Summary: In this sermon, we wrestle with the doubts, fears and compromise that comes when we face obstacles and opposition.
A. Life is full of obstacles.
1. So the most important question is not: “Will we face obstacles?”
2. Rather, the most important question is: “How will we overcome the obstacles we face?”
B. I like the story told of three men who were hiking in the wilderness when they came upon a large raging river.
1. They needed to get to the other side, but they didn’t know how to do it.
2. The first man prayed, “God, give me the STRENGTH to cross this river.”
a. Poof! God gave him big arms and strong legs, and he swam across the raging river.
b. It took him an hour, but he made it.
3. Seeing this, the second man prayed, “God, give me the strength...and the TOOLS...to cross this river.”
a. Poof! God gave him a rowboat, and he rowed across the raging river.
b. It took him 45 minutes, but he made it.
4. Seeing this, the third man prayed, “God, give me the strength and the tools and the INTELLIGENCE...to cross this river.”
a. And poof! God turned him into a woman.
b. The woman took out a map, examined it, hiked upstream for 1000 yards, and walked across the bridge!
c. It only took her 15 minutes.
C. It would be nice if everything in life was easy, wouldn’t it?
1. It would be nice if there were only down-hills, with no up-hills.
a. It would be nice if there were only mountain tops and no valleys.
b. It would be nice if there were only roses and no thorns.
2. But that’s not the way things work in this world where we live.
a. Life is filled with its’ challenges and obstacles.
3. And when we make it our goal to serve the Lord and to accomplish His purposes, we can expect that we will face obstacles and opposition.
a. We can expect that Satan, our enemy, and all those who work on his side, will do all they can to derail our progress and bring it to a halt.
4. In Scripture, God prepares us over and over again for the challenges we will face.
a. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).
b. Paul wrote, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).
c. Peter wrote: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet. 4:12).
d. So Go has made it clear in His Word that the Christian life is full of obstacles and opposition.
D. So as we return to our sermon series on Ezra and Nehemiah, it should not surprise us that those Jewish pilgrims who returned from captivity and began rebuilding the temple of God in Jerusalem, were going to face opposition.
1. And from this point in the story where we are going to pick up today, and right through to the end of the book of Nehemiah, we will see that there are ongoing obstacles and opposition.
2. But before we begin the story for today, let’s review:
a. So far in our series we have seen that they were off to a good start. After 70 years in captivity, the exiles were allowed to return and rebuild.
b. They safely made the trip and settled into their own towns in Judah.
c. Then the first thing they rebuilt was the altar of God, which allowed them to offer sacrifices and to celebrate the feasts that God had commanded them to keep.
d. After the altar was built, they turned their attention to rebuilding the foundation of the temple.
e. And when they had completed the foundation of the temple they worshiped God, but you will remember that while some rejoiced, others who had seen the former temple wept.
f. Nevertheless, the sound of their joy and weeping created so much noise that the sound was heard far away.
g. One wonders what the inhabitants of that region thought about these developments.
3. That’s where we ended our story last week and where we want to resume it this week.
I. The Story
A. The story begins in chapter 4, verse 1: 1 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.”