God blessed the children of Israel by leading them to the promised land of Canaan and giving the land over to them. Throughout the following 500 years or so the people of God, descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob became a great nation. Their greatness was seen during the time of the kings David and Solomon during the life of Solomon the Temple was built. The time of prosperity and faithfulness after the completion of the Temple was short lived as over the next 500 years or so the nation fell, the Temple was destroyed, and many were carried away into captivity once again being slaves. After 70 years the faithful began to return to Jerusalem from captivity and efforts were made to restore the walls of Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple. It was amazing the great number of people that came together to work and support the building of the Temple (Ezra 2:64-70). There was a renewed enthusiasm and desire to serve God as the generation that came out of captivity had learned from the example of the faithlessness of their fathers. There was so much enthusiasm that the Scriptures say: “Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captives were building a temple unto Jehovah, the God of Israel, then they … said unto them, Let us build with you…”(Ezra 4:1-2). How strange that the enemies of God’s people, nations that believed in and practiced idolatry would want to work side by side with the children of God to build a Temple to Jehovah. The response of the leaders is interesting and also an example for the Lord’s church today. The leaders responded; “You have nothing to do with us in building a house unto our God…” (Ezra 4:3). What would their working together with the unbelievers have represented and accomplished and how does this relate to the Lord’s church today?
Had the children of Israel allowed the unbelievers to work side by side with them in the building of the Temple this would have represented a false fellowship and also been a process to establish fellowship where it should not have existed. God had said; “You shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land flowing with milk and honey, I am Jehovah your God, who has separated you from the people” (Leviticus 20:24). The children of Israel were not entering into the land of Canaan to enjoy fellowship with the other nations, but to enjoy the fellowship and blessings of God. Hundreds of years later when Ezra and the faithful returned from captivity their desires were to restore the Temple, the worship, and all that had been established by God from the ancient times. The children of Israel would not work side by side with the unbelievers in a false sense of fellowship, or a fellowship that should never exist, in the building of the Temple. The Lord’s church is in that same relationship and position with God and the building up of the church or doing the Lord’s work is to be done by the church. Paul wrote to the Corinthians concerning their false fellowships with the unbelievers; “Wherefore come out from among them, and be you separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,” (2 Corinthians 6:17).
Had the children of Israel allowed the unbelievers to work side by side with them in the building of the Temple this would have given an opportunity for the truth and morals of God’s people to be corrupted. Paul wrote that as Christians we cannot go out of the world and in daily living would have contact with unbelievers (1 Corinthians 5:10), but there is a difference in association with and fellowship with. There is a difference in going to work or some other activity where there are unbelievers and the work or worship of the church being carried out by unbelievers and side by side with Christians. Just as the leaders of Ezra’s day had to say; “You have nothing to do with us in building a house unto our God…” so does the church today.