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Worshipers Against Pure Worship

Now when the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the people of the exile were building a temple to the Lord God of Israel, they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ households, and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we, like you, seek your God; and we have been sacrificing to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us up here.” But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of fathers’ households of Israel said to them, “You have nothing in common with us in building a house to our God; but we ourselves will together build to the Lord God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia has commanded us.” Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their counsel all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.

Ezra 4:1-5 (NASB)

Opposition to the purification of worship is nothing new. In the days of the restoration of the temple, there were enlightened Samaritans who had been worshiping with golden calves at Bethel and Dan since the days of Jeroboam, and who knows what since the days of Esarhaddon, King of Assyria (670’s BC) until the days of Ezra (520’s BC). One could not, therefore, appeal to them simply on the basis of heritage. They had at least 150 years of a settled tradition, built on a centuries-old cultural heritage of syncretism (1 Kings 12), through which they viewed the discussion. And they felt that no true worship could fail to affirm their heritage.

“Let us build with you, for we, like you, seek your God!” said the people who had been engaged in syncretistic worship for at least five generations. “Let us build with you, for we, like you, seek your God!” said the people whose idolatry had become utterly invisible to them, like the reek of stale tobacco to a pack-a-day smoker. “Let us build with you, for we, like you, seek your God!” they said, rolling out their own blueprints for a million-dollar, high tech worship center, complete with an enormous, modular stage; those ubiquitous triangular light trusses; fog machines; massive video screens; and lasers. And golden calves (but perhaps I repeat myself).

“You aren’t the kind of help we’re looking for. You have nothing in common with us in building a house to our God.”

Read the fallout of that rejection in Ezra 4. How did the Samaritans respond?

Has human nature changed much since then?

About Christopher Ames

Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Boyceville, Wisconsin. Bicycle owner and operator. I used to play in a Campus Crusade band.