Summary: When Satan comes against God’s people, he doesn’t use a rule book. The Bible describes him as the father of lies. He is a liar. So why would we expect a liar to fight fair? In our passage today, we can see four dirty tricks of the enemy.
Believe it or not, I used to be pretty rough as a kid. We moved around a lot. And one of the things that can happen when you move a lot is you can get in a lot of fights. People want to see what the new kid is all about. They want to see how he fits in. So there’s always somebody willing to start stuff. I was always taught that you never start a fight. And my temper is such that it takes a lot to make me angry enough to fight. As a matter of fact, it usually took getting hit. But once I got hit the first time, I usually finished it. But one thing I remember about those fights. There was always some type of unwritten rule book. There were things to do in a fight that were okay. And there were things that you just didn’t do. I don’t know who came up with the rules, but they were just understood. But sometimes, people wouldn’t abide by those rules. They would resort to what we would call “fighting dirty.” That’s how our enemy fights, isn’t it? When Satan comes against God’s people, he doesn’t use a rule book. The Bible describes him as the father of lies. He is a liar. So why would we expect a liar to fight fair? In our passage tonight, we see that the same old enemies were coming against Nehemiah again. Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arabian and all the rest of them were taking another shot at God’s people. This time it was just a little bit different because they were getting desperate. They were getting desperate because the wall was almost finished. Verse 1 tells us that the wall itself was complete. The only thing they hadn’t finished was hanging the doors on the gates. So you can see how the enemies’ window of opportunity was closing. And when the enemy begins to feel a sense of desperation, he will certainly resort to some dirty tricks. That’s what Nehemiah’s enemies did. In our passage, we can see four dirty tricks of the enemy. The first dirty trick is popularity. Look back at verses 1-2:
Popularity can be a dirty trick of the enemy, can’t it? Notice how Sanballat and Tobiah changed their tactics. All the other times, they were openly defiant. They lined up their troops outside Jerusalem and taunted the people. They plotted and planned skirmishes and attacks against the people. They even spread malicious gossip amongst the people. But nothing worked. So they had to change their course. Now they were trying to be friendly and diplomatic. “Nehemiah, why don’t you come out and just talk to us a little bit.” “We’ve got your best interest at heart and just want to help you.” “We have some information that you really need to know.” “All we really want is just to be your ally.” You see, the meeting that they were presenting to Nehemiah was supposed to look like a diplomatic meeting. They proposed a neutral site between Jerusalem and Samaria. And for all appearances, it would look like they were going to make a treaty with Nehemiah. They were trying to make it look like they were bringing him into their little club. “Now that you’ve got your wall done, we’d like to invite you into our club.” Our enemy uses that dirty trick too, doesn’t he? “If you just turn your focus off the Gospel just a little bit, you can make people happy with you.” “If you just compromise a little bit, people will flock to you.” “You can be popular.” “You can be surrounded by people—all you have to do is just listen to what I’m saying. All you have to do is just take your focus off your mission and come out to meet with me for a few minutes. That’s all I ask—just a few minutes. And sadly enough, a few minutes of flattery and flirting with popularity is all it takes to turn many churches from being Christ-honoring and Gospel centered to being self-honoring and people centered. The lure of popularity is pretty and shiny and appetizing. But there is a terrible hook behind it. A hook that is catching many Christians and churches today. But Nehemiah didn’t take the bait, did he? The last part of verse 2 says that he saw through their plan. He wasn’t distracted by their shiny and appetizing lure. And verse 3 tells us what his response to them was. He just said no. He said, “The work that God has called me to do is my focus. I will not allow you to distract me from it.” “You can keep your little clique and your popularity.” “I’ve got a job to do.” When the enemy comes at you with the lure of popularity and numbers and success, how should you respond? When he comes at us as a church with that lure, how should we respond? When he says, “Come let us meet together”—how should we respond? Don’t even go near him. Don’t even entertain the thought of using his methods. Don’t even allow yourself to be caught up in his fleeting promises of popularity. Our mission is too important to allow ourselves to become distracted. There are no short cuts or bypasses or easy roads. Our mission is to make disciples—not make social connections. That is our great work. And why should the work cease while we leave it to do something else to make us popular? We shouldn’t. The promise of popularity is one of our enemy’s dirty tricks. Another dirty trick is persistence. Look at verses 4-5: