There is a lying and conniving enemy opposed to the work of Nehemiah and the Jewish people in Jerusalem. One can read it literally as well as spiritually. How do you approach this topic of spiritual opposition in life? ◊
Most people believe in the presence of good and evil. But if you mention the demonic or the spiritual realm then many will change the subject or dismiss it (or you) as crazy talk that’s best left to scary movie makers or priests.
I’ve always been fascinated with how Jesus spoke of evil and the Devil, specifically of Satan and the demonic:
- Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:23)
- “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44)
- Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (Matthew 4:10)
While secularists respect Jesus as the good Jewish teacher, they might find it odd that the brilliant Jesus would fall for such foolishness as believing in the Devil and the demonic. But given who Jesus claimed to be (God), and what He did (rose from the dead), and that all of Scripture points to Him as the world’s Redeemer, and how Jesus impacted all of human history since then with the founding of Christianity, one might put more stock in this topic of the demonic and spiritual realm.
Maybe there is more to it than we think.
The Spiritual Premise of Nehemiah
Recall the premise here is that the Book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament can be read as the historic rebuilding of the protective walls around decimated and vulnerable Jerusalem in 445 BC, or it can be seen symbolically as the psychological rebuilding of the human personality after one has recognized their brokenness and need for relationship with God.
Either way, it’s about God’s restoration plan. More deeply, it’s about God’s loving human restoration process.
The spiritual insight here comes from Jack Hayford’s late-1970s/early-1980s Bible study teaching on the Book of Nehemiah which I listened to over and over again 40 years ago. He later put it in a book entitled Rebuilding the Real You.1 As stated earlier in this series of posts, this parallel picture of the Holy Spirit manifested in Nehemiah, a brave, loving, strong and relentless man, is an uncanny yet accessible model of how God’s Holy Spirit is our Helper or Comforter, referenced as such by Jesus Christ, Himself:
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” (John 16:7-8)
And Nehemiah’s name literally means comforted or God comforts.
The Enemy’s Schemes in Nehemiah 6
The pagan people living in the surrounding region of Jerusalem are led by Sanballat, Tobiah, and Gesham. These are evil communities who hate the Hebrews and their God. They are not pleased at all that the Jews have returned to Jerusalem and have rebuilt their temple and now Nehemiah has rallied the people to rebuild and fortify the protective walls around the city.
Here at the beginning of Nehemiah chapter 6, note how they scheme with lies and false claims and try to lure Nehemiah out to do him great harm. Nehemiah rebuffs them and seeks strength from God:
When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates— Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.”
But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.
Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter in which was written:
“It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.”
I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.”
They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”
But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”
One day I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was shut in at his home. He said, “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you—by night they are coming to kill you.”
But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me. (Nehemiah 6:1-13)
Nevertheless, the work continued and the final phase of completion of the walls was done in 52 days.2
…So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God. (Nehemiah 6:15-16)
Standing Up Against Evil
We are living in physical and spiritual realms. The power of prayer is real against the powers of darkness through the overwhelming power of God manifested here today in our earthly realm via the promised Helper, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.
Many Christians underestimate that Holy Spirit power and the impact of prayer. Certainly the secular world does. The demonic anti-Christian world thrives on the world underestimating and underutilizing that power.
We are all susceptible. Every day we are bombarded psychologically through spiritual forces of good (God) and evil (Satan/demonic). As Nehemiah models for us, we need and can gain strength through God and boldly oppose with great confidence our spiritual enemy who is relentless in a quest to destroy what work God is accomplishing through His people in this dark and oppressed world.
Have hope. Be of great courage. We’re on the winning side.
Do you recognize the influence and impact of evil around you? How do you combat it?
When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.. – Nehemiah 6:16
1 Rebuilding the Real You – God’s Pathway for Personal Restoration, by Jack.W. Hayford, Regal Books, 1986.
2 Note: According to Josephus, it took two years and four months to rebuild the walls. Harper Study Bible notes, Nehemiah, 6:15, Dr. Harold Lindsell, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI.
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