Have you ever felt like someone is literally whispering in your ear that you are a loser or a failure? How do you respond? How do you defend yourself from spiritual bullying? ◊
Have you ever felt vulnerable and exposed? Perhaps as you worked your way back from some addiction or setback? Did you feel susceptible to criticism that just might keep you buried in your corner?
Do you ever feel like someone is whispering in your ear that you are a loser or will fail?
Such were the people of Judah who were now living in the reconstructed rubble of their once famous city, Jerusalem. It’s been almost 150 years since their city was destroyed in 586 BC and the people were taken in captive exile by the Babylonians and scattered across the outer regions of Judah.
After 70 years they were allowed to return and rebuild their holy temple on the precious site where it once stood. The contrite people reestablished their relationship with God. The temple was completed and worship practices as communicated from God to Moses about 1000 years earlier were reinstated in Jerusalem.
Nevertheless, the city and people were vulnerable to outsiders and their enemy surrounding the city. There were no protective walls that shielded them and defined their city and identity as a people.
Psychological Spiritual Bullying
See if you can relate to this scenario:
A person is raised in a secular or Christian home but comes to a conscious belief in God as an adult and accepts in faith that Jesus is the Son of God and has died a substitute death on the cross 2000 years ago for their sins.
They now believe they are “saved.”
This person may attend church, pray, try to read the Bible, and work hard to be an overall good person. They may even marry and are trying to raise their family in a Christian home.
Yet this person struggles with anger, or fear, or insecurity in their job, or is envious of friends and work peers, or has an alcohol problem they’re trying to work through, or a porn addiction, or had made some career, investment, or relationship mistakes.
And sometimes they feel like God has abandoned them. Or God is mad at them. Or that they are a failure and a bad person and certainly a bad Christian.
In fact, they may think, why bother? God has probably given up on them as a giant failure. Why even try? They feel like a loser.
And it is as if someone is constantly in their ear taunting and reminding them they are such a hypocrite and a lost cause.
This actually happens to everyone. Whether we know it or not, this is the Christian spiritual psychological battle we all face.
This is What the Enemy Does
Whether you believe it or not, we are spiritual beings with a psychological makeup of experiences and natural proclivities. God has created us and wired us for relationship with Him in spirit, mind, and body. When we consciously re-engage with God and reestablish our spiritual relationship with Him, we must know that we are embarking deep into a spiritual realm of good vs. evil.
God’s Holy Spirit is now with us. The dark and evil around us is thwarted as long as we are under the protective covering of God’s Holy Spirit. God’s power is greater than any dark spiritual forces in this world. We often just don’t know it, remember it, or exercise it.
The Enemy (anti-God spiritual forces, yes, the Devil, Satan, the entire demonic realm) is all around us. We are often not even aware of the threat:
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
This picture of the Enemy is played out through real characters (Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem) in the Book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah himself is a symbol of the Holy Spirit helping the followers of God fight against strong and undermining forces attacking the people’s vulnerabilities.
The Opposition to the Work
The enemies surrounding the city of Jerusalem are furious when they realize the fortified walls are being rebult. They mock and try to discourage the Jews:
When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?”
Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!” (Nehemiah 4:1-3)
What does Nehemiah do? Like the Holy Spirit, he intercedes on the people’s behalf in prayer:
Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders. (Nehemiah 4:4-5)
The people worked on, though they were discouraged. The enemy plotted and Nehemiah countered:
But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.
…our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.”
…Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. …I stood up and said… “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (Nehemiah 4:6-14)
Nehemiah posted guards (like spiritual angels) to support the reconstruction effort in spite of real opposition:
From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.
So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and as workers by day.” Nehemiah 4:15-22)
The Holy Spirit is Our Advocate
Life is hard and spiritually dangerous. We are broken and vulnerable and our Enemy wants to keep us down. Nehemiah gives us a picture of how God has provided us with the Holy Spirit to help and fight our real physical and spiritual battles.
Therefore be wary, be courageous, and be grateful.
Do you understand that the Holy Spirit fights on your behalf?
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 5:12