How do you know who to trust? When should forgiveness also be coupled with renewed relationship? Who is a true friend, and who is “fair weathered?” These are questions we all grapple with at some point – or many points – in our lives. My husband came home with a story he shared in one of his college classes. A fable of sorts. “The Little Bird In The Barnyard.” There once was a bird in a barnyard on a cold and snowy winter’s day. The poor little bird was freezing to death, and its little beak was chattering. “If only I had a friend to warm me,” it said. Along came a cow and pooped on the little bird, warming it and bringing new life. “Gross!” said the little bird. “That stinks!” But the little bird’s beak no longer chattered and its wings were warm – sticky, but warm. (Okay, I threw in the sticky part – actually, I’m making a lot of this up as I go.) Then along came a cat and asked the bird, “Would you like me to rescue you from the poop?” The little bird was so relieved. “Oh, yes!” cried the little bird. So the cat ate the bird. Moral of the story: Those who poop on you aren’t always your enemies, and those who get you out of the poop aren’t always your friends. Words to live by, don’t you think? Well, the Israelites thought so....
Ezra 4:1-3 – “When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, ‘Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.’ But Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, "You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.’”
- Zerubbabel identified his enemies as cats – they were offering help, but he saw their hidden motives. But how did he recognize their deception?
- They spoke divisively – they mentioned an Assyrian king of the past. Any hint of divided allegiance might jeopardize the remnant’s favor with the current king of Persia.
- Actions always speak louder than words – they said they’d been sacrificing to the LORD. Where was the altar, the faithful sacrifices, festivals and offerings? No action = no truth.
Ezra 4:4-5 – “Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They hired counselors to work against them and frustrate their plans during the entire reign of Cyrus king of Persia and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia.”
- Time reveals true colors. Had these people’s hearts been truly committed to Zerubbabel and the remnant, to building the Temple and worshiping the LORD, they wouldn’t have responded so maliciously. A person’s response to our decision tells us as much – or more – about that individual as their original request.
Lord, thank You for giving me a gauge with which I can check my decisions. Time is a great gift that I often grudgingly endure with impatience. However, in testing a relationship, time is my best friend. Teach me the patience of proving a relationship over time before I offer my whole heart as the prize.