I wonder how often we are very short-sighted in what we consider to be “victories” and “defeats”? At the very end of Ezra 4, after the enemies of Israel had written to the king accusing those who were trying to rebuild the Temple, the king ordered the work to stop, and verse 24 says: “then work on the house of God in Jerusalem ceased.” But it was a short-lived victory.
It appeared, for that time, as though the enemies of God had won the day. But God has a longer perspective. His cause and purpose would prevail, and the Temple would indeed be rebuilt, as the next chapters indicate.
Many times, we need to have that same longer perspective as well. We often place too much emphasis on short term “wins” and “losses”:
— We might “win” a confrontation with someone, or a group — but do we take into account the long-term effects of that “victory”? Have we alienated a person/group which will dog us for years to come, or run off someone who could have been a valuable resource, or created a public relations disaster which will hurt us in the community?
— Or perhaps we “lose” a small project or vote — but it may be that the “winners” expose their true nature to others, and if you are seen as gracious in defeat, in the long run, you will engender more support and eventually prevail in your long-term purposes. Or, if you are persistent after a “defeat”, and determine not to give up after one loss, you can keep chipping away, and still “win” later. Just as with the rebuilding of Temple, just because you lost today does not mean you will not eventually prevail — especially if you know that what you are doing is of the Lord.
Ezra reminds us that what looks like a victory or defeat today may not always be so. Especially if what we are doing is really God’s will, we can afford to adopt His perspective, and know that doing His will, His way, will eventually prevail.