This sermon is number 9 in a series of 15
Building For God - Part 9
"The Final And Most Fearsome Assault Of The Enemy"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2004 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
"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;) 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. 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? Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner. Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand; 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. 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. Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days. And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God" - and we finish our reading at verse 16.
The title I have given the message this morning is: 'The Final And Most Fearsome Assault of The Enemy' - the final and most fearsome assault of the enemy. Now we read together, and we will look at it in more detail, a very very encouraging verse in verse 15 which said this: 'So the wall was finished'. That is an encouragement, isn't it? After we have followed all the opposition that Nehemiah and his forces faced as they tried to do the work of God, we are encouraged to realise that the work was finished and God was glorified. But what I want you chiefly to notice this morning is that before it was finished there was the final and most fearsome assault of the enemy.
I don't know whether you've found this out about people in the life that you live, but there's just some people who can't take good news at all - good news has to have some kind of bad news mixed in among it, and every silver lining has to have a cloud. They are called, commonly, pessimists. I believe these people, and I suppose there's a bit of it in all of us, they feel more secure when things are going wrong because perhaps they're more familiar when things are going wrong. They like to see things fail, not succeed, because it confirms their prophecies of doom that they love to make, and they delight when they come true.
We are told within the Scriptures as believers in 1 Corinthians 13 verse 6 that we, as God's people, are not to rejoice in iniquity but to rejoice in the truth. We as Christians ought not to be pessimists in that kind, but it ought to be no surprise to us that the enemy loves to be in such matters. He loves to turn good news into bad news. He loves, when he hears about good news, to make sure that in some way he can destroy, he can thwart the work of God. This is what we have in verse 1 of chapter 6, if you look down at it with me: '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; 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'.
They had heard that God's work was not only going on, but it was almost near completion, God was going to get the victory - and in spite of all the internal strife that was created by the believers themselves, and the external strife that these three - Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem - could arouse up within the people and the nations round about, God's work was coming to fruition. It's interesting, just in passing, that in chapter 5 that we looked at last week, when God's people were involved in the internal strife among themselves, we hear little of these three men, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem - because Satan didn't need to bother with God's people when they were causing enough trouble among themselves.
But you remember we saw last week that Nehemiah was able, by the power of God, to sort out these internal problems, and the work progressed again. But the evil one couldn't leave it at that, his ultimate goal was that the work of God should stop - therefore he pushes these three people again to the fore, unto the stage, Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem. Now there are some lessons, many lessons, in this book - some we will see this morning - but one of which is simply this: the devil always should be expected on the scene when things are going well. Now that could turn you into a pessimist if you're always looking for the devil, and when something goes well you're thinking: 'Well, I wonder what's round the corner?'. But although we're not to be pessimists, we ought to be realistic about this fact: the devil doesn't like it when the work of God goes well.
Those who are in leadership need to understand this as well, because the position of leadership, whatever it may be - whether it's in Sunday School, or youth work, or in an oversight capacity - in a sense it's a Catch-22 situation and scenario, where you can't win. If things are not going well you get dejected, and when things are going well you get the devil. Spurgeon used to say: 'Satan never kicks a dead horse'. Another has said: 'He who would closely follow God will be closely followed by the devil'. Now please note that here at this point in Nehemiah's work of the building of the wall, they're not starting, they're not at the halfway stage where we saw we can really get dejected and discouraged as we realise there's half of the work still to do, we don't seem to dwell on the fact that half of it's already done, but we're now almost at the point of completion - and it's at that point of success, and of apparent victory, that we as believers and God's people can let the guard down.
