Ezra: Reflections on Race and Restoration Day 3- Lions Need Historians

Until lions have their own historians the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.- Chinua Achebe

In Chapters 2-3 the people head home. They take an account of all the families, supplies, and assign roles. Their first task is to rebuild the altar and offer sacrifices to the Lord. Then they lay the foundation of the temple. They rejoice because they can now see the fulfillment of God’s promise in Jeremiah 29.
And then the haters show up. Read chapter 4.

To King Artaxerxes,
From your servants in Trans-Euphrates:
12 The king should know that the people who came up to us from you have gone to Jerusalem and are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are restoring the walls and repairing the foundations.
13 Furthermore, the king should know that if this city is built and its walls are restored, no more taxes, tribute or duty will be paid, and eventually the royal revenues will suffer.[e] 14 Now since we are under obligation to the palace and it is not proper for us to see the king dishonored, we are sending this message to inform the king, 15 so that a search may be made in the archives of your predecessors. In these records you will find that this city is a rebellious city, troublesome to kings and provinces, a place with a long history of sedition. That is why this city was destroyed. 16 We inform the king that if this city is built and its walls are restored, you will be left with nothing in Trans-Euphrates.

Fear-mongering haters.

This is no longer King Cyrus. This is a different king and clearly something got lost in translation because how do you go from Cyrus saying in 1:4 “And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem,” to 4:21 “Now issue an order to these men to stop work, so that this city will not be rebuilt until I so order.” It’s not addin up.

My Reflections:
Lions need historians. When the king gets the letter who is telling the story? What is their agenda? These people are adversaries so of course the narrative that they are feeding the king is biased. They told the king what they wanted the king to hear to sway his opinion in their favor. They told their side and didn’t give the full history. They feed his fears. This causes the king to stop the work even though King Cyrus issued a decree. If the Jews could speak for themselves (which they will) and tell their side of the story, they wouldn’t ever have had to stop. When I read the Bible, Jewish history, it reads like the Jews were the ones who were oppressed and in captivity. The history that these dudes were spewing at the king was a whole different story. Lions need historians.

They used fear. Verses 12 -14 “The king should know that the people who came up to us from you have gone to Jerusalem and are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are restoring the walls and repairing the foundations. 13 Furthermore, the king should know that if this city is built and its walls are restored, no more taxes, tribute or duty will be paid, and eventually the royal revenues will suffer.” Even back then the easiest way to call someone to action was to motivate them with fear. Fear that their prosperity will hinder yours. I’m just gonna let that sit. Fear that your bottom line will be affected. Fear that their dignity is going to cost you. So let’s recount past sins and tap into a fear that will keep us in the same cycle. Phew. Y’all not tired of this cycle?

Let me make it plain. The narrative told about Black people in this country is fear-mongering. It is meant to feed your fears and keep us (Black people) from getting true justice and stopping us from truly prospering.

We must stop the cycle. WE HAVE TO TEACH HISTORY ACCURATELY. Not the parts of it that make us look good or that tell the part of the story that fit my agenda but ALL of it. We must fight the fear that keeps us in the cycle because the cycle changes and feels like progress but is actually a reiteration of the past. Sure the Jews aren’t in “captivity” but they still can’t properly worship their God unless the king says so and that is still oppression. Fighting the reiteration of oppression is the hardest part because you don’t even know what it’s going to look like. Will it be slavery, Jim Crow, Segregation, The war on Crime, the War on Drugs, Mass incarceration, red lining, unfair housing, gentrification, voter suppression… The list goes on. We must stop the cycle.

Your Reflections:
How has history benefitted you or not benefited you?
When approaching this work of anti-racism what are the fears that come up for you?
What are you going to do this week to stop the cycle?

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