Back in 1975, one of the scariest movies I ever saw came
out called "Jaws", a great white killer shark. The
newspapers recorded that beach tourism went way down during
the popular run of the movie. The next year everybody went
back to the beach, everybody was fine. But three years
later, they came out with "Jaws II", the sequel. The
advertisement for that movie said, "Just when you thought
it was safe, terror returns to the beach."
It seems like in our lives sometimes, just when everything
seems to be going well, disaster hits. Someone or something
Jerusalem is the city where God chose to dwell. God's
temple was there. God's people were there. Nehemiah had
come from Babylon intent on rebuilding the wall because God
had called him to do so. The wall around the city not only
fortified the city and protected it from the enemy attacks,
but it symbolically stood for something. It stood for
strength and it stood for the honor of the people there-in
fact, the honor of God. So for the wall of Jerusalem to lie
in ruins was an insult to God's people and as far as they
were concerned, that was an insult to God Himself.
Nehemiah wept and prayed that God would use him to go and
rebuild the wall. God answered that prayer and Nehemiah
rallied the people, he motivated them, he organized them
and got to work about 450 B.C or so. Everybody was working
well together and getting along good, enthusiastically
doing the work of the Lord. Everything was going along
great until Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem came and tried to
undo Nehemiah's plan.
These guys ridiculed the workers, made fun of them, and
dampened their spirits. In fact, they threatened to storm
the city and attack them and kill them. They tried to scare
them to death. So, Nehemiah prayed to the Lord for strength
and he prepared the people for battle. He prepared them to
defend themselves. When those enemies saw how strong an
army God's people made, they backed off. They said that
they'll not attack those people. So everybody got back to
work and everybody was fine and all was well. Right?
The wall is almost finished. In fact, the only thing left
to do is to hang the doors and the gates. But guess who
comes back for the sequel? That's right! Those same three
guys. Just when it appears to be safe, here come these
enemies again ready to attack again and to try to undo
God's plan. Our world today has enemies of God. God still
has his enemies and always will until Christ comes back to
judge the world. Everybody who's an enemy of God is an ally
of Satan. That's right! They are an agent of Satan. Satan
has influence in our world today. Don't mistake that fact.
And he uses that influence against us.
"Put on the full armor of God". In other words, prepare to
defend yourself. Why Paul? Take your stand against the
devil's schemes, as "Our struggle is not against flesh and
blood. Our struggle is against the rulers and authorities
and powers of the dark world, and against the spiritual
forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12)
The pages of the New Testament are filled with the reality
of spiritual warfare. God says to prepare yourself for that
kind of battle.
But what are the motives of Satan?
1. He wants to
deny God the glory that is due his name. Our
purpose on this earth, as Christians, is to bring glory
to God. But the devil wants to stop that. One thing you
know from studying the origin of Satan is that he is
very egotistical, and he wants all of the glory to
himself. So anything he can do to take glory away from
God, he is going to do it even if he has to use you to
do it. That's kind of a scary thought, isn't it?
2. His motive
is to frustrate God's will in the world.
Anything that God wants done, Satan wants undone.
3. To win
converts. That's right! Satan wants to win
converts. Satan is evangelistic, did you know that? He
wants a bigger army all the time. He wants to enlist
The previous time Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem were
in Jerusalem they attacked the people. This time they
focused their attack on Nehemiah. This time it's personal,
and they've got three more tricks up their sleeve. But God
wants us to keep working for Him in spite of personal
God wants you to keep working in spite of
Nehemiah 6:1 states that word got to Sanballat, Tobiah and
Geshem and the rest of the enemies that Nehemiah had
rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it except for
the doors and the gates. They sent this message, "Come, let
us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of
Ono. They are scheming to harm me. So I sent messengers to
them with this reply, 'I am carrying on a great project
here, and I cannot go down. Why should the work stop while
I leave it and go down to you?'" (Nehemiah 6:2) Now at
first thought, their invitation to meet with Nehemiah might
not seem so suspicious. What's wrong with that? Sounds like
they want to have a little peace talk, you know. But
Nehemiah knew these guys. He knew how dangerous they could
be. In fact, they didn't offer to come to Jerusalem. They
wanted Nehemiah to leave Jerusalem and go some twenty miles
away to a place or region where Nehemiah's enemies were
known to be where they could either kidnap him or
assassinate him. He knew how dangerous it would be. But a
two day journey would take him off that wall, away from the
work that God gave him to do. They tried to lure Nehemiah
away four times. He resisted and stayed at his task. He was
going to do what God wanted done not what God's enemies
wanted done. He was able to do this by continuing to:
focused. Nehemiah was focused.