It is at that point that we need to beware. We need to beware that when the work is almost done, that is the time, perhaps, when we are most vulnerable to Satan's attacks. Let me illustrate it to you like this: several years ago I was on a United Beach Missions team that was right at the very bottom of the tip of Ireland, it was the furthermost place I could have gone to, and I happened to be preaching on the Sunday so I drove there on the Monday. I did a very unwise thing, getting up at six in the morning or something - that wasn't the unwise thing - but then travelling down all the way in one go without a stop to a place called Onaghincha (sp?). We had a tiring week, as anyone will know in Beach Missions, and then I decided to come home as usual on the Saturday, and I had a car of people with me. We travelled non-stop to get home, continually, and we were almost home - coming up the A1, the Newry to Belfast road - and just coming up to that Lisburn/Sprucefield roundabout I fell asleep. If it wasn't for the fellow on the left-hand side that pulled the wheel away we would have all gone into the reservation. But the fact of the matter is - what I want to illustrate to you is that we were almost home. The likelihood, psychologically, was that I dropped my guard. I wasn't so concerned about keeping awake now because I was almost home, what was round about me was familiar territory and I knew how many miles there were - almost 20 or so, just to get home - and the guard went down.
This is a principle throughout the word of God, Paul said 'Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed, lest he fall'. You can look throughout all the characters of the Bible and see this in their lives. When was it that Bathsheba and David fell into adultery? It was at a time in David's life that he had never, to that point, experienced defeat in battle. He had never known that, he had been successful all along spiritually, militarily, religiously, in his reign over the nation politically - yet at that point, at his strongest if you like, he was his weakest. The devil saw that, and he fell.
You see it in the prophet Jonah - when did he fall into self-pity and sat underneath the gourd? It was after the greatest revival, perhaps, that has ever swept across a city, the city of Nineveh - but here is the prophet dejected. We know the reason why, but nevertheless it was after a great victory. Joseph, you remember when he received that temptation from Potiphar's wife to sleep with her, when was it? It was soon after his promotion from Mr Potiphar, where he was granted charge and a free run of the house. Right after that the devil came in. You can see it, believe it or not, in the life of our Lord Jesus. He is baptised in the Jordan, and the Holy Ghost comes down, you read about it many a time - and then the heavens open and God pronounces this of His Son: 'Here is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased'. It is after this, the next chapter in Matthew's gospel, that we read these words: 'Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil'. Job: behind the scenes God and Satan are conversing. God says to Satan: 'Have you considered my servant Job, that there isn't anybody like him in all the earth?'. Immediately after that, a victory, a conquering success of testimony, the devil's testing comes.
Just before they cut the ribbon to the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah faces the final and most fearsome assault of all that the enemy could muster up. Could I just fire a warning shot across all the people here in the Iron Hall? We need to beware, because in many modern building projects in churches today the devil often gets in, particularly at a time of success - apparent success. I hope that we will not let our guard down, because the devil's attacks are always well timed - and here we see in Nehemiah's life that they are intensified, the enemy's activity is at fever pitch, it is his last-ditch attempt to sabotage the work of God in Nehemiah's life. But what I also want you to see this morning from our study is not only that it's the final and most fearsome assault of Satan, but I want you to see the exemplary attitude and approach of God's man, Nehemiah - how he faced the most fearsome assault of his foe. That approach and that attitude ultimately saw the work of God completed.
You might think that the final three foes that Nehemiah faced were Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem - but those are only the personalities that Satan put in front of his methods used to assault and sabotage God's work. The three of them can be found, first of all: one, in verses 1 to 4 - compromise. They tempted Nehemiah to compromise upon his principles. Then number two in verses 5 to 9 - they tried slander to bring reproach to the testimony of God's man, Nehemiah. Then thirdly in verses 10 to 14, when that slander failed they tried intimidation - they tried, with threats, to make him fearful.
Now let me share four things with you this morning, the first is this: he was not masked to their methods. Nehemiah was not masked to their methods. I want to look firstly briefly at the methods that they used. Here's the first method: there was politeness and plausibility in their approaches. Even though it was very evil, they shrouded it and dressed up in politeness and plausibility, but Nehemiah had the perceptiveness to see through it all. Look at the first compromise in verses 1 and 2. In verses 1 and 2 we have a very polite invitation that came from these three, Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem. They asked him to come and meet with them, verse 2: 'together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono'. But Nehemiah perceptively saw: 'they thought to do me mischief'. '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? Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner'.
