This is our fourth week of looking at Nehemiah and how he led the people of Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls after 70 years of exile. It’s been very interesting (for me anyway) to read through this story and discover what principles we can apply to our situation here.
And I’m very excited to share with you the next part of the story. It’s my favorite part and I think the lessons that we learn from it are very applicable to everyone here. So let’s jump right into it.
Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall. He flew into a rage and mocked the Jews, 2 saying in front of his friends and the Samarian army officers, “What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing? Do they think they can build the wall in a single day by just offering a few sacrifices? Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that?”
3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was standing beside him, remarked, “That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!”
God put it on Nehemiah’s heart to rebuild the wall, God moved the king as to allow Nehemiah to go back to Jerusalem, and God put everything into place so that the walls of Jerusalem can be rebuilt for the His glory. So what does Satan do? He tries to stop it. Doesn’t Satan work the same way today? When God is doing something, Satan tries to get in the way. And he uses the same tactics back then as he does today too. So we are going to look at three of Satan’s tactics to stop God’s work. The first tactic he employs is discouragement.
Here he uses Sanballat and Tobiah to mock the Jews, to make fun of them, to laugh at them. Does Satan still use that tactic today? Do Christians get mocked, laughed at, made fun of because they follow Christ? Just ask any Christian teenager.
We shouldn’t be surprised when this happens. Jesus said…
Luke 21:17 – “All men will hate you because of me.”
The Bible never teaches that following Christ makes life easier. In fact, it promises us that we will have trouble – we will be persecuted. We will be mocked, laughed at, and made fun of. Well, what do we when that happens? What did Nehemiah do?
Nehemiah 4:4 – “Then I prayed….”
That’s the answer right there. THEN I PRAYED…. Nehemiah didn’t make any snappy remarks back at them. He didn’t punch them in the head. He didn’t tell their parents what jerks they were being. He simply prayed to His God. After all, isn’t God big enough to handle them? Isn’t He wise enough to know how to deal with them?
After Nehemiah’s prayer, what does it say in verse 6?
At last the wall was completed to half its height around the entire city, for the people had worked with enthusiasm.
Prayer foiled Satan’s first attempt to discourage them. But Satan doesn’t give up easy, so he went a little further. Verse 7-8.
But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs, Ammonites, and Ashdodites heard that the work was going ahead and that the gaps in the wall of Jerusalem were being repaired, they were furious. They all made plans to come and fight against Jerusalem and throw us into confusion.
If mocking didn’t stop them, then the next step was an all out attack. That oughta discourage them!
And I want to warn you this morning, be ready for Satan’s all out attacks.
1 Peter 5:8
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Satan’s not going to take it easy on anyone for any reason. He is our enemy and he is out to destroy us.
But look at how Nehemiah responded: verse 9. “But we prayed…”
It seems so simple, doesn’t it? We don’t we do it more often? I think we really underestimate the power of prayer.
James 5:16 – “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
When trouble comes – let’s pray. When discouragement comes – let’s pray. When we want to take on a great project for God – let’s pray! When we are just living our daily life – let’s pray! The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective because we have a God who hears those prayers and HE is very powerful and very effective.
Well, Satan wasn’t done with discouragement yet. If he couldn’t discourage them from the outside, he’d discourage them from the inside. Verse 10.
Then the people of Judah began to complain, “The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.”
Complainers. Satan loves complainers. Nothing saps your strength and motivation like a complainer. That’s why God has commanded us to give thanks in every situation.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Complaining and thankfulness simply can’t co-exist. So Satan brought out the complainers, but that wasn’t all. Verse 11-12.
Meanwhile, our enemies were saying, “Before they know what’s happening, we will swoop down on them and kill them and end their work.” The Jews who lived near the enemy came and told us again and again, “They will come from all directions and attack us!”
So now we have complaining on the inside and threats of attack from the outside. What does Nehemiah do? Verse 13-14.
So I placed armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall in the exposed areas. I stationed the people to stand guard by families, armed with swords, spears, and bows.
Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!”
He took the necessary precautions and address the people. He said “Don’t be afraid. Remember the Lord.”
Those are great instructions for us too in whatever situation we are in. “Don’t be afraid. Remember the Lord.” How can we be afraid when we remember the Lord? If God is for us, who can be against us?! After all, our God has unlimited power. Our God has unlimited wisdom. And as our heavenly Father, He loves us more than anything. If we can remember that when we go through times of discouragement, Satan won’t be able to keep us down or keep us from accomplishing God’s purposes.
