And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.
In the days of Artaxerxes, Bishlam and Mithredath and Tabeel and the rest of their associates wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia. The letter was written in Aramaic and translated. . . . (This is a copy of the letter that they sent.) “To Artaxerxes the king: Your servants, the men of the province Beyond the River, send greeting. And now be it known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. Now be it known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be impaired. Now because we eat the salt of the palace and it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, therefore we send and inform the king, in order that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. You will find in the book of the records and learn that this city is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and that sedition was stirred up in it from of old. That was why this city was laid waste. We make known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls finished, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River.” Ezra 4:6-7, 11-16 ESV
O God, be not far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!
May my accusers be put to shame and consumed;
with scorn and disgrace may they be covered
who seek my hurt.
But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. Psalm 71:12-16 ESV
Kit had moved from Barbados to New England as a young woman, and she had a very hard time learning to live in a new place. One of the things that was the most difficult for her was trying to understand the way the Puritans in New England thought and understood the world. The way she dressed was considered wrong and sinful by the Puritans, and one of the friends she made was an old woman who was an outcast in her village. Then a terrible thing happened to Kit. A number of the people in her village got together and accused her a being a witch! This was a very serious thing, and if she were found guilty she might be put to death or banished from the village. At her trial, people she hardly knew made all kinds of false accusations. They said that she had put a spell on one man’s cattle so that they couldn’t move, and that they had seen her dancing around a fire one night, and that she had put a spell on a woman’s sewing so that she couldn’t make the sleeve set into the pattern right. All of these accusations were lies, but Kit was in danger of being found guilty if no one spoke up in her defense.
The people who had returned from exile and were rebuilding their temple and the city of Jerusalem had the same problem. Their enemies did everything they could to make trouble for them. They wrote a letter to the king of Persia saying that the Jews were troublemakers who were planning a rebellion against the Persian empire, and that if the king didn’t make them stop building he would lose his land and subjects in that part of the empire. The men who wrote this letter told the king to look back in history and see that Jerusalem had always been a rebellious city who had fought against foreign control, and that the reason the people were rebuilding Jerusalem was so that they could start their battle for independence from Persia. The Jews weren’t planning a rebellion, but their enemies made up this lie to make trouble for them and try to get them to stop rebuilding their city and their temple.
Jesus faced many false accusations when he was on trial for his life. Many people told hateful lies about him to try to get him into trouble. But Jesus didn’t fight back or try to defend himself. He let himself be sent to the cross to pay for all our sins and bring us back to our Heavenly Father. Sometimes we feel bad about our own sins. Our hearts accuse us of the things we’ve done wrong, and other people point out all the ways we’ve let them down. Sometimes these accusations are lies, and sometimes they’re true. But no one, not even the devil, can accuse us to God. The Lord is with us every day, and he encourages us when we feel worried or sad about our sins or about the lies other people tell about us. Because of what Jesus did for us, God forgives us all our sins every day, and there’s no accusation that can ever stop God from loving us and helping us.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to die for us, and for forgiving our sins. Please help us and give us strength when we are sad and worried about what people say. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Speare, Elizabeth George The Witch of Blackbird Pond Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1958.