He knew his priorities. He knew the commitment that he
had made to the Lord. He kept his eyes on his goal. You
can be assured that our enemy, Satan, wants to distract
us from doing God's will. Satan has put all kinds of
allurements and distractions in our culture today. Many
of them wicked. Like Nehemiah, we have to evaluate them
in the light of God's calling. Sometimes staying
focused on God and what He wants me to do means saying
"no". It's hard for us to say no. We like to do things,
go places and be involved. But sometimes we just have
to say "no" and be more focused and do the job that God
gave us to do. What is taking your time away from doing
God's will, from the really important things in
spite of defamation.
lat sent his aid to me with a message and in his hand
was an unsealed letter which said, 'It is reported
among the nations and Geshem says this is true,
Nehemiah, that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt
and therefore that's why you are building the wall.
Moreover, according to the report, you are about to
become their king, and you have sent prophets to make a
proclamation about you being a king in Judah. This is
going to get back to the king.'" (Nehemiah 6:5) In
other words, Nehemiah, I'm going to tell the real king
that you are trying to get his job. Well, it was a lie,
wasn't it? You notice that the letter was unsealed. It
was open. This would be like a letter to the editor and
everybody who carried it on its way would be able to
read it and I'm sure Sanballat made sure his servants
and lots of eyes got to see this letter. He wanted to
spread this vicious and false rumor and if Nehemiah's
people found out about this and they thought their
leader was just an opportunistic, self-centered person,
why they wouldn't support him anymore. This could be a
Nehemiah sent this reply, "Nothing of what you are
saying is true, and you're just making it up out of
your own head. You're trying to frighten me." Then
Nehemiah says, "I prayed to the Lord, now strengthen my
hands." (Nehemiah 6:8) So true to Nehemiah's character,
he simply dismissed the charges as false. He prayed to
God like he always did and then he got back to work. He
didn't waste time defending himself. Have you ever
stopped working on something because someone was
criticizing you and you had to take time to defend
yourself? Well, Nehemiah said that I'm not going to
fall for that. I'm not going to respond to rumors. I'm
not going to respond to gossip and innuendos. The work
of God is too important.
One of the toughest things that any leader has to do is
to respond to false accusations about them, usually
from a jealous source. You want to quit sometimes, but
not Nehemiah. He just trusted in God and he trusted in
the truth. He believed that the truth would prevail and
that's important to remember when someone slanders you
and spreads gossip about you. Truth will win out. Who
was the most falsely accused man in the history of the
world? My Lord, Jesus Christ. What did He say "Blessed
are you when people insult you and persecute you
falsely and say all kinds of evil against you because
of me? Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward
in heaven for in the same way they persecuted the
prophet who came before you." (Matthew 5:11) One of
those prophets was Nehemiah and God will protect you
against slander just like He protected Nehemiah.
3. Work in
spite of danger.
"One day I went to the house of Shemaiah, and he said,
let's meet in the house of God, in fact inside the
temple." He meant by that "in the Holy of Holies". "And
let's close the doors because men are coming by night
to kill you, Nehemiah." Nehemiah said, "Should a man
like me run away? Should a man like me hide in the
temple? I will not go." (Nehemiah 6:10) Well, what are
they doing? They're trying to scare him. They say,
"Nehemiah, there's a hit man out there and he's got a
contract on your life, and the best place for you to
hide is inside the Holy of Holies. The bad guys won't
follow you in there. First of all, only the priests
were allowed into the Holy of Holies, but these enemies
of Nehemiah wanted him to break that law and he would
be guilty of the death penalty.
But even more than that, Nehemiah knew that he was
being set up to look like a coward. The people would be
able to say, "What kind of a leader do we have? He's
running and hiding." Nehemiah said "I realize that God
did not send them, but Tobiah and Sanballat have hired
them to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by
doing this, and then they would give me a bad name and
discredit me." (v. 12) Oh, I like that. Should a man
like me run and hide. He's not being egotistical there.
He's saying, "Look, I'm a leader and God has chosen me.
God has commissioned me. I'm responsible for all these
people. I can't just run and hide in the face of
danger." Nehemiah remembered who he was. He knew his
own God-given character. Because of that, he could
remain strong. The Bible says that our enemy, Satan,
prowls around like a roaring lion just looking for
someone to devour, looking for you and looking for me.
You will be able to withstand the devil if you know who
you are and if you remember that you are God's child.
If you are a Christian, you wear the name of Christ.
You have put Him on in baptism and you wear His name.
Christ died for you. That is your identity. He also
God helps you withstand the Devil.
1. He gives you a
compelling purpose in life.
