Resist The Devil, Draw Near To God

Photo by ISKCON TV Dhaka:

Turn with me in your Bibles to Nehemiah chapter 6.

We’ve been studying how God used Nehemiah – the Cup Bearer (or Butler) to the Persian King Artaxerxes – to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Some of you may have wondered why such a subject would be interesting or applicable to us. If so, you haven’t been paying attention to the news.

Our Federal Government has ignored the waves of illegal immigrants crossing the border into the United States. The Government seems unwilling to either finish building the wall on our southern border, or even to enforce policing of the breach with Immigration Control Enforcement Officers. Texas Governor Greg Abbott got tired of 4000 migrants crossing his border every day, straining his infrastructure. So Governor Abbott began to send bus loads of immigrants to Washington D.C. When the Mayor of New York City Eric Adams slammed Texas for sending illegal immigrants to Washington, D.C., Governor Abbot started sending bus loads of illegal immigrants to New York City.

I’m kind of amused, but also saddened. I’m saddened that conditions in Mexico are so pathetic that it’s citizens are flooding into the United States. But I’m also saddened that our hypocritical politicians, all of whom live in gated communities protected by walls and armed guards, refuse to secure our borders.

Walls are important. The Great Wall of China was built over centuries by China’s Emperors in order to protect their people from attacking hoards. The Berlin Wall (which fell on November 9, 1989) was built by Communism to force it’s citizens to stay in East Berlin. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. is a wall that commemorates some 58,000 Americans who were killed or missing in action during the Vietnam War.

Nehemiah is working on rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. The wall was destroyed by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar over 70 years before, and many of the Israelis were exiled to Babylon. Why did this occur? Because God’s people got away from following God, and began to follow their own gods. As they drifted away from God, God warned them that punishment and trials was coming. Yet Israel refused to listen to the Prophets, the Preachers that God sent to warn and encourage them to repent. So Jerusalem and it’s walls was breached. When God allowed Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to lead in rebuilding the wall, numerous enemies rose up against the work. We saw in each chapter:

Nehemiah 1:10 ‒ Sanballat and Tobiah
Nehemiah 2:19 ‒ Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem
Nehemiah 4:1,3 ‒ Sanballat and Tobiah
Nehemiah 4:7 ‒ Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites

In Chapter Five these enemies disappeared for a while, because internal problems with the builders caused a work stoppage. Nehemiah negotiated a peace and a restoration within the work force, and so the work continued. Dear friend, Satan is persistent. He will use every force and trick he can to cause the work of God’s Kingdom to stall. So it’s no surprise that we see the enemy return.

Nehemiah 6:1-2 Now it came to pass when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;) 2 That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief.

Satan’s First Ploy: Let’s TALK Instead Of DOING

Nehemiah and his work crews have rebuilt the walls, which is an amazing feat. The walls are about 2.4966 miles long, circling the city. They are 39.37 feet tall, and an average of 8.2 feet thick. There are 34 watchtowers and 8 gates – though the doors are not yet on the gate hinges. What is amazing is that

The Book of Nehemiah has no miracles recorded in it at all. The miracle in this Book is that God’s people worked TOGETHER to glorify the Lord, and TOGETHER did an amazing work.

When Sanballat the Governor of Samaria (the Capital of Northern Israel) heard of this feat, he mobilized. Jerusalem is just days from regaining its walls. Jerusalem is the Capital City of Southern Israel. If the Capital is restored, it won’t be long before Judah is restored. Sanballat doesn’t want this, neither does his lieutenant Tobiah. Another enemy, Geshem the Arabian, Geshem was the King of Kedar, a province of Northwest Arabia, and a very powerful politician in the Persian Empire.

They cannot get Nehemiah to stop the building project, so they go to another tactic. They begin to distract rather than outright attack. If the devil’s attacks will not stop the growth of God’s Kingdom, he will use distraction. I have seen so many distractions as a pastor thrown at our Church.

A baby giggles or cries.
An ambulance or fire truck passes the Church.
A wasp or bee enters the room.
Speakers crackle or buzz annoyingly.
At 73 degrees everyone some are freezing.
At 74 degrees others are burning up.