A polite invitation: 'Look, let's just talk about this Nehemiah, don't be so intransigent, don't be so dogmatic in principle, let's come out of the city a wee bit to a neutral piece of ground in some wee village called Ono, and we'll just talk about the thing like grown men'. Four times the invitation came like that, and four times Nehemiah says: 'I'm not going, no!'. Now, if anybody reacted like that towards us, we'd probably say: 'What an ungrateful, intransigent, unreasonable, inflexible individual he is! Can't even talk about the thing! Four times I've come to him and asked a request to meet him'. But what you need to see about Nehemiah was that he could see through it all, he had the perceptiveness - or we would call it in the New Testament, the spiritual discernment to see that, as Paul says, Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
Now it's good to be polite, and it's good to be plausible - but politeness and plausibility does not equate with spirituality. We must realise that, and if you've an ounce of perception you will know that already. Nehemiah's reason for not going was not only that he saw through it, but in verse 3 he says: 'I am doing a great work, I cannot come down: why should the work suffer for me going to pow-wow with you about something that I'm already convicted and convinced about? What I'm doing is right, and the work must go on'. In other words he was more concerned about the work of God than he was about his own reputation.
Now it's not that we, in some ignorant way, as some do, disregard what people think of us totally, and we don't any longer worry about relating to others in a polite or plausible manner - that's not what we're saying here. What we're saying here is this: he got his priorities right, and the chief and foremost thing that mattered to Nehemiah was the work of God, the glory of God, and that the work should go on. If people thought ill of him because of that, well then too bad, that's their problem. There was going to be no compromise in Nehemiah's life.
It's very strange today that many in the work of God seem to think that the work of God is their reputation, building little empires around their own ministry under their own name, lining their own pockets at times - tele-evangelists and all the rest, but we need to guard against it ourselves. The work of God is not our reputation, it is what John the Baptist said when he said: 'He must increase, and I must decrease'. There was no compromise for Nehemiah.
We see secondly, the second method that they used was slander in verses 5 and 6. Nehemiah says that there was a letter, the fifth time, an open letter in this man's hand. The words written in it were: '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. In other words, 'Nehemiah, we have heard from the nations and Gashmu', or Geshem, which is probably what that really means, one of these three, 'who is a very reputable source', that's the inference, everybody believes Geshem, 'he says it's true that you only came into Jerusalem to build the walls to set yourself up as king against Artaxerxes back in Persia. You're wanting to build a little kingdom around yourself. It's reported among the nations, Geshem says it is true, the ball is in your court now Nehemiah - you prove it wrong!'.
It was an official letter, it was an open letter, many of us have seen open letters just like this one. It even appears, as we read it, to be quite measured; and the claims seem, as we read, to be substantiated; the accusations seem to be named - but Nehemiah was able to see through all the sham. He could see the hypocrisy behind it, and he realised that the method of this letter was to persuade people of blatant lies. Now, to the naked eye, what is to say that Nehemiah hadn't just come to build the wall to make Jerusalem a stronghold again, and a power, and to defeat their enemies, and to take over the world and the throne away from the king - and maybe even Nehemiah take it himself. There was nothing to say that that motive wasn't in the breast of Nehemiah, and here it's substantiated by Geshem and these nations, whoever they are - what's to say it wasn't true? Simply this: it wasn't true! That's why you should never judge motivation in anybody's heart, because you cannot see as God can see.
Slander reported among the nations, we'll look into that little bit later - but here's the third method that Nehemiah was not masked to, in verse 10: intimidation. There was this man in verse 10, Shemaiah, who was shut in it says. Nehemiah visited him, and he asked him: 'Look, you come with me, your life is under threat, and they're going to come and kill you tonight. You come with me into the temple, and we'll shut the doors and you'll be saved'. So he was trying to intimidate Nehemiah, saying that they were coming to him that very night, and going to kill him lying in his bed. Apparently this man Shemaiah had a special prophecy, a revelation from God to say that there was a threat on Nehemiah's life - and he seems here to be protecting Nehemiah from death: 'Let's take refuge in the temple, they're coming for you tonight'.
What did Nehemiah say in verse 11? 'I will not go', I love this man! 'I will not go' - he recognised that they were from the enemy. He didn't fall for the compromise, he didn't fall for the slander, he didn't fall for the intimidation - you might say: 'Where did he get such perception?'. Well, it's simply this: you recognise a counterfeit when you know and are familiar with the genuine. Just like those who are able to spot the forged pound notes, they don't study the forgeries, the counterfeits, they study the real McCoy - and then they know that if there's a deviation from that, it is falsehood.
This is what we have here, Nehemiah - we found it already when he pointed out the transgressions of the law and the people's greediness last week - he knew God's word, one, but two: he knew the God of the word in prayer. Right throughout this book he's consulting God, whereas the people lacked that knowledge of God's word, and lacked that knowledge of God - as Hosea said: 'My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, because thou hast rejected knowledge'. As Paul later says in the New Testament, Satan got advantage over them because they were ignorant of Satan's devices - but Nehemiah was not ignorant of Satan's methods!
I wonder are we? Sometimes people can be very polite and plausible toward us, but very few of us see through the sham, see through the hypocrisy, and even see to the intent that is behind it all. It doesn't mean that you don't turn the other cheek, you do, but God has given us a brain - and sometimes we don't use it sanctified by the Holy Spirit! Now look at what he perceives, this is what I want you to see secondly - not only he was not masked to their method, but he was aware of their intent. He was aware of what was behind it all. Sometimes in counselling situations the secret to delivering someone through, particularly a mental problem, is to show them as a Christian the source of the problems that they're having - in other words, where they come from. At times, just by simply realising the source is Satan, the evil one, or demonic forces, right away the pipeline is cut from the power of those troubles, because you realise where they're coming from, and why they're coming, and what they're trying to do.
Do you understand what I'm saying? It's what the Lord said: 'Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free'. Nehemiah saw the truth - he wasn't masked by their methods, because he understood the intent of the enemy to rob him of the victory, and to get an advantage over him. Now here's a question for you: do you see through the methods of the evil one right to the intent of why he's doing it? Why he wants you to compromise? Why he slanders Christians in this day and age? Why we, as many people in this world, even as believers, are intimidated by fear?
Well here's four reasons, at least in Nehemiah's life, that I think can be mirrored in ours. In verse 3 he says quite plainly that even though they wanted to meet him for a pow-wow in Ono, he says that 'they wanted to do me evil'. Simply that, that's all Nehemiah could see: they wanted to do me evil. One: the enemy wants to destroy you. Do you realise, as a Christian - sometimes we think it's all about making daisy-chains and having a nice time as believers - we have an enemy who seeks to devour us, and destroy us, and destroy our work! The tragedy is that he's not terribly interested in most believers, because most believers have stopped that work for themselves. You remember the sons of Scheva in Acts chapter 19 verse 15, and they tried to cast out demons in the name of the Lord Jesus, and the demons retorted back: 'Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?'. Satan wants to destroy us.
In verses 5 and 6 this letter, this open letter, Satan wants to discredit us. He wanted to destroy the testimony of God in Nehemiah's life, and many of us have read and seen lives wrecked through open letters like the very one that we have in chapter 6 of Nehemiah. It is tragic to me today that the pet sin of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ is the very sin that Satan seems to keep as his last bullet, the sin of slander, the sin of the rumour mill! Can I point out to you two characteristics of something that is slander and rumour from this passage, that is very clear that we should reject anything to do with it? One: the source is never declared. The source is never declared, even if the source exists. In verse 6 it says that the nations, it is reported among the nations, and Geshem testifies to it, that you're only coming to build the walls to make a kingdom for yourself. Well here's my question that I feel shows that the source is never declared: who is reporting this? Who is reporting it? Look at it, look at it in verse 6: 'It is reported' - who reported it? It's not mentioned! It's reported among the nations, who are the nations? He doesn't tell us! Geshem is not to be believed, because he has it in for Nehemiah right from the very beginning - but rumours are never substantiated, the source is never declared.
