When the northern kingdom of Israel was taken captive by Assyria in 722 BC, the scattered remains of Israelites left behind intermarried with many other nations, producing a mingled people and a mangled religion. They claimed to worship the same God as Judah (Ezra 4:2); they failed to mention the many others (2Kings 17:25-41). They became another nation, a mixed breed called the Samaritans, “the nations whom the great and noble Osnappar deported and settled in the cities of Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River” (Ezra 4:10). They also became adversaries of Israel.
Israel was returning to rebuild the temple, but building the temple of God was a daunting task for the smallish number. Samaria offered, “Let us build with you” (Ezra 4:2). It seemed a neighborly gesture, however when adversaries offer help, it is reasonable to suspect their motive. Israel could use the help, but then their temple would become “our temple,” and Judah would become part of the mix. Purity doesn’t mix, and Israel was to be holy, set apart to the one true God. And so Israel’s unneighborly response, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel” (Ezra 4:3).
The bond of unity with other nations may have an appearance of strength, allies joining together, but Israel’s strength is their God. Those who follow God serve the world, not through partnership with the world, but through purity in the world.
Holy God, every good thing comes from You. You are righteous and just, full of grace and mercy. You give the world hope through faith, and show us what love truly looks like. Your love is not indifferent to my sin, but recognizes the sin and responds with care. Even while I sinned against You, You hung on the cross for me.
Protect me from temptation to sin, or even tolerance toward it, and keep me holy, set apart for You. When I fall and fail, I love Your grace, because I require it, but I long more for Your righteousness and goodness, that these would mark my life. I look forward to Your kingdom come, when righteousness and goodness will reign. May my life be more and more a display of these qualities of my King of kings, my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.