The devil loves creating distractions. His distractions often look perfectly innocent on the surface. Sanballat and his crew suggest to Nehemiah:

Nehemiah 6:2 Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono…

Let’s just get together and talk! This sounds innocent. But if Nehemiah goes to the plain of Ono”, he will have to go 27 miles northwest of Jerusalem. Had Nehemiah accepted this invitation, he would have been gone from Jerusalem about 2 days. Nehemiah would have also exposed himself to being kidnapped. The plain of Ono is kind of a “no man’s land” between Judah and Samaria. But Nehemiah said:

Nehemiah 6:2 But they thought to do me mischief.

Word Study: The word translated mischief is the Hebrewרַע raʻ, {pronounced rah}, which means “bad, evil, to bring misery or calamity, to be malignant”. British Evangelist Alan Redpath said:

Whether you be a pastor or a teacher or evangelist or Sunday school leader, or whatever your position may be in Christian leadership, let me say that there will always be those who are friendly to your face, but plan your downfall behind your back. Beware of the fawning, flattering Christian who is always fluttering around you, and who behind your back will be the first to rejoice when you go down.”

Nehemiah was a praying man. The Journal of Applied Christian Leadership notes:

Nehemiah did not end his prayers after receiving his vision for the restored future of Jerusalem. Rather, he continued to ask God for guidance and help throughout the journey. Nehemiah received his power through God, the Source of all power and might. The entire restructuring of Jerusalem was enveloped in the power of prayer, as evidenced in how often prayers are lifted up within the relatively short book of Nehemiah. How many prayers are mentioned? Twelve”.

Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”. God speaks to His people. We are constantly, as His Children, on God’s mind. The Psalmist said:

Psalm 139:17-18 How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! 18 If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.

God never leaves the side of His Children. He is the Only Parent Who can make such a claim. Thus Nehemiah relied on God throughout every phase of the work he was doing. The Scripture says:

1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV) … For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

Christians today have a problem with discernment because they do not pursue a relationship with God. We too often place much emphasis on human leaders, and little on the Greatest Leader Ever, the Lord our God. If you never (or rarely) pray, if you never (or rarely) meditate on God’s Word, then you will never grow as you should in Christ. The writer of Hebrews wrote to such Carnal Christians,

Hebrews 5:11-14 (ESV) About {Jesus} we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. 12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, 13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Faith is a spiritual muscle that only grows when we feed it the Word of God, and exercise it by speaking to God and doing as He says. If you will not DO the Word, you will not be BLESSED in life.
(Matthew 7:26-27)

How did Nehemiah respond to these fake invitations?

Nehemiah 6:3-4 And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you? 4 Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.

Nehemiah refused to go himself, though he sent messengers unto them. His message was simple. He said, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?. Sanballat and Satan did not stop here, though. Nehemiah said they sent unto me four times after this sort. I finds that interesting, that they would send for Nehemiah four times. In the Scripture, four is the number of resting in God. David the Shepherd carried five smooth stones onto the battlefield to fight Goliath. After using only one, four stones rested in his pouch. When you know you are doing God’s Work, don’t look back, don’t look left or right. Jesus said:

Luke 9:62 … No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

God has said,

Deuteronomy 33:12 (ESV) The beloved of the Lord dwells in safety. The High God surrounds him all day long, and dwells between his shoulders.”

Nehemiah was focused on pleasing God. He kept on working. But Beloved, Satan is not so easily discouraged.

Satan’s Second Ploy Is To Slander And Spread False Rumors

Nehemiah 6:5-7 Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand; 6 Wherein was written, It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words. 7 And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together.

Illustrate: Back in the days when we had to “lick” postage stamps, the Post Office decided to put a prominent politician’s picture on a stamp. Sadly, few people bought that stamp, so it was discontinued. The Postal Service polled people to find out why no one wanted that stamp. The consensus was summed up by one old man. He simply said,

If I bought those stamps, I wouldn’t know which side to spit on!”

