June 23, 2015

More lessons in spiritual warfare

Nehemiah 6:1–7:65, 1 John 5:1–5, Psalm 109:16–31

In today’s Old Testament reading, Nehemiah continues to report progress on rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. He is still being attacked by his enemies and still resisting those attacks . . .

Now when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner. In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand. In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah.’ And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.” Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.” For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands. (Nehemiah 6:1–9)

Nehemiah shows discernment: he recognized their true motive for calling a meeting. He shows perseverance: he continued to build despite repeated attacks. He also shows faith: he asked God to give him continued strength to resist this harassment.

For those of us who know the harassment of our spiritual enemy, that old liar and persistent devil, Nehemiah’s example is helpful. From this, I can see that Satan wants me to stop anything that I am doing at the command of God. He also wants to wear me down by his constant enticements, and get me to talk to him instead of God. I’m not saying there is no place for rebuking Satan, but I need to keep my eyes on the Lord and my prayers directed to Him. If not, I will be sucked into that trap of prayerlessness and idleness, just what Satan wants.

God doesn’t ask much of me, only to trust Him and do what He says . . . “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:3–5)

The world is all about wanting what my old nature desires, whatever my eyes can see, or whatever builds me up instead of glorifying God. I could make a long list of these things that Satan could uses as an open door into my life. However, Christ has commanded me to build a wall around my heart, just as Nehemiah was told to build a wall around his city. That wall includes reinforcing areas that could be breached, and adding doors and gates so that nothing unwelcome can enter.

This process is also described in Ephesians 6 as wearing spiritual armor. The battle is prayer and I’ve been praying more deeply — hence the recent and deeper attacks. The example of the psalmist is a huge encouragement: “But you, O God my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name’s sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me! For I am poor and needy, and my heart is stricken within me . . . . Help me, O Lord my God! Save me according to your steadfast love . . . . With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord; I will praise him in the midst of the throng. For he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save him from those who condemn his soul to death.” (Psalm 109:21-22, 26, 30–31)

Oh God, I can stand only because You love me and because Jesus lives in me. He already defeated sin and death at the Cross and His power is sufficient to overcome the world and the taunts of Satan. Bless Your holy name!

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