Text: Esther 5-6 | Listen to Message
Sometimes obeying God just doesn’t seem to pay off. You know the feeling, right? You decide to take your faith seriously, so you read your Bible, go to church, and try to live an obedient life . . . and things go worse for you than before! Worse yet, you look around at all the people who couldn’t care less about obeying God, and most of them seem better off than you!
This is where God’s people find themselves in Ezra 5 and 6. They’ve responded to the call of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, and they’ve begun to obey God in earnest by beginning to rebuild the temple once again. But things don’t go so hot.
As soon as the people begin to rebuild, some government officials show up. “Who told you guys you could do this? And we’re gonna need your names.” Information in hand, the officials then fire off a letter to the new king of Persia, clearly intending to shut them down. Here we go again with the opposition.
But something was different this time around. Instead of giving in to discouragement, the people pressed on in obedience. They recognized “the eye of their God was on [them],” and they kept on building in spite of opposition (Ezra 5:5).
This is a constant theme of Scripture: We’ve got to keep on obeying in faith even when we don’t feel like it and even when it doesn’t seem to be doing any good. As cathartic (and natural) as it feels sometimes, disobedience will never bring us closer to the life and the future God wants for us.
Through fits and starts, the people of God were learning to trust and obey God, and let Him bless them when and how He wanted. They were learning to seek the kind of prosperity that comes only through obedience to the Word of God.
*Does God always bless us when we obey? Does obedience always produce prosperity? Maybe. But from our perspective, it certainly doesn’t seem like it. Obedience and prosperity definitely don’t fit into a neat, little algebraic equation where an increase of O automatically produces a simultaneous increase of P.
If God blesses the obedient, as He promises, it’s definitely not as our culture defines prosperity. And maybe this is where we need to see the most growth in our understanding of this topic as Christians. Maybe the blessing is the development of character qualities that look like Jesus – qualities like patience, empathy, and hope. Maybe the blessing is the strengthening of our faith or the refining of our faith so that we’re learning to trust in God alone, rather than some mixture of God plus anything. Maybe the blessing is that our lives are becoming far more useful in encouraging and benefitting others. Maybe the blessing is the simplest, and most important blessing of all, that we get more of God Himself.
*I’m assuming with these questions that we’re talking about Gospel-driven obedience (obedience that flows out of, rather than attempts to earn, grace). There’s nothing in Scripture that implies that legalistic or self-righteous obedience leads to God’s blessing.