On Sunday mornings we are tracking Nehemiah’s life story in the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures). He was cup-bearer to the king when he heard that the wall around Jerusalem was in disrepair. After his people had been in exile for two generations, he longed for the fulfillment of God’s promise that the Jews would be restored in their homeland. A city wall in shambles was a visible reminder that they were not there yet! Nehemiah answered the call to head up the repair work. God’s hand was upon him. But when we do God’s work, spiritual opposition comes hand-in-hand. For Nehemiah, spiritual warfare was personified in two people in particular who opposed the good work: Sanballat and Tobiah.
Remember that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against satanic spiritual forces behind the people who oppose God’s work. Consider for a moment the taunts and ridicule brought against Nehemiah as he sought to rally the people to rebuild the wall. Listen to the whispers behind the taunts – do they sound familiar? All of this is from Nehemiah chapter four.
What are these feeble Jews doing?
I know you. You’re weak and you will never pull off what you’re chasing here. Just as the Jews languished under domination and humiliation, so often we feel chained to our past. And wouldn’t Satan love it if we believed that lie.
Will they restore their wall?
You will never be who you once were. You’ve fallen and can’t get up. Stay in your failures and don’t think God’s grace will help you. Have you ever felt God’s grace is beyond your grasp? Satan would love you to believe it.
Will they offer sacrifices again?
You’ve done it now, you will never worship again. You are stuck in the pit of helplessness and second best. Have you ever felt as if you have blown it so bad, you will never be able to worship again? Satan would love to keep you there.
Will they finish in a day?
You will never meet your goal. The task is too much; God didn’t know what He was doing when He picked you for this. Throw in the towel now. Satan wants to remind us that what God’s called us to is too much for us. In a way he’s right – but it’s not about us, but about His Power in us. Imagine how Noah felt when he was asked to build the ark – when it hadn’t rained yet. Or Moses, the one who stuttered. God needs a spokesman to speak to the ruthless king, so he picks a stutterer. Great.
Can they bring stones back to life?
You’re a failure, just admit it. You will never live again. Love again. Serve again. You’re dead and defeated. Stay there. The wall was in shambles, which often resemble our own lives. Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life”; satan would have us believe there is no hope.
Even a fox would break it
Your efforts are useless. This is too big for you. Be sure to focus on yourself and not on the One who has called you. You will never amount to anything. A fox is sure-footed and agile, not to mention small. Satan would have us believe our efforts for Christ will never amount to anything, but “greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” Period.
We will see more in chapter six. For now, for when you face spiritual opposition, please take courage in this truth about the cross from Colossians 2:
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
To be sure, the powers of darkness pack a punch. But they’ve been roundly defeated at Calvary. As they old saying goes, when Satan reminds you of your past, you remind him of his future:
And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
More on spiritual warfare in the next blog post. You can track the messages from Nehemiah on our church website.