THE SCHEMING TACTICS OF GOD’S ENEMIES CAN NEVER THWART GOD’S PURPOSES
There are certain attitudes that can paralyze us and prevent us from accomplishing the work of God. Probably the biggest is Fear – fear of failure; fear of some type of opposition; fear of inadequacy; fear of what other people will think about what we are doing … Coupled closely with fear is Discouragement – losing heart and wanting to quit the fight. Satan works overtime to create these attitudes of fear and discouragement – maybe you had to fight off these paralyzing attitudes this past week. Satan uses Deception to try to get us to disbelieve God’s promises and God’s resources and believe certain lies instead. He employs a number of devious tactics to promote Fear and Discouragement.
Nehemiah had to lead the people through these challenges in order to reach his goal of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
I. (:1-9) FIGHT OFF DISCOURAGEMENT –
II. (:10-14) FIGHT OFF DECEPTION –
III. (:15-19) FINISH THE WORK –
5 Enemy Tactics sprinkled through this section; all oriented around promoting Fear, Discouragement, Deception – Key is sticking to the task at hand and being strengthened by God to complete His Work
I. (:1-9) FIGHT OFF DISCOURAGEMENT –
WHEN SATAN TRIES TO FRIGHTEN YOU AND GET YOU TO QUIT, STAY ON TASK AND ASK GOD TO STRENGTHEN YOUR HANDS
A. (:1) Waking Up the Enemy — Kingdom Progress Activates Kingdom Enemies
“Now when it was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall, and that no breach remained in it, although at that time I had not set up the doors in the gates,”
Swindoll: The attack upon Nehemiah was very significant because it happened at a crucial juncture in his life. . . he was nearly finished with the greatest task that Jerusalem’s citizens had seen in their generation. Not very long before they were ready to cut the ribbon and enjoy a jubilant celebration, the enemy began to plot Nehemiah’s demise.
B. (:2-4) Watching Out for Subtle Enemy Traps Involving Compromise –
Enemy Tactic of Compromise and Distraction (1)
1. Innocent Sounding Proposals
“then Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to me, saying, ‘Come, let us meet
together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.’”
Located on the seacoast near the Gaza strip; a nice resort area for a religious conference; let’s organize a retreat … instead of being adversaries and snipping at one another, let’s get together and discuss what we have in common
Says “O No!” to Ono
Kidner: about equidistant from Samaria and Jerusalem. At the same time, it was for Nehemiah more than a day’s journey from his city, and (as Brockington points out) at the very limits of his territory to the north-west, bordering the districts of both Samaria and Ashdod. Since both of these were hostile regions (cf. 4:2, 7) the plan smelt of treachery. At best, the journey would have wasted precious days; therefore wisely enough he based his refusal on this, rather than on his suspicions.
Ecumenicism seems Innocent on the Surface – “let us meet together”
The undiluted preaching from God’s Word and an authoritative stand on truth seem to be on the decline. What we’re seeing instead is a broadening of the gospel, a redefining of what it means to be a Christian, and a growing emphasis on inclusion and tolerance. Ecumenism has come to mean “reducing all elements of faith to the lowest common denominator. God’s Word is neglected, experience is valued above truth, a false and selfish “faith” is promoted, and sound doctrine and correction are despised as “divisive” and “unloving.”
2. Evil Intentions
“But they were planning to harm me.”
Never forget that Satan has an agenda which he is actively pursuing
We are not supposed to judge motives = go out and shout from the rooftops … but here Nehemiah exercises discernment – had a history of dealing with these people
Discernment helps you to sense trouble and avoid it; is your discernment atenna finely tuned so that it alerts you when something is off base?
[Conscience is just a guide to whether you are doing what is right; discernment goes beyond that to evaluate external conditions; both can be seared and rendered ineffective]
3. Dismissing Distractions – despite Repeated Pressure
“So I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?’ They sent messages to me four times in this manner, and I answered them in the same way.”
– takes vision for the greatness of the work to which God has called you
Decker: Illustration: In the first half of the 20th century, there was a missionary in China who did a great job as a linguist and a diplomat in his work for the Lord. His abilities were so outstanding that one of the American companies in China tried to hire him. They offered him an attractive job with a salary to match, but he turned them down. He told them that God had sent him to China as a missionary and that was what he was going to do. He thought that would end the matter, but instead they came back with a better offer and an increase in salary. He turned that down too, but again they came back, doubling the salary that had originally been proposed. Finally he said to them, “It is not your salary that is too little. It’s the job that’s too small!”
– understands the importance of leadership staying on task
– refuses to stop the momentum of making progress; not easy to start up again
– persists in the face of growing pressure
Swindoll: there’s a great difference between being an available man or woman of God and being a puppet of people – a great difference. Some people never understand how you can say no. But every leader must reserve that right. One of the marks of maturity is the ability to say no without explanation.
