If you have your Bibles, would you open them, please, for a little bit to the book of Ezra. The book of Ezra, right before Nehemiah and right before the poetical books of the Bible.
I want to speak on what our enemy wants out of us. And it’s just very, very simple tonight.
In Ezra, we’re going to look down just for a moment into Ezra chapter 1.
Let me give you a little background to this book. Some of you know it; some of you may not. It’s cousin book is Nehemiah, which comes right after Ezra.
So let’s look at the scripture, we’ll pray, and then look at this thought tonight. The Bible says,
“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem. Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:1–5)
Brother Patrick, that’s missions right there. There’s a group that’s called to go and to build. Those who are not called to build stay home and support them financially. That’s a pretty good picture of missions right there I think.
Let’s pray; we’ll talk about the one goal our enemy has for us. Father, bless this brief time we have tonight. Please help in Jesus’ name, Amen.
So the nation of Israel was under judgment, and they were judged of God because they had turned their backs on the Holy God. They started worshiping idols.
God is not committed to any one nation. When any nation turns their back on God, He is under no obligation to bless them — whether it’s the nation of Israel or the nation in which we live, America. Judgment is coming because we are following the same pattern as Israel did.
So what took place? Captivity happened, and Nebuchadnezzar came and conquered Jerusalem, the capital city. Three different conquerings. First, they took the youth all the way back to Babylon. Then, they came back and took the skilled workers — the blue collar workers — and took them back. Then, he conquered one more time and left the poor to remain. And so now the temple is destroyed; the walls are knocked down. And for many years, the conquered nation of Israel lived in captivity with the wicked, idol worshiping King Nebuchadnezzar.
But time passes. Judgment doesn’t last forever. God is merciful. God wants to restore. And so somehow this heathen King Cyrus, out of the blue, says, “You know, you guys need to go home and rebuild your temple.” I wonder who put that in his heart?
And there was a band of Christian soldiers led by a hard-named guy named Zerubbabel. And he said, “I’ll go, and I’ll lead the group.” So they went back. He goes back. Later on, Ezra comes back too. What was the purpose of these people coming back to their conquered city? They had one purpose — to build the temple.
They start by laying the foundation. When they are all finished with everything, the young men shout for joy. They’re excited. The temple is being rebuilt. The old men weep because they see the temple was not as great as the first temple was. See the first and second generations there? One shouts because they never had a temple. The second weeps because it’s not like it used to be.
And so, they lay the foundation, they set up the altar, and then something happens. The enemy tries to stop the work. There were some enemies there, Sanballat and Tobia and others in that same group. They said, “We don’t want God to get glory. We want it to cease.”
We’ll look at more Scriptures in a moment. Years later, another man is touched. He’s in the palace. He’s the king’s cup bearer. His name is Nehemiah. And his job is to come back and to rebuild the wall. Why the wall? Why was the wall important? Because if the wall is around the city, people feel safe, they’ll move back. The census will grow. The cities in the country will get larger, and God will start blessing them.
So, we have a rebuilding of the temple, and then a few chapters later, a rebuilding of the wall. Same heart, same God, same glory, same enemies.
Now with that in mind, look down in Ezra chapter 4.
If you will Ezra four, I want you to see it. Ezra 4:21. They’re trying to build this temple here, and it says,
“Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until another commandment shall be given from me.” (Ezra 4:21)
Verse 23: “Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, and Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power. Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.” (Ezra 4:23–24)
You kind of see what the enemy is wanting. He wants the work to cease. He wants the work to cease. What is the devil’s goal in your life? He wants the work to cease.
What is revival? Revival is when any Christian gets back to the work. Back to the work? What’s the work? The work is the Great Commission: go into all the world preach the gospel to every creature.
What is the work if you’re married? Working on that marriage and having a Godly marriage that’s an example to everyone.
What is the work if you have children? It’s trying to raise godly children that love God, love parents, love each other, love the Word of God, love God’s cause.
What is the work? That’s the Sunday school teacher trying to build a godly class and visiting absentees and preparing a lesson and praying over the class.
What is the work? The work that bus route in a neighborhood where no other church cares about, where no other church would dare even knock on the door, where no other church would put up with the mess on the bus and the bad behavior and all the filth that goes into a bus route. That’s what he wants to cease.
The word “cease” means “to no longer continue.” It means “to come to an end” (and I like this), “especially gradually.” It doesn’t come to the end all of a sudden. It slows down, and then soon it stops, and soon it goes backwards. That’s why it’s called back sliding. You never are in a full run and then suddenly a run back. No, it slows down. The enemy tries to make the slow down and gradually stop.
There are churches aborted all over our nation. There are ministries that started. There are tons of missionaries went to a field and started. But they’re not there any longer. There are a lot of pastors who went to start a church. They’re not there any longer. The enemy wants to work to cease.
The word “cease” means “conclude, die, discontinue in, quit, stop.” That’s what it means. It’s the opposite of “hang on, continue, persist, to hold back.” He just wants the work to cease.
Skip over if you will, please, to Ezra 5:5. Notice what it says. Now when they get back to the work, it says,
“But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, that they could not cause them to cease, till the matter came to Darius: and then they returned answer by letter concerning this matter.” (Ezra 5:5, KJV)
And then we see over in Nehemiah, the same type of thought here. The next book over, Nehemiah 4. They’re building the wall. Ezra and Zerubbabel built the temple, and then Nehemiah comes to build the wall. But the same thing happens — they still have enemies. People laughing at them. Nehemiah 4:11:
“And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease.” (Nehemiah 4:11)
And then looking down at Nehemiah 6:3 (Nehemiah is peaking),
“And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3)
It’s always been that way. The enemy is just trying to stop the work. He wants you to throw in the towel. He wants you to quit. He wants you to give up. He doesn’t like the work of God.
Acts 5:42, the Bible says, “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
Acts 20 verse 31. “…I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” (Acts 20:31, KJV)
First Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing.”
Daniel 6:16 talks about the God that Daniel serves “continually.” He didn’t quit.
Acts 1:14, “they continued.” Acts 2:42, “and they continued steadfastly.” They didn’t quit.
You know, God finishes everything He starts. He that hath begun a good work in you will finish it. He’ll accomplish it. He saved you, and guess what? He’s not a quitter. One day, you’ll have a glorified body. One day, He’ll bring you to Heaven. He doesn’t quit. He finishes what He starts. He finished creation.
Noah started the ark, and it said he finished it after 100 years. It was King Solomon who started the temple, and he finished it. Jesus on the cross (I love it!) said, “It is finished.” I love it!
You say, “Pastor, what will help you finish? What is it? And why does the enemy not want us to finish? Why is it that he hates these things? Why does our enemy hate these things so much? What does he want the work to stop? How does he try to get the work to stop?”
There are several reasons he has and several tactics he uses. And then we will see how we as Christians should respond.
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Hopewell Baptist Church is an Independent Baptist Church in Napa, California pastored by Mike Ray. It is Bible-based with a warm, friendly atmosphere. Hopewell is dedicated to bringing the water of life to the Napa Valley and beyond.