Many of us are aware of Hollywood depictions of spiritual warfare in which demons battle ordinary people.
But most of us don’t experience spiritual warfare on that level. Instead, it’s the constant spiritual pressure to walk away from worshiping, walking before, and witnessing of our Lord Jesus Christ. We engage in spiritual warfare with those who are motivated by their own sin and do all they can to prevent us from pursuing our Lord’s word, character, and mission.
Spiritual warfare can also be the experience of facing difficult people, situations and hardships.
Nehemiah faced these kinds of enemies in the work God gave him to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and provide comfort and healing for God’s people. Interestingly enough, Nehemiah’s foes employed the same tactics used today by those who seek to prevent or muzzle the inevitable progress of Christ’s new society.
With that in mind, what can we learn from Nehemiah’s response to the spiritual warfare he faced?
Victory is inevitable
Opposition is unavoidable
Staying focused is critical.
Victory is inevitable. Vs. 1. 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--
Having rallied God’s people to begin work on the wall, effectively met the first wave of opposition, and faithfully addressed the internal issues that threatened to fracture God’s people, Nehemiah successfully completed his initial project. His mission however would continue.
I’m convinced Nehemiah’s victory was inevitable since the Lord God sovereignly called him to this work. In this way, Nehemiah’s victory pre-figures Christ’s inevitable victory.
Christ has triumphed over every foe by His sinless life, sacrificial death, and bodily resurrection.
Christ’s victory means His new society is certain and it will utterly wash away every single trace of trauma, pain, and misery caused by sin.
We will be made whole. We will be healed. We will be made totally new in our bodies, minds, souls, emotions, and psyches.
Praise, worship and thanksgiving is the normal biblical response to victory.
I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues--last, because with them God's wrath is completed. And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: "Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Rev. 15:1-4.
We participate in Christ’s victory through faith in His sinless life, sacrificial death, and victorious bodily resurrection.
Opposition is unavoidable. Vss. 2-.4. 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.
Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, and those with them had a vested interest in Jerusalem’s broken walls and emotionally broken people. Chapter 13 spells out these interests.
They had an economic interest since the broken walls offered no defense against breaking the Sabbath and treating it as just another day to do business.
I believe their economic interest was connected to a spiritual interest that impacted the overall well-being of God’s people.
The spiritual interest was in encouraging the Jews to view themselves as a humiliated people who no longer truly enjoyed God’s favor and special love. Nehemiah 1:3 (NIV)
They said to me, "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire."
Their enemies wanted them to feel ashamed of who they were to the extent that they’d back away from worshiping God, following God’s word, and finding their ultimate delight in God and His promise of full salvation. They didn’t reject the Lord God and follow idols like their ancestors. Rather, they settled into a lukewarm relationship with Him. They acknowledged God’s existence but failed to see His relevance in their lives.
And that’s what sustained opposition can do to us. It can cause us to back away from actively pursuing our Lord center our lives simply on the things of this present world.
In this way, we might need to grow from a child’s understanding of opposition.
Let’s also be aware of the distinction between opposition, disagreement, and genuinely constructive criticism which is always needed and welcome. In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. Acts 6:1.
Focus is critical. Vss. 3-4. 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.
One of the enemy’s most effective tactics is to cause constant distraction. Notice their persistence in trying to distract Nehemiah and how it was repeated by the enemies of our Lord.
In our time politics can be the tactic used to distract us.