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Ezra and Nehemiah: Ezra 4:1-6

Ezra and Nehemiah: Ezra 4:1-6

When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the Lord, the God of Israel, 2 they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, “Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.”

3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, “You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.”

4 Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. 5 They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.

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Doesn’t it seem kind of mean that Israel wouldn’t let other nations help them build the temple. Can’t we all just get along?! These neighbors claimed to worship the same God as the Jews. However, though they acknowledged him by name, they also worshiped other gods. As 2 Kgs17:33 points out, this mixed population (including some Jews) “worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.” They did not have the same convictions; they did not submit to the authority of God’s Word; they were not dedicated to the one true God.

That is the situation that still arises today when we, WELS Lutherans, are approached by the ecumenical movement to join in with the work of building the church in the world, but at the expense of compromising biblical truth and doctrine. We can never go along with that, since that would mean compromising our convictions that God’s Word decides what is true and what is not. Those of a ecumenical persuasion would consider that it was terribly sad and highly intolerant of Zerubbabel and the other leaders to reject the offer of help from the Samaritans, since they were not worldly godless people, but worshipped the true God of Israel, practiced the same system of sacrifices, were gracious in their manner, and genuinely wanted to share in the building of God’s house. But compromise on scripture, ultimately leads to compromising on our salvation.

We are thankful that Jesus never compromised his mission to save us from our sins. He was resolute on fulfilling the mission that his Father had given to him. He led a perfect life as the true substitute. He was never willing to take the easy path. He suffered the total punishment that we truly deserved on the cross, all the while thinking about how much he loves you. And because he stood perfectly resolute in the face of death and hell, he defeated them by rising again on the third day. All this he did for you, so that you would be called a child of God. And now we walk in his footsteps, with his strength and help, uncompromising the Gospel message. The Gospel that is so near and dear to all of us.