souls have to contend with now? Not open ones; not professed Infidels. A man's foes (says one that could not be mistaken) are they of his own household. Matthew 10:36 . And if possible nearer yet than this, in a spiritual, sense: what greater foes hath a follower of Jesus than the opposers in his own heart from sin and unbelief, and the corruptions of his own nature. But Reader! doth not the gospel of Jesus in building the spiritual temple to his glory, meet with the same opposition all over the earth? And wheresoever the true gospel of Jesus is preached, doth not the enemy raise up foes either subtle, insinuating, or more open and bold, continually to oppose it?
No doubt the Lord was their guide in this wise counsel. And we have need of much grace to be always upon our guard against the sly advances of the enemy under feigned affection. The devil never more artfully deceives than when transformed into an angel of light. Jesus is the whole sum and substance of the gospel. The smallest departure from him is more to be guarded against than all the daring attacks of infidelity. For this latter is manifest, that it comes from the devil: but the former is not so speedily discovered.
By weakening the hands of the people, perhaps is meant, alarmed some weak minds to relax in their service. And by continually thwarting the people, no doubt it operated to their great discouragement. Such is not unfrequently the case now. But the Lord overrules these oppositions not unfrequently to good. Reader! mark it down as a certain truth, whatever drives a child of God to a throne of grace, and makes his visit's there more frequent than otherwise they would be; these things must be mercies.
It should seem that Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes are both names of the same person: probably meaning the same as King. And it should seem that the enemies of the church caught at the first moment in the opening of this man's reign to throw down the temple. There must have been a period of at least 12 years in this interval. And Reader! do not overlook (for it is a feature which hath in all ages marked the character of God's enemies) how disaffection to government is urged by way of exciting the displeasure of the court against God's faithful servants. And was not our Lord Jesus accused in the same manner as if he forbad to give tribute to Caesar? Whereas Jesus paid the tribute, and those that accused him hated the Roman government, under whom Judea was in tribute, and would not have paid it if they had dared to refrain. Witness their hatred to the tax-gatherers the publicans.
The accomplishment of their wicked purpose may serve to show us how the Lord is pleased sometimes, for the exercise of faith in his people, to let the enemy triumph. And when the short-lived victories of our deadly foes have this blessed effect upon our hearts to make us more sensible of our nothingness, and to make Jesus and his fulness more precious; even our foes become instruments in the Lord's hand to his glory and our greater good. When the Jews had nailed Jesus to the cross, how distressed must have been the minds of all his followers. But behold, that cross soon after became his people's glory, and now it is the everlasting joy of all his followers, and will be the song of redemption in heaven with all the ransomed of Jesus forevermore.
WE have a very beautiful instruction given us by the Holy Ghost, in what this chapter holds forth to us of the opposition the people of God receive from false friends, as well as open enemies, in the progress of the divine life. They that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution. It is a mark of the Christian character, and impossible wholly to avoid it. But, my brother, in the spiritual building, whether far advanced in the superstructure, or whether the foundation be but just laid, yet if Jesus be the foundation stone, depend upon it, it is a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, to all carnal characters around you. Do not forget therefore, your high calling; but seek grace to go on with the building, being more and more established in your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost. Look daily to your foundation, even to Jesus; for other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, Jesus Christ. On him rest the whole weight and burden of your salvation, and let him too bear all the glory. And as stones highly polished, let one grace be added to another, and one ordinance make way for another. In nothing being terrified by your adversaries; but living upon, walking with, rejoicing in, the Lord Jesus Christ. And depend upon it, however apparently the work may seem hindered, yet Jesus is secretly carrying it on, and his people are growing unto an holy temple in the Lord, for an habitation of God through the Spirit. And as the apostle in his sweet consolation speaks, the Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace, will comfort our hearts, and stablish us in every good word and work.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ezra 4". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent