Nehemiah Week 5:
Pastor Terry Inman
Nehemiah is in the war room hunkered down in a rebuilt lookout tower.
He is pouring over building plans and praying over battle plans. The people worked with all their heart. The wall is half way up. The huge gates are being installed. This is a critical moment for Israel and their enemies.
The resistance was growing—the Arabs, the Ammonites and the men of Ashdod joined Sanballat, and Tobiah. They were furious and conspired violence when they heard the gaps were being closed in the wall. (4.7-8)
Nehemiah’s job description was upgraded—cupbearer, wall-builder—now chief of homeland security. You would think rebuilding the city wall was enough—now he has to defend it.
Satan isn’t that bothered by our good intentions to rebuild our lives. It’s when we make real progress, that His resistance fortifies.
Verbal intimidation wasn’t working. Sanballat’s called them “feeble” (weak, powerless) Jews. They would give up. They would never restore worship. It would take too long. The walls were too broken and burned.
These Jewish survivors’ self-talk wasn’t good. They agreed, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.” (Neh. 4.10) We must turn off the negative music playing in our head and declare what God has to say in His word!
Their pessimistic friends reminded them “ten times over” that Sanballat’s tribe was going to attack from every side. Who are we listening too—God or some worrywart that has bought into fear and failure?
Nehemiah just held another prayer meeting. He knew the battle would be won in heaven-then on earth. Jesus makes that clear. He told his disciples to pray. “Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.
Anything built to last in our personal lives must start in heaven. Any battle waged here has already been won in heaven. As Tim shared last week, Nehemiah answered the threats of violence with a spiritual strategy. They “prayed and posted a guard night and day”! (Neh. 4.9 NIV)
Nehemiah was more than an optimist he was a visionary. He didn’t listen to chatter or even believe what he saw. He listened and looked to heaven.
After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” (Neh.4.14 NIV)
When we take new ground we have to defend what we’ve gained! They all retuned to the wall. Half worked while the other half watched. They all had a tool in one hand, a weapon in the other and a sword at their side.
Tim covered this well last week but let me remind you. Rebuilding is work! You need the right tools! You also need the right weapons! Tools are gifts of the Spirit. Our weapons are spiritual-prayer and the sword of the Spirit!
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 2 Cor. 10.4
Paul compared our armor to that of his Roman prison guard.
“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
Reciting this like a religious mantra will not defeat the enemy. Learning and practicing the meaning of this metaphor is effective! This primarily about protecting our thoughts and feelings with God’s truth.
There are both defensive and offensive weapons listed here...
Belt-truthfulness: Every part of the military outfit is anchored to the belt. The truth is always the best defense against the Father of Lies!
Listen to the truth, tell yourself the truth and tell everyone else the truth!
Breastplate-righteousness: (uprightness) Protect your heart from a lethal stab wound by living right and doing right! It’s His—not our righteousness! (Chris Foth Angel Armor) 2 Cor 6.7 God's power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense.
Boots-peacefulness: (reconciliation) God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Cor 5.19 NIV) Always be ready to promote reconciliation between you, other people and God.
Shield-faithfulness: Put out the burning poison aimed your way with faith not fear. The accuser is Satan. Jesus is the defender! Give him your case!
Helmet-wholeness (salvation) Save your soul, your self, intellect, emotion, and volition (will) with God inspired thinking, feeling, and decision-making.
Sword-revelation: Pierce the enemy’s lies with insight from the scriptures and the revelation gifts of the Holy Spirit. (Prophecy Wisdom Knowledge)
Prayer-intercession “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” (Eph. 6.18 NIV)Nehemiah prays all though this book. He positioned people at the lowest exposed places in the wall.
Where are you most vulnerable? What are you doing to protect your self? Do you have prayer partners? He said, “fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes”
We don’t always know what or how to pray especially in a crisis. The Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
(Rom 8.26-27 NIV)
It’s one thing to fight off external threats, like Sanballat, Tobiah’s and company but Nehemiah CH 5 also introduces some new “internal issues”.
The locals were not treating each other very well.
They were rebuilding the wall and holding off the enemy but they didn’t realize they were their own worst enemy. They had some serious in-house issues to deal with. It’s easy to blame the devil for our brokenness. Rebuilding exposes some of our internal self-inflicted weaknesses!
The economic conditions of the exile had created some terrible inequities.
Where there’s oppression there’s typically economic and social injustice.
The conditions were so bad that they were indebting and enslaving their own people including immediate family members.
Even the women were complaining. For women to be vocal in that culture meant the inequities were serious. “Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers. (Neh. 5.1NIV)
This is the second “Outcry” in this series. In the beginning Nehemiah cried out about the conditions of the city and its walls. Now the exiles are crying foul over the injustices perpetrated among their own people.
The growing populations of Jewish exiles were facing drought and famine. They were mortgaging their fields and vineyards at high interest rates for enough grain—to keep from starving. Predatory lending was also trafficking people into forced labor.
The King’s property assessments were so high that some had to borrow just to pay taxes. To survive some parents were selling their children into human trafficking. Fellow countrymen were exploiting each other.
Bye this time Nehemiah had been appointer governor. He says, “When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry.”(Neh. 5.6 NIV)
He calls a meeting of the Nobles and officers. He accuses them of this injustice. Some of these same nobles refused to work on the wall. “We did everything we could to buy back our Jewish brothers who had to sell themselves as slaves to foreigners. And now you’re selling these same brothers back into slavery to pay their debts to you! (ver 5) says, “Our daughters have already been enslaved” enslaved here also means raped.
The Nobles were speechless. Nehemiah boiled it down to two issues. No fear or respect for God or people including themselves. They didn’t even care what the nations around them thought about them. He says,“What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? (Neh. 5.9 NIV)
Nehemiah demanded they return the acquired land and release the indentured slaves. They agreed—then Nehemiah shook his robe and said, “may the Lord shake down anyone that doesn’t keep his word. I love this line…”At this the whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.” (Neh.5.13 NIV) That’s revival!
Nehemiah completes this chapter by setting an example as a leader. In his 12 years as governor he never took advantage or lorded it over people like the former Governors. He didn’t consume the Kings food allotted to his table—he shared it with the workers and the commoners. He says, “out of reverence for God I did not act like that. Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. (Neh. 5.16) We need to restore a fear of God!
We treat all people with justice and equality out of respect for God!
He closes this chapter with another short prayer. Remember me with favor, O my God, for all I have done for these people. (Neh. 5.19 NIV)
Spiritual warfare is a reality. Dark spiritual resistance from external demonic influences is real. Satan is clearly our adversary. He is a deceiver. He is a tempter. He is an accuser. He is killer. He is a thief. He is a destroyer. But we give him access. The battle ground in inside us!
Satan manipulated Peter’s fears and he denied Christ. Later he was forgiven, restored and rebuilt! He writes, Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith. (1Pet. 5.8-9 MSG)
Our real enemy may be hiding inside. Satan loves to pounce on our personal weakness—those places in our character that are still vulnerable.
Here’s some common “internal issues” that expose us to demonic manipulation or even domination. We call them “open doors”. Nehemiah would call them open gates or low and exposed places in the wall.
Let me just list a few…
Abandonment: Many of us carry feelings of desertion or rejection.
Addictions: Anything that we are using to avoid pain and pretending.
Anger: Unhealthy hostility, rage, resentment or bitterness.
Fear: Unfounded anxiety, depression, worry, terror, paranoia.
Idolatry: Replacing God with money, pleasure, possessions, and people.
Pride: Arrogance, self-centeredness, insecurity, and inferiority, jealousy.
Sexual sin: pornography, pre-marital promiscuity, adultery, homosexuality.
Victimization: helplessness, hopelessness, dependency, and self-pity.
Dishonesty: deception, denial, duplicity, cheating, lying, and distorting.
Now this may feel like a we are closing on a heavy note but there is healing and freedom for these internal issues. They are like injustices they develop because of our reaction to things that have happened to us.
David said, Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
(Psa. 139.23-24 NIV)
Invite the Holy Spirit to do a heart search now. Is there some inside stuff that makes you vulnerable to the enemy? Just ask him to show you one thing that he would like to help you with today.