Well, after discouragement didn’t stop God’s work, Satan tried the next tactic. Jump over to chapter 6:1-4
Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies found out that I had finished rebuilding the wall and that no gaps remained—though we had not yet set up the doors in the gates. So Sanballat and Geshem sent a message asking me to meet them at one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But I realized they were plotting to harm me, so I replied by sending this message to them: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?”
Four times they sent the same message, and each time I gave the same reply.
Did you notice the tactic here? Distraction. Nehemiah, come over here and have a meeting with us. We want to talk to you for a while.
I am convinced that Satan uses this tactic big time today. How many sports events are held on Sundays? How many kids hockey practices are on Sunday morning? Or perhaps a little more subtle, how many dads put more time and energy into their cars than they do into their kids? How many Christian people don’t participate in church life because of all the other things they fill their lives with? The list could go on. Our lives are filled with distractions. And it’s not necessarily bad things either – but they are things that keep us from focusing on God and on what He would have us do.
Jesus talks about distractions when he tells the parable of the sower and seed. You remember how the seed fell on four types of soil (hard soil, shallow soil, thorny soil, and good soil).
Mark 4:18 explains
The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced.
I think that sums up many church-goers in North America. They hear the word of God, but it’s quickly crowed out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. That’s not how I want to be. I want to be like Nehemiah.
Look how Nehemiah responds to his distraction: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?”
We need to learn to say this more often to the distractions around us. We may not be building a great city wall, but we are engaged in a great work… Everyday we should be growing closer to God and doing our part to expand the kingdom of God. When Satan sends things to distract us from that work, we need to say “No, I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?”. (Incidentally, did you notice that the name of place where they wanted Nehemiah to come was “Ono”? That’s how we need to respond to distractions. Oh No!)
Are there things in your life that are keeping you from doing God’s work? Are there distractions that are keeping you preoccupied with the wrong things – perhaps not bad things, but not the right things. Do the cares of this life take up so much of your time and energy that you have nothing left to give to God? Perhaps it’s time to start saying no to the plains of Ono!
Well, ol’ Satan wasn’t done yet. He’d tried discouragement. He’d tried distractions. There was one more tactic to try. Let’s read about it in
Later I went to visit Shemaiah son of Delaiah and grandson of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home. He said, “Let us meet together inside the Temple of God and bolt the doors shut. Your enemies are coming to kill you tonight.”
But I replied, “Should someone in my position run from danger? Should someone in my position enter the Temple to save his life? No, I won’t do it!” I realized that God had not spoken to him, but that he had uttered this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. They were hoping to intimidate me and make me sin. Then they would be able to accuse and discredit me.
No one but the priests were permitted by God to enter the temple, so for Nehemiah to hide out in the temple like Shemaiah suggested would have been sin. That’s the third of Satan’s tactics to disrupt our work for the Lord. He’ll discourage you, he’ll distract you, and he’ll tempt you to down right sin.
This tactic is effective because the consequences of sin are sure.
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
I think every so often we need to be reminded of the seriousness of sin. As a solemn reminder this morning, I want to give you a list of some of the consequences of sin.
#1. Sin grieves God.
#2. Sin harms your relationship with God.
#3. Sin gives Satan an opening in your life for further sin.
#4. Sin is punished by God.
#5. Sin hurts others.
#6. Sin harms your witness for Christ.
#7. Sin makes you settle for less than God’s best.
#8. Sin has natural consequences.
#9. Sin results in guilt and misery.
You can see why sin is such an effective tactic of the enemy. It is extremely destructive. And although God is always ready to forgive us, the consequences of sin remain. As Christians, when Satan tempts us to sin, we need to respond exactly like Nehemiah in verse 11. “No, I won’t do it!” That’s how we are to deal with temptation. No. I won’t do it.
“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Submit to God. Resist the devil. That’s how Nehemiah did it. Satan tried to discourage him, to distract him, and to cause him to down-right sin. But each time, Nehemiah submitted to God and resisted Satan. We need to follow the exact same pattern.
When discouragements come – pray. When distractions get in the way – say no. And when temptation comes, submit yourself to God and resist the devil.
They seem like very simple responses – pray, say no, submit to God, resist the devil – but they are very powerful and effective in thwarting Satan’s tactics. As I mentioned before, we are not building a great city wall, but we are engaged in a great work – that is to please and serve our Heavenly Father. Satan will do all that He can to defeat us and to make us ineffective. But we know his tactics, and more importantly, we know that our God is way more powerful than the enemy and has in fact, already defeated Satan.
Isn’t that an encouraging? Though we will fight against Satan as long as we are on this earth, we are fighting on the winning side in a battle that has already been won!