by Hal Turner
March 11, 2014
Ezra 4: 1-5
Cyrus II (the Great) led Persia in the defeat of Babylonians in 538 BCE. Cyrus decreed that the Jewish exiles could return home. The Old Testament book of Ezra documents the return of the people and the efforts to reconstruct Jerusalem and the temple. In 598 BCE most of the city of Jerusalem was leveled by Nebuchadnezzar II. Solomon’s grand temple was destroyed ten years later when the remaining Jews tried to rebel against Babylonian control. To prevent further trouble all of the educated temple staff and elites were deported to Babylon.
Many of the common folk had continued to live in Judea. With the temple destroyed they had been worshiping on Mt Gerizim. These people who would come to be called the Samaritans were equally the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They too were heirs to the kingdoms of David and Solomon. Ezra calls them in verse 1 the enemies of Benjamin and Judah. These “enemies” worshiped the same God and had the same heritage, but the returning exiles rebuffed their offer to help rebuild them temple. This rejection divides people of the same family. The Samaritans mood soured and they went from offering help to trying to interfere with the rebuilding.
What motivated the returnees? The returning exiles had kept the faith and saw themselves as the rightful people. They gave generously of their wealth and labor to rebuild the temple to its glory. They naturally saw the others as the imposter trying to hijack the land and worship of God. Likewise we today resist those who might love God differently than we do. Seriously, we have God figured out, we have sacrificed for God’s house, and we own God. Not them – they just don’t love God the way we do. Sometimes it seems that our desire to achieve perfection prevents us from opening our doors to newcomers.
Is it the nature of faith that we define the seriousness of our own faith by who we can exclude? Or is it some other deep seeded resistance to those that are different that gives us permission to marginalize?
Prayer for the Day: God of Mercy, make me more aware of people who I have marginalized through actions or inactions. Help me to expand my idea of being faithful to include others who demonstrate their faith differently than I would.