Of course, I don’t apply this to my brother Jerry. He’s a good Christian, and we need more genuine Christian politicians. Stamps have changed over the years. But one thing that hasn’t changed is that letters sent through the mail are generally sealed, not open. And yet we read:

Nehemiah 6:5 Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand…

This letter was sent OPEN because Sanballat wanted the public to know the contents. Sanballat is trying to start a false rumor. The rumor is:

Nehemiah 6:6 It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words

Notice how the slander is worded. It is reported among the heathen. It is common knowledge among all the nations around you what you and the Jews are doing. When the devil wants to start a lie, he says “But EVERYBODY’S doing it”, or “EVERYBODY knows”. To strengthen the lie, he says and Gashmu saith it. Who is Gashmu. This is the Arabic or Familiar form of the name Geshem (called “the Arabian”). What Sanballat is saying is, “Everyone knows what you are doing. My good buddy Gashmu (Geshem), the King of East Arabia, has told me all about it”. Sending this as an open letter was intended to frighten Nehemiah and the workers. If the King of Persia, Artaxerxes hears this, he might send a military force to destroy Nehemiah and his workers.

Nehemiah, you’d better DO something!

This is how the devil operates. If he can get us to STOP relying on God, and START defending ourselves, it won’t be long before the Kingdom work is stalled forever.

To make this worse, Sanballat says that Nehemiah is secretly plotting to be their king. To insure this happens, Sanballat claims that Nehemiah hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is a king in Judah” (vs 7). Nehemiah, won’t you come together and talk with us so we can help you avert a disaster … Artaxerxes surely knows!

Beloved, when Satan slanders you (and he will if you follow Jesus), ask yourself, “Is it true?” If it isn’t true, rather than run about like a chicken with your head cut off, do as Nehemiah did. We read:

Nehemiah 6:8 Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart.

Nehemiah didn’t stop what he was doing to entertain his enemies. Once more he SENT messengers. He told them, in effect, “What you’re saying is a made up lie. It’s slander. You invented it out of your own evil hearts”. The Bible tells us that God despises those who slander others. The Bible says:

Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.

The Enduring Word Commentary notes:

Nehemiah did not mount an elaborate defense, trying to prove Sanballat wrong point by point. He wasn’t going to waste his time. You don’t satisfy men like Sanballat with facts, explanations, and evidence. You satisfy them by giving in to their demands, and Nehemiah refused to do this.”

Illustrate: I’m reminded of an “Andy Griffith Show” where Barney was running for Sheriff against Andy. Barney got upset with Andy, and hired a man with a truck and a loud speaker to go through Mayberry shouting, “Vote for Barney. Barney Fife for Sheriff”. At the Town Hall meeting where Andy and Barney got up to debate one another, Barney took the stand he held up a briefcase and said, “Ladies and gentlemen… I have here documented 76 cases of malfeasance in the sheriff’s office”. When Andy got to the speaker’s stand, he was shocked. He said … “seventy six cases of malfeasance?” Andy didn’t defend himself. He admitted that people were parking in the wrong places, and jaywalking, and that he had no emergency equipment to speak of. He admitted that he didn’t wear a gun. But Andy said, “I’ve been a Sheriff here for a long time. You’re either satisfied with me, or you’re … you’re not. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow”. When Andy sat down, Barney stood up, and said, “I was satisfied with Mr. Taylor’s answers. And, well, I’m voting for Andy”.

Illustrate: The worst thing you can do when slandered for doing God’s work is to run about trying to make your enemies happy. President Abraham Lincoln was once asked, “Aren’t you going to answer all these allegations concerning the war effort?” Lincoln replied, “If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what’s said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”

After telling Sanballat and his enemies that they were making up lies, Nehemiah did the best thing every Christian can do when slandered:

Nehemiah 6:9 For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.

Nehemiah admitted his fear, and the fear of his fellow workers. But he prayed to God, saying Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands. When you are slandered, cast it upon the Lord – and get back to work. You can’t

Satan’s Third Ploy Is Outright Intimidation

Nehemiah 6:10 Afterward I came unto the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabeel, who was shut up; and he said, Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us shut the doors of the temple: for they will come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee.