Here's a second characteristic: rumours have exaggeration and inaccuracy right throughout it all. Remember what I said earlier? To the naked eye, who was to know what Nehemiah's motivation was? But God knew his heart, but what they did with these rumours was exaggerate - 'He's building these walls to build a kingdom'. They were inaccurate, they were non-factual, ultimately they were lies. Listen to what Charles Swindoll says about rumours in the life of believers: 'I am personally convinced that the number one enemy of Christian unity is the tongue. It is not drink, it is not drugs, it is not poor homes, it is not inflation, it is not the television, it is not even a bad church programme, it's the tongue'. Of the seven things in the book of Proverbs that God hates, three relate to the tongue - and do you know what the Bible teaches? Even if something is true about another brother, if you pass it on as gossip not to help him but to hinder him, it is a sin! Often we pull down other's reputations because we think it sets ourselves up higher than them. Do you see if who you're talking to is a person of perception? They will discern and see through the sham of it all that shows the lack of spirituality in your own heart.
The enemy wanted to destroy him, he wanted to discredit him, thirdly he wanted to defile him in verse 10. Shemaiah: 'Come on into the temple with me, you'll be safe there. We'll close the doors and everything will be okay. They're coming for you tonight, you better get in'. Now listen: Numbers, which Nehemiah knew, taught that only priests could go in. So if Nehemiah was to go in in the sense which Shemaiah meant, he would be transgressing God's law, he would be cursed because of it, he would lose credibility in the eyes of the people - and you know the rest, the wall would not be built.
Secondly verse 10 says that Shemaiah was shut in. Now we don't know this for a fact, but that statement 'shut in' can often mean that there was something physically wrong with him. Maybe he was ill, he maybe had a disability - and you know that the Old Testament law taught that nobody with a disability could enter into the presence of God in the temple. So not only would Nehemiah be defiling himself, but effectively he would be defiling the sanctity of God's temple by bringing Shemaiah along with him - and Shemaiah knew it! Do you realise that the enemy wants to destroy you? Do you realise that the enemy wants to discredit your testimony? Do you realise that the enemy wants to defile you with sin? How many of us, time and time again, walk into the trap that the enemy sets for us because we don't realise his intent? Who is behind it? Sometimes I even think we believe we can disobey God's word and it not affect our witness. Here is a prime example: if Nehemiah had gone and sinned as Shemaiah tempted him, the work of God would have stopped. The work of God is affected by everything in our lives that is defiled.
The enemy wanted to destroy him, discredit him, defile him, and then in verse 10 again: deter him. He says: 'You better get out of your bed tonight, Nehemiah, and come to this temple because the hit squad is coming for you - the boys in the balaclavas, with the baseball bats - and you're going to get it tonight. They're coming tonight to kill you!. Believe it or not, God's people in the work of God, and even in our lives, and people in the world - not just saints but ordinary sinners - can use threats to stop the work of God. Sometimes they go like this: 'What will people think of you if you do this?', or, 'if you say this? What will happen to your reputation if you do this?'. This has been an age old ploy of the devil - do you remember what the Jews said to Pilate when he was thinking of letting the Lord Jesus go? 'Thou art not Caesar's friend if you do this'.
Emotional blackmail - Nehemiah could have thought: 'What will people think if I turn these apparently gracious invitations, and very polite letters, and approaches and all the rest, if I turn them down what will they think of me?'. Well, here's what I want you to see thirdly: he was resolute for right. Not only was he not masked to their methods, and was aware of their intent, but he was resolute for the right. Here it is in three points - one: he was resolved in his conviction. Verse 2: 'Come on Nehemiah, meet us in Ono', and - you'll like this one - he said: 'O no!' to Ono. 'I'm not going to Ono - why should I come down and the work stop? I'm doing a great work!'. He was resolved in his conviction, resolute to do right. He wasn't prepared to go out of Jerusalem, the holy city, to neutral ground outside the city. That is what the enemy wants us to do, wherever we are, through discouragement and opposition and despair he wants us to climb down from a great work and go to neutral ground, and dilute and ignore our convictions and our principles. You women drivers will know - I think you will know this - that when you're in neutral you're not going anywhere. When you're on neutral ground, you're not going anywhere for God. So in verses 3 and 4 he says: 'I'm doing a great work, I can't come down' - four times they said it, four times he replied, it didn't matter: 'I'm not going'. He was resolved in his conviction.
