Beginning at creation, Satan has been interrupting the work of God. The serpent tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden and deceived them by twisting the words of the Lord:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5 ESV)
Satan could not change the rules and bounds that God has set in place, but he could deceive them by perverting the words of God. Satan cannot create, he can only pervert or twist what has already been made. He has been striving to disrupt the work of God throughout history and that is exactly what we see him working toward in today’s passage.
The children of Israel are finally allowed to return from exile and rebuild the Temple when immediately they run into trouble. A group of locals who are introduced as “The Enemies” ask to join in the building project, but the Israelites wisely decline. Their stated ground for declining the help is that the decree of Cyrus applied only to the returning exiles. No doubt they understood that the actual intent behind the request was to frustrate the project. Those enemies then exaggerate the situation to the Artaxerxes, the king of Persia, who eventually demands construction to cease.
What we have to keep in mind when we think about Satan’s work in the world is this: God is always in control, and He is never surprised by any event. God is completely sovereign over the universe that He spoke into existence. Unlike fantasy movies, there is not a cosmic battle between good and evil that has an unknown outcome; God has already won. There has never been a time in history where Satan has overcome God. When Christ offered himself on the cross and died to atone for all of creation’s sins, He rose victoriously from the tomb, defeating death, Hell and the grave. For us today, we can rest in God’s complete sovereignty over our own lives. Even if Satan has set things in your path to disrupt you from doing God’s work, you can rest assured that God has already defeated Satan.
By: Alex Boswell