Now Satan turns to using religion to destroy the work of God. Satan’s favorite weapon is religion. When our Lord Jesus walked this earth, His greatest opponents were not atheists, nor drunkards, nor adulterers, nor even Gentile rulers. Pilate tried to free Jesus. No, Jesus’ greatest enemies were the self righteous religious crowd, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes. Jesus’ greatest enemies were Jews who should have rejoiced in His appearing. But this is what Satan does. He loves to use false faith and vain religion.

Shemaiah is well known by Nehemiah, as Nehemiah relates his lineage. Shemaiah tells Nehemiah that God gave him a prophecy (you’ll see this shortly) that Nehemiah was going to be assassinated. Shemaiah implies that God told him to tell Nehemiah to hide in the Temple. Now there’s no way you can hide in the Temple … unless you go into the area where only the priests are allowed. When God had the Temple built, He had them make “Courts” or meeting places for the Gentiles, the women, the men, and the priests. If Nehemiah hid in the first three courts, he could have easily been found. But if he went into the Court of the Priests (where the altar was) he could have hidden. But Nehemiah wasn’t fooled! He knew from God’s Word that the Court of the Priests was reserved unto the priests. In

2 Chronicles 26, King Uzziah – who was not a priest – went into the temple, and God instantly struck him with leprosy.

When God gave a rule, He expected it to be obeyed – or else! Shemaiah is like many in the mainstream churches who endorse homosexuality, transgenderism, and non-biblical marriage. The Mosaic Law declared that only God’s anointed Priests could enter the holy and the most holy places in the Temple (see Numbers 1:51; 3:10; 18:7). Had Nehemiah somehow broken one of God’s Laws he could have sought refuge at the brazen altar in the Temple courtyard (see Exodus 21:13-14; 1 Kings. 1:50-53). But Nehemiah knew two things. First, he had not violated God’s Law. Second, Nehemiah knew that God had not suspended the rules that He gave Israel. In fact, the reason Israel is in bondage NOW is because they skirted and disobeyed the rules that God clearly laid out for them. Nehemiah replies:

Nehemiah 6:11-12 And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in. 12 And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.

When Nehemiah decided to do the right thing, and once more resist Satan, it was revealed to him that this false prophet was hired by Tobiah and Sanballat. Nehemiah said,

Nehemiah 6:13 Therefore was he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, and that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me.

The Bible says,

James 4:7 (ESV) Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Nehemiah kept himself close to God by prayer. He was familiar with the Word of God. By being singularly focused on glorifying God and keeping to his mission, Nehemiah foiled the enemy at every turn. Nehemiah prays:

Nehemiah 6:14 My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear.

Once the wall was completed (in 52 days – see verse 15) Nehemiah uncovered an internal conspiracy with the nobles of Judah. They secretly plotted with Tobiah to overthrow Nehemiah. But as the scripture says,

Numbers 32:23 (ESV) … be sure your sin will find you out.

Once the wall was complete, it totally demoralized Nehemiah’s enemies (both open and secret), while magnifying the Kingdom of God. Nehemiah was able to brave ridicule, threats, discouragement, internal conspiracies, trickery and rumor mongering by prayer, perseverance, and prioritizing God’s glory. May we all be as faithful to our Lord. May God the Holy Spirit encourage you by this, His Word, to help rebuild the wall of righteousness in our nation. For Christ’s glory, may others yet be won to Jesus. Amen and amen.

About bibleteacherorg

A searching Pastor, I am looking for a people who love the Lord and love one another. Daily I pray for the Church. Most of what the world sees today is not the Church, but clubs pretending to be the Church. God is calling to Himself a people willing to be righteous, not self righteous, serving not served. I am called to pastor God's people, those who want to change the world by willingly and willfully following Jesus Christ. Only God is able to change the world, and we must follow His Christ. He is able! Praise His Name! Come quickly Lord Jesus!
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