Wiersbe: The Jews had nothing in common with Sanballat and his crowd, so there could be no basis for cooperation. Nehemiah had made that clear at the very outset of the project (2:20) . . . Decisions based only on opinions must be reconsidered, but decisions based on convictions must stand unless those convictions are changed. Otherwise, decision becomes indecision; and the leader who ought to be a guidepost becomes a weather vane.
C. (:5-8) Warding Off the Intimidating Tactic of Outrageous Slander — Enemy Tactic of Slander (2)
“Then Sanballat sent his servant to me in the same manner a fifth time with an open letter in his hand. In it was written, ‘It is reported among the nations, and Gashmu says, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel; therefore you are rebuilding the wall. And you are to be their king, according to these reports. You have also appointed prophets to proclaim in Jerusalem concerning you, A king is in Judah! And now it will be reported to the king according to these reports. So come now, let us take counsel together.’ Then I sent a message to him saying, ‘Such things as you are saying have not been done, but you are inventing them in your own mind.’”
Escalating from private invitation to public intimidation
Wiersbe: A open letter to a royal governor would be both intimidating and insulting. Letters to officials were rolled up and secured with seals so that only those with authority could open and read them. Sanballat wanted the public to know the contents of the letter because he hoped to undermine Nehemiah’s reputation and authority.
Def. of Slander – “the utterance of false charges or misrepresentations which defame and damage another’s reputation”
Closely aligned with Gossip – a rumor or report of a personal or sensitive or intimate nature; sharing dirt about someone
Making some very public and harmful accusations:
– We have what we are going to claim on good authority – should be believable
Really just unsubstantiated rumors that they had created themselves
Swindoll: rumors involve exaggeration and inaccuracy
– When you came to Jerusalem, you had evil motives – you wanted to gather a bunch of followers and subvert their loyalty and cause them to start their own little kingdom agenda
– Your work is not what it might seem
– You are driven by selfish ambition – you want to be king [so often people accuse us of what they are truly guilty of – exposes the evil of their heart]
– You are twisting God’s Word to support your personal agenda
Your only way out is to play ball with us
How can people believe such lies?? Incredibly, they do. Slandering motives of a faithful, godly leader. All you can do is remain calm and issue a denial.
Look at what I do and say – rather than inventing stories that judge my motives.
Christ faced similar charges of sedition (Luke 23:1-5)
Paul faced similar charges (Acts 24:4-5) – on trial for his life
Watch who you get together with to “take counsel together” – leads down a slippery slope;
They get you to enter into agreements that involve compromise and error;
They divert your trust from the one, true God
– Israel always warned against taking refuge or counsel in Egypt
– Psalm 1 – look at the separated stance of the blessed man
Breneman: Jerusalem had a history of rebelling against controlling empires.
Don’t hear much about Separation anymore – emphasis is on being inclusive
2 Cor. 6:14 – 7:1
D. (:9) Working Hard in Dependence Upon God for the Strength to Overcome Fear and Discouragement
“For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done. But now, O God, strengthen my hands.”
Tactics of Satan are powerful
Adolph Hitler: Mental confusion, contradiction of feeling, indecisiveness, panic; these are our weapons.
The Antidote is to Work Hard; the enablement comes from the Grace of God who strengthens our hands; enables us to persevere
Are your hands weak? Are you seeking God to give you His resources for His work?
Are you looking to man or to God for approval and for recognition?
Christ’s word to His disciples was constantly “Fear not, I am with you”
II. (:10-14) FIGHT OFF DECEPTION –
WHEN SATAN TRIES TO FRIGHTEN YOU AND UNDERMINE YOUR FAITH, EXERCISE DISCERNMENT AND BOLDLY STAND YOUR GROUND
A. (:10-11) Enemy Tactic of Expediency (3)
1. (:10) Screen Counsel Carefully
“When I entered the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined at home, he said, ‘Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you, and they are coming to kill you at night.’”
Kidner: The fact that Shemaiah would propose going to the Temple shows that his disability, if it existed at all, was only temporary, hardly a sufficient reason to bring the governor to his house.
MacArthur: To enter and shut himself in the Holy Place would have been a desecration of the house of God and would have caused people to question his reverence for God.
Breneman: This show of fear, and even cowardice, would be a lack of trust in God and would undermine the confidence of the people in his leadership.
Deut. 13:1-5 – how can we test those who claim to be bringing to us the Word of God?
2. (:11) Stand on Integrity and Resist Expedient Solutions
“But I said, ‘Should a man like me flee? And could one such as I go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.’”
