As the walls of the second temple were going up, the word was out about the project and the funds collected to finance it, so it wouldn’t be long before their neighbors took an interest in the construction. Whenever I read this account, beginning in chapter four of Ezra, it reminds me of a big city gangster movie. You know the one (one of many), where the mob muscles its way into a legitimate business enterprise through lies and coercion. More often than not it has something to do with the building trades and crooked politicians. They concoct a web of false promises and phony commitments in the hope of bilking the project of big bucks at the owner’s expense. When this doesn’t work they count on the desperation of the owner and strong-arm tactics to accomplish their ends. More often than not the gangsters are successful at first but by the end of the movie, the owner goes to the authorities for help and the nefarious plot is exposed and the bad guys arrested.
This is almost the same plot line we see in chapter four of Ezra. The neighbors come to the leaders of the project and try to convince them that they too want to worship the one true God and offered to lend their assistance in the rebuilding process. What were they after? Well it’s not stated in black and white but one can easily surmise that they had heard about all the gold and treasure that had been collected and that their motives were somewhat less than pure. The answer they were given was an unqualified no, but just as in the movies, it was time for the bad guys to apply a little pressure. “Then the peoples around them (the bad guys) set out to discourage the people of Judah (the good guys) and make them afraid to go on building. They hired counselors (the muscle) to work against them and frustrate their plans… (vs. 4, 5)” This would delay the project, not for months but for years, that is until Darius (the authorities) ascends to the throne of the Persian empire and puts things right. You get the picture.
It would fair to say the neighbors of Judah (Israel) did not have the best interests of the returning Jews at heart, only their own. They lied about who they really were, about what they really wanted and weren’t shy about doing whatever was necessary to get what they wanted. This is a good example of the thoughts and behavior Peter describes in 1Peter 2:1, when he instructs us to “rid ourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and slander of every kind.” How often in our marriage relationships do we claim that our intentions are one way but inside, we know they are not. How often do we play the role of the virtuous one, claiming that we are better than our spouse, and doing it with complete pretense? We even go so far as to enlist the support of others that are concerned about us, both personally and as a couple. Could there be anything more hypocritical?
One of the more subtle yet deadly sins that we can come under the influence of is envy. For a husband and wife it usually appears when one or both believes that the other has it too easy or better than we do, “You get to go off to work, while I am saddled with everything else and when you come home all you do is complain about how tired you are.” I’m sure you could come up with several similar scenarios but what you are really saying is, “I want what you have” or, “I wish I had what you have.” This is the face of envy and when it is fully developed, leads to unjustifiable acts of retaliation. Maybe it’s the silent treatment or perhaps it’s using the children as an instrument of revenge. One of the more extreme, but not uncommon, results of envy is marital infidelity, “I’ll show you who the lucky one is in this relationship. At least he (or she) cares about me and understands me.” Any one of these scenarios will stop any forward progress in marriage, and can even lead to it becoming irreparably damaged.
Peter couldn’t be more spot on when he told us that in order to prepare our minds to be able to practice self-control, we must rid ourselves of hypocrisy and envy if there is to be any hope of obtaining the grace made available to us through Jesus Christ (1Peter 1:13). It is only through the grace of God; can we rebuild and then protect the riches we have in each other, as man and wife. The world has another plan for your marriage, and you must stand together against the “sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrew 12:1).
Tool #276 Don’t listen to the world, it is not on your side. Stand together and focus on truth and selflessness in you marriage, then Satan will want nothing to do with you.