You know the game Trivial Pursuit; it's kind of a fun
thing. You sit around and answer questions about
meaningless things. It does describe a lot of people's
lives. They are just in a trivial pursuit. The Bible
clearly says that the Christian life is not to be that way.
"Great lives are produced by a commitment to a great
cause." They said, "Nehemiah, stop what you are doing and
come down off that wall and come meet with us." What did he
say? "Look, I'm doing a great project. Why should I come
down? I'm involved with something great." Do you have a
great project in your life? Do you have a compelling
purpose that motivates you every day? Again, great people
are ordinary people who are committed to a great cause.
That cause draws them out of themselves and makes them
better than they could be on their own. Jesus gives us our
purpose. Several times, Jesus was asked what is the most
important thing. "An expert in the law tested Him with the
question, 'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in
all the law?' Jesus said, 'Love the Lord your God with all
your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.'
That's the first and greatest commandment. 'And the second
is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and
the prophets hang on these two commands.'" (Matthew 22)
Jesus said. That is called the great commandment.
A few chapters later, Jesus is about to ascend to the
Father, but He tells His disciples, "All authority in
Heaven and on earth has been given to me, therefore, go and
make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name
of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching
them to obey everything that I have commanded you."
(Matthew 28) There is nothing better that you can devote
your life to than the great commandment and the great
commission. These things last forever! They are our
compelling purposes- love God, love people, tell people the
gospel, and disciple them. I challenge you not to be on the
sidelines of the Christian life watching others. Take
ownership of this purpose for your own life.
2. God gives you a
Did you notice that every time Nehemiah's enemies tried to
trap him, he sensed it? He could smell a trap a mile away.
He had incredible perception, discernment and wisdom.
Nehemiah had a spiritual radar that enabled him to
withstand his enemies. Now, how do you get that? God gives
it to you. But you do have to ask Him for it. James talked
about how our faith is tested sometimes and how we're going
to go through trials. "If any of you lack wisdom, he should
ask God who gives generously without showing favoritism and
it will be given to him." (James 1:5) Do you have that
relationship? How is your spiritual sensitivity? Do you
know God's word well enough to know a trap when it comes
3. God calls us to
That's right: continual prayer. The Bible says, "Pray
without ceasing." Nehemiah prayed at every turn. Anything
that came up, Nehemiah's first response to that situation
was to pray, to ask God for the strength. Jesus was the
same way and He told His disciples to be the same way. In
Luke 18:1, Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them
that they should always pray and not give up. So how is
your prayer life?
4. God calls us to
a courageous persistence.
Nehemiah kept on hanging in there no matter what came. He
said, "I'm not going to run away because God is with me.
Satan is the one who tries to tempt people to run away when
the going gets tough. He tempts people to run away from
God. He tempts people to run away from their marriages when
the going gets tough. He tempts people to run out of
ministry, to run away from reality and into some addiction
or some sin. The devil wants you to run, but God's will for
Christians is persistence even in the face of defamation,
danger, or distractions.
Paul said, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at
the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give
up." (Galatians 6:9) So the question is: how persistent are
you in doing God's will? Do you just obey the Lord when
it's convenient? Or have you so committed your life to Him
that even in times of danger you will do what He wants you
to do. Even in times of hardship, you are there for Him.
Nehemiah had that commitment and he spread it to all of the
people for they finished the wall.
"When our enemies heard about this (the fact that the wall
was done), all the surrounding nations were afraid and
disheartened." (Nehemiah 6:16) Beforehand they were trying
to make God's people afraid, but now that the wall is
finished and Jerusalem is once more a fortified city, then
they are afraid. Nehemiah said, "They are afraid because
they realize that this work had been done by our God."
Isn't that great? They knew that God had done that work.
Now there was another building project in the Old Testament
that God didn't bless. In fact, God stirred it up. Do you
remember following the flood the people attempted to build
the Tower of Babel? God did not let that building project
go forward. Why? Because the people said, "Look how great
we are. Look how much we can do. We can build the tower to
Heaven." God didn't like that conceit so He crushed their
effort. But, God did the work through Nehemiah and through
the people because they focused on Him.
I wonder if those around us can look at us and say, "All
that they are doing, and they are doing because God is
there. God is with them." Is that obvious? Oh, I hope so! I
hope others can say, "God dwells there and works through
them." Do we have that faith? Are we attempting anything
that requires utter dependence on God? Do we have that kind
of faith? If we do, then the world will know that God is
here in this place. People can see if you are focused on
God. If we are then our testimony about our God will be
great. I hope that your life is characterized by a great
faith in God. Lesson #1331
September 14, 1997