“And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries…” (Ezra 3:3).
At first glance, this verse doesn’t seem to make much sense. Back in Ezra’s day, a city’s walls were its main line of defense. The citizens of Jericho felt very secure within the confines of the massive wall that surrounded them. So here, if fear had fallen upon the Jews because of the enemies that surrounded them, why would they build an altar, and not a wall?
Well, as you may know, at one time Jerusalem had a wall, but when Nebuchadnezzar conquered Israel, his armies “brake down the wall of Jerusalem” (II Chron. 36:19). And the people of Israel knew why God had allowed this to happen. He had warned them,
“…if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God…a nation of fierce countenance…shall besiege thee…until thy high and fenced walls come down…” (Deut. 28:15,50,52).
So God’s people knew that, if they continued in sin, the strongest of walls could not protect them. But they also knew that if they hearkened unto the voice of the Lord, He would protect them. And now that God had allowed them to return to the land after their captivity in Babylon, hearkening to the voice of the Lord included building this altar so that they could keep the Law by observing the feast of tabernacles with a burnt offering (Ezra 3:4 cf. Lev. 23:34-36).
In the coming kingdom of heaven on earth, when God’s people will be filled with the Spirit and caused to hearken to His voice (Ezek. 36:27), God has promised them that He will be “a wall of fire round about” them (Zech. 2:5). In that day, “salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks” (Isa. 26:1). That’s part of what will make it heaven on earth!
But here we have a dispensational difference. Your salvation is no defense against earthly enemies. You are not in the kingdom of heaven on earth, and you are not under the Law that promised Israel that God would protect them if they were good. As a responsible member of the Body of Christ, you need to take whatever precautions necessary to protect yourself from wicked men.
We once knew a teenage girl who would go out jogging at night, assuring her mother that “the Lord will protect me.” She had obviously been listening to preachers who had applied the promises of the Law or the promises of the kingdom to us. While what she said sounds very spiritual, please don’t follow her example! This is one area where a failure to rightly divide the Word of truth could cost you your life.
To the Reader:
Some of our Two Minutes articles were written many years ago by Pastor C. R. Stam for publication in newspapers. When many of these articles were later compiled in book form, Pastor Stam wrote this word of explanation in the Preface:
"It should be borne in mind that the newspaper column, Two Minutes With the Bible, has now been published for many years, so that local, national and international events are discussed as if they occurred only recently. Rather than rewrite or date such articles, we have left them just as they were when first published. This, we felt, would add to the interest, especially since our readers understand that they first appeared as newspaper articles."
To this we would add that the same is true for the articles written by others that we continue to add, on a regular basis, to the Two Minutes library. We hope that you'll agree that while some of the references in these articles are dated, the spiritual truths taught therein are timeless.