I love the book of Nehemiah–always have–every reading! “Nehemiah?” you respond with raised eyebrows. Yep, Nehemiah. Why? First, thanks to my good pastor’s attention to detail and delight with God’s word, the book lays out a clear plan for accomplishing a God-given goal. Second, Sanballat and Tobiah personify the devil, giving a much more understandable view of his tactics.
To give you a skeletal bit of background, Nehemiah, serving as cup-bearer for King Artaxerxes, got word that Jerusalem’s walls were broken down and her gates burned up. He also heard that a few of the Jews who had escaped the 800 mile exile to Babylon at King Nebuchadnezzar’s hand, years earlier, were living in Jerusalem under great affliction and reproach. Nehemiah’s heart broke. After four months of mourning, fasting, and praying, he received inspiration from God. He decided to do what he could do to remedy Jerusalem’s problem. Miraculously, he received permission from Artaxerxes to take a leave of absence, all the necessary permission papers, and a palace escort to Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 2:5-9) There was no turning back.
It was upon entering into ramshackled Jerusalem, that Nehemiah began to employ the plan which would accomplish his goal–rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls after years and years of neglect. For three days he secretly, by night, and privately, surveyed the outside of the city to assess the extent of the problem. (Nehemiah 2:11-16) Then, he shared his God-given vision and explained his plan to the priests, nobles, and rulers. (Nehemiah 2:17-18) Finally, he enlisted, inspired and mobilized those who were like-minded concerning God’s desire to restore His beloved city. (Nehemiah 3) I can imagine Nehemiah uttering those now infamous words, “Let’s roll!” (Spoiler alert–under Nehemiah’s leadership, the wall was finished in only 52 days–a mind-boggling, miraculous accomplishment!) (Nehemiah 6:15)
Here now, as the plan of God takes shape and takes flight, is where the devil reveals his age-old, time tested tactics through Sanballat and Tobiah, the servant. (Nehemiah 2:10) His hindrances follow the same pattern: laughing at and belittling those involved in God’s work (Nehemiah 2:19), then angrily mocking and intimidating the workers (Nehemiah 4:1), next resorting to livid, fear inducing threats of bodily harm (Nehemiah 4:7-9), spewing lies (Nehemiah 6:8), and finally plausible sounding distractions when all else fails. (Nehemiah 10:13) Did you catch the bottom line? Mind games! The devil is notorious for playing dirty.
If God has called you to His work, take heart and consider following Nehemiah’s example. It worked. Keep in mind that you have an enemy, the devil. (1 Peter 5:8) Since the beginning of time he has worked to thwart God’s moves–all of them. You will be no exception be prepared, not surprised. Count on his hindrances and oppositions as my pastor so earnestly warns. And remember: your God is faithful and able.
What God-ordained goal or mission has He laid on your heart? Will you follow Nehemiah’s example to accomplish God’s goal?
(Read all of Nehemiah and check out the “rest of the story”.)