The Book of Ezra is dominated by correspondence, by letters. Mostly written from Israel’s enemies back to the Persian authorities (particularly Persian Kings) … seeking to question (at best) or even halt (the true goal) the work of building the Temple, rebuilding it anyway.
Here are the two prime examples.
Back in Ezra chapter 4 some haters of the Jews wrote King Artaxerxes and asked him to stop the Jewish construction Project, primarily (they said) because it was anti-government, harming the Persian government! (A lie, by the way.) Ezra 4:6 tells us … “And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him AN ACCUSATION AGAINST the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.”
So that King made a search of the books and decided against the Jews, based on the “facts” he no doubt would have said. He decided the (false) charges against Judah were true! “And I commanded, and search hath been made, and it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made therein.” Ezra 4:19! So … look what he commanded: “Cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded.” Yes, he authoritatively ruled against the Jews. Stop the building, so says Ezra 4:21.
His record books (historical annals) were interpreted AGAINST Israel!
Now in Ezra chapter 5 another group of detractors (hinderers, agents of the devil) have appeared and want to question (to do the Jews even more harm) this building effort! Ezra 5:3 … “At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai, and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall?”
So a second Persian King is involved, this time Darius. “The copy of the letter that Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai, and his companions the Apharsachites, which were on this side the river, sent unto DARIUS THE KING: They sent a letter unto him, wherein was written thus; Unto Darius the king, all peace. Be it known unto the king, that we went into the province of Judea, to the house of the great God, which is builded with great stones, and timber is laid in the walls, and this work goeth fast on, and prospereth in their hands. Then asked we those elders, and said unto them thus, WHO COMMANDED YOU TO BUILD THIS HOUSE, AND TO MAKE UP THESE WALLS? We asked their names also, to certify thee, that we might write the names of the men that were the chief of them.”
So now King Darius (not any longer King Artaxerxes, who ruled AGAINST Judah) makes a search (of virtually the same history books, mind you) and decides IN FAVOR OF the people of God! Read please Ezra 6:1-3, and say “Hallelujah!” This is thrilling! “Then DARIUS the king made a decree, and search was made in the house of the ROLLS (BOOKS, SCROLLS), where the treasures were laid up in Babylon. And there was found at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of the Medes, a ROLL, and therein was a RECORD thus written: in the first year of Cyrus the king the same Cyrus the king made a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, LET THE HOUSE BE BUILDED, the place where they offered sacrifices, and LET THE FOUNDATIONS BE STRONGLY LAID …” That’s all King Darius needed, historical precedent! His decree then … pro-Jewish! (Build, build, build!)
Here’s the “point” today …
Two different Kings (and their aides no doubt) reading the same records … but arriving at totally different interpretations!
Artaxerxes … the Jews are rebels!
Darius … the Jews are God’s people!
And folks, this is happening every day in our world, too.
Christian men and women who are highly trained scientists read the fossil records (and other data) and say, THERE IS A GOD IN HEAVEN, A CREATOR!
But non-Christian men and women read those same records and say, THERE IS NO GOD, CREATION IS A STROKE OF LUCK, NOTHING ELSE!
Artaxerxes “wanted” to hurt the Jews and his “reading” of the books allowed him to proceed in that direction!
Darius “wanted” to help the Jews (as did King Cyrus long before him) and his “reading” of the same books moved him to do so!
It is not always the bare FACTS … but how one interprets those facts … that lead to personal (and life-altering) conclusions!
Remember today’s Lesson well, please.
— Dr. Mike Bagwell
Maybe Titus 1:15 applies … “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.”