Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination underscores the battles to come over Roe v. Wade and religious liberty
What believers know that unbelievers don’t is that there is an unseen spiritual battle behind all activity under heaven. On July 30, 1588, a shift of wind forced the ships of the Spanish Armada northward and changed the tide of war to England’s favor. The Sabeans’ raid of Job’s herds was more than a case of wanton sheep-stealing by Yemen’s rapacious ancestors. Daniel’s book draws back the curtain on demonic armies opposing God’s purposes in specific localities on earth (10:10-21).
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah concern the rebuilding of the Temple and the toppled walls of Jerusalem, respectively, by returnees from Persian exile in the 5th century B.C. But it was God’s project, not man’s, so we should not be surprised that all the forces of hell arrayed themselves against it. What follows is the CliffsNotes version. Note the twists and turns, the poisoned arrows from left field—and the strangely familiar resonance to our present American political season.
When the Temple foundation is laid, hell’s opening salvo is discouragement among the old men who remember nostalgically the surpassing glory of Solomon’s Temple (Ezra 3:11-12). Non-Israelite neighbors pretending to be friends offer to help, but it’s a trap (4:1-3). Unsuccessful with feigned encouragement, they turn to discouragement (4:4); they also hire counselors against the Jews (4:5). Next they pen a letter of accusation to the Persian king, full of lies and flattery (4:6-16), to persuade Artaxerxes that Jews make bad citizens (4:12) and do not pay taxes (4:13). With these ploys, evil men manage to stymie work on the Temple (4:21-24).
It was God’s project, not man’s, so we should not be surprised that all the forces of hell arrayed themselves against it.
A few hardy Israelites take up the trowel and sword again, and resistance predictably resumes too. A legal challenge to the Jews by their adversaries backfires when the former present their case and a new king, Darius, checks the records and agrees with them (Ezra 5). The Temple is finally completed (6:14). There is a dedication ceremony amid much celebration, and it seems like all’s well that ends well, when suddenly it is discovered that there has been marital unfaithfulness in the Israelite camp (Ezra 10). The problem is swiftly and courageously dealt with, with significant prayer and fasting, and so ends the book of Ezra.
But we are not out of the woods yet. With the new project of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem comes a resurgence of opposition set on fire by hell. The new villains are led by locals named Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite (good villain names). Not taking Nehemiah’s work crew particularly seriously at first, they content themselves to stand by the building site filing their nails while tossing off light mockery: “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” (Nehemiah 4:3).
When the work proceeds apace and it isn’t funny anymore, laughter turns to threats (4:7). As in the days of Ezra’s oversight, the response is more prayer and hard work (4:9). The next problem is physical burnout and more demoralization at the daunting dimensions of the job (4:10). Nehemiah delivers a rousing pep talk, with reminders of the greatness of God and of the mission (4:14).
Internal corruption, of all things, is the next speed bump. An economic crisis has resulted in the mortgaging of property for food, and a system of borrowers and lenders and usurious interest rates. Who knew? And angry governor Nehemiah rebukes the guilty who, to their credit, cease their exploitation (5:1-19). The Sanballat gang tries to reinvent themselves as good guys (6:1-3), and when Nehemiah sees right through it, revert to intimidation. The wall is at last completed, but crafty enemies have been busy working another angle, cozying up to the more gullible types behind Nehemiah’s back (6:17-19). There is a season of national repentance and rededication, followed by the anticlimactic discovery of scattered pockets of moral compromise (Chapters 9-13). The book ends strangely inconclusively.
If this present American presidential campaign has been the most unpredictable and crazy season you have ever seen—lies, libel, slander, dirty tricks, curveballs, improbable twists—you must consider that we are not dealing with flesh and blood but with rulers and authorities in unseen places. May the sons of light gird their loins for the fight.