Prov. 28:1 “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, but the righteous are bold as a lion.”
Kidner: Nehemiah was no priest, and had no right of access to the temple itself (as distinct from the surrounding courtyards). King Uzziah, trespassing, had been fortunate to escape with no more than leprosy (2 Ch. 26:16ff; cf. Nu 18:7). Nehemiah, had he tried to save himself in such a way would have lost, possibly, his life, certainly his honour; and would have jeopardized the very cause he had at heart.
B. (:12-13) Enemy Tactic of Entrapment (4)
“Then I perceived that surely God had not sent him, but he uttered his prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He was hired for this reason, that I might become frightened and act accordingly and sin, so that they might have an evil report in order that they could reproach me.”
Satan cannot stand a man of integrity will try to ruin his reputation; entice him into sin; tempt him in every way possible; twist the Word of God as Satan did when he tempted Christ in the wilderness; always trying to trip us up
James 1 – don’t ever accuse God of trying to entrap you into sin; but Satan loves this tactic of entrapment; our sinful nature plays right into his hand; easy for us to believe his deception and turn away from the standards of holiness and fall into sin
A good reputation built up over a lifetime can be lost very quickly in the foolishness of chasing after the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2:15-17)
Don’t take someone’s advice just because they claim to have God’s perspective on the situation; check things out
C. (:14) Theme of God’s Faithful Judgment
“Remember, O my God, Tobiah and Sanballat according to these works of theirs, and also Noadiah the prophetess and the rest of the prophets who were trying to frighten me.”
Recurring Theme: Remember Me; Remember my enemies, my attackers
Because God remembers, we don’t have to! Don’t keep rehashing injustice in your mind.
Ezek 13:17-23 reference to prophetesses
Do you believe everything you hear? Do you search the Scriptures yourself to see that the counsel you are being given is biblical? Are you easy to deceive? Do you stand against Satan with boldness, maintaining your Integrity?
III. (:15-19) FINISH THE WORK –
GREAT THINGS CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED WITH GOD’S HELP . . .
BUT UNDERSTAND THAT SATAN NEVER GIVES UP
A. (:15-16) Recognition of God’s Favor Causes Enemies to Temporarily Back Off
1. (:15) Successful Completion (in record time)
“So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of the month Elul, in fifty-two days.”
52 day project – Incredible!
Attributed to the strength and providential favor of the Lord and the courage and persevering work of the people under the godly leadership of Nehemiah.
2. (:16) Impactful Testimony – Impact on the godly; Impact on God’s enemies
“When all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.”
B. (:17-19a) Relational Disloyalties that Threatened Kingdom Progress —
Enemy Tactic of Disloyalty (5)
“Also in those days many letters went from the nobles of Judah to Tobiah, and Tobiah’s letters came to them. For many in Judah were bound by oath to him because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah the son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah. Moreover, they were speaking about his good deeds in my presence and reported my words to him.”
Those that we expect should be loyal to us cause us the greatest grief when they don’t stand by us
C. (:19b) Renewal of the Attacks
“Then Tobiah sent letters to frighten me.”
Breneman: Tobiah must have had many good traits, and some of the people were led astray by him; nevertheless, he was trying to hinder Nehemiah’s leadership. His involvement may be the most sinister aspect of the story. Only Nehemiah’s faith and clear-headed resoluteness equipped him for the challenge.
Kidner: Tobiah was a more insidious influence in this respect than Sanballat, since he was probably a fellow-Jew, in addition to being (as his own and his son’s names indicate) a nominal adherent of Yahweh. His numerous binding agreements within the Jewish community were probably trading contracts, facilitated by his marriage connections. His wife’s family, the descendants of Arah, is mentioned in Ezra 2:5, and while neither Shecaniah nor this Meshullam can be identified, we know from 13:4 that Tobiah had family ties with the priestly or high-priestly house of Eliashib, probably by marriage. While such links and loyalties were embarrassing enough in themselves, we now learn how busily they were exploited by intrigues, persuasive talk, leaks of information and threatening letters. All this, in addition to the outside pressures already described, brought Nehemiah under attack from almost every quarter.
Threat of fear and discouragement must be constantly combated. You have victory, but then Satan comes at you again. He only has a limited number of tactics to keep throwing at you.
CONCLUSION: Do you feel Afraid, Discouraged in serving God? Are you confused … maybe Deceived?
Is something knocking you off course in serving God? Need to live your life according to God’s priorities; don’t let neutral things or even good things become the enemy of the best
5 Tactics of Satan:
– Compromise and Distraction
– Fight Discouragement
– Fight Deception
– Finish the Work and allow God to strengthen your hands so that He may be glorified in accomplishing His great work