READ: Ezra 4-6, Psalm 140, Luke 8, 2 Peter 2
THE LONG VIEW
Tattletales often have golden tongues. The “adversaries of the children of captivity” offered to help build the temple (Ezra 4:1). Zerubbabel sees through the ruse and refuses their help. The rascals then write to Artaxerxes “because we receive support from the palace, it was not proper for us to see the kings dishonor” (v. 14) and succeed in getting the work on the temple shut down: “Thus the work of the house of God…ceased” (v. 24). In the short term the bad guys often win. The micro view concedes that evil wins some battles, while the macro view asserts that God always triumphs.
Haggai and Zechariah step into the breach and prophesy Zerubbabel into action. This is the context for the marvelous verses in Zechariah 4:6-7: “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it.”‘” The temple was literally rebuilt, the capstone was literally put in place, the opposition was overcome, and Zerubbabel pushed through the micro setback and won the macro victory. Back to Ezra 6:16: “the descendants of the children of captivity celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.”
Samuel Zwemer, “The Apostle to Islam,” knew this reality (long-term victory despite short-term defeats) better than anyone. In 1911 he wrote:
Frequent set-backs and apparent failure never disheartened the real pioneer. Occasional martyrdoms are only a fresh incentive. Opposition is a stimulus to greater activity. Great victory has never been possible without great sacrifice…. Does it really matter how many die or how much money we spend in opening closed doors, and in occupying the different fields, if we really believe missions are warfare and the King’s glory is at stake? War always means blood and treasure. Our only concern should be to keep the fight aggressive and to win victory regardless of cost or sacrifice. The unoccupied fields of the world must have their Calvary before they can have their Pentecost.
Working in the Arab world teaches you to have a macro view of life. If you look with a microscope upon each day’s labor, the results drive you to despair. Arabic comes pitifully slowly, disciples are made with agony, colleagues falter, governments shake, progress if measurable at all seems to be backwards. But if you lift up your head and look at the larger view, look back over the last years and see what God has done, look forward to all He has promised to do–then the picture is much brighter. All of us have lost battles, all of us bear scars. We are not surprised nor discouraged at failure. We fall forward, dust ourselves off and rise to battle on, for we know how this ends: God wins.