Here's the second thing: he was secure in his conscience. Verse 8, all this that they wrote about him in this open letter, he was secure in his conscience. He didn't think: 'I wonder is there some truth in that? I wonder am I really doing it for this reason?'. Maybe he could have thought: 'I wonder will people believe what's written in this letter about me?'. What did he do? He told them point-blank 'It's a lie, and it's out of your head!'. Their ploy was to weaken Nehemiah by these repeated accusations, but Nehemiah was secure in his own conscience - do you know why? Because he was pure in his own heart. Let me tell you: it doesn't matter what anybody says about you, as long as you're pure before God in your own heart, you can be secure in your conscience.
Remember what the apostle said in Acts 24 and verse 16: 'Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men' - and because of that the apostle didn't fear anybody but God, and he had that holy boldness that you find right throughout the Scriptures. He knew before God what was truth and what was error. One: he was resolved in his conviction; two: he was secure in his conscience - and thirdly: he was unintimidated under threat. Verse 11, unintimidated under threat, look at it: 'I said' - after Shemaiah said they're coming to kill you tonight, you better come with me into the temple - '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'.
'Should a man like me flee? I'm not going'. Winston Churchill, that great war hero, once delivered a speech to the Harrow School. It went like this, listen or you'll miss it: 'Never give in. Never, never, never, never, never give in'. That was Nehemiah, he was resolute for right, therefore fourthly and finally he was successful in his service. Verse 15, isn't it wonderful: 'So the wall was finished'. Now don't misunderstand this portion of Scripture, or the character of Nehemiah - he was not invincible. I'm sure that if he was human, and I believe he was, that he had times of dejection - but the point about this is simply that he was not ultimately overcome by his opposition. He might have been down at times, but he wasn't knocked out. What distinguished Nehemiah is what he did with the opposition that he faced. It was his defining moment when he decided to take all his cares, and to turn them into prayers! At that God gave him the victory.
We read his prayer in verse 9, after this letter came out, he said at the very end of verse 9: 'Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands'. I need divine strength, and if you're facing the opposition of the world, the flesh and the devil, and even at times of the church, you need to come into the presence of God and plead His strength. In verse 14 what did he do? Did he go and try to fight his enemies with the arm of flesh? He brought them all to God: 'My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works'. In other words, he put God into the scene by his prayer, he put God between him and his enemies in his supplications.
Do you realise, my friend, that prayer ultimately puts God into the frame of your life - and I say that very reverently. When we do that, when we bring God into the situation the result is that the work of God will be finished, and it was finished in 52 days. The wall was built, and further to that: not only is God's work finished, but the tables are turned! What am I talking about? Well, read verse 16: 'And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God'. Let me read another translation: when they saw that the work was finished, they were afraid, and they lost their self-confidence because they realised that this work had been done with the help of God.
He was not masked to their methods of compromised standard, intimidation. He was aware of their intent to destroy him, to discredit him, to defile him, to deter him. He was resolute for right, he was resolved in his conviction, he was secure in his conscience, he was unintimidated under threat - and therefore he was successful in his service, and the tables are turned. Those who tried to make him fear were afraid, and their work foundered.
Isn't it tremendous that even when Satan comes in the most final and fearsome attacks on our lives, and on our work and testimony for God; if we commit ourselves to God and turn our cares into prayers, we will overcome and our enemies will falter?
Father, we acknowledge that we face a fearsome foe in Satan. We read within Your word that he is a roaring lion, seeking to devour us - but we are also told: 'Whom resist, steadfast in the faith'. Lord, we stand upon this solid ground of Thy promises in Thy word, and we pray that You will make us overcomers. We ask, our Father, that You would help us to say within our hearts and from our mouths, from the vantage point of wherever You have placed us, 'I am doing a great work, I cannot come down to you'. Oh Lord, give us that conquering, courageous spirit that we need to never ever give in to the enemy. Bless us now, we pray, heal those who are wounded in the battle, help those who have feeble knees and whose arms weigh down heavy. Give us another boost of energy to go into the forefront of the battle, and face the enemy, so that the tide may be turned and he may flee - for in the name of Jesus we have the victory. In whose name we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the ninth tape in his 'Building For God' series, entitled "The Final And Most Fearsome Assault Of The Enemy" - Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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