Summary: This can be a difficult text to preach if there is current conflict in your church. This treatment moves the application to the spiritual plane where our true enemy is working to discourage and destroy God’s people.
"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." Ephesians 6:12
Please turn to the person sitting next to you this morning and tell them: "You are NOT the enemy!"
It is easy to see the people in our lives...even the other believers in our own church as "the enemy", but the Apostle Paul is very clear as he reminds us that our enemy is NOT "flesh and blood"...it’s not your church family and not even those who are unsaved. Our true enemy is Satan and he loves it when we think the worst of each other and ignore him.
If you have e-mail, you know that you get certain “forwards” again and again. Certain things that are “brand new” information to the person passing it along, but if you’ve had e-mail for a long time, you’ve seen the same STORY, PLEA or WARNING dozens of times. Some of these make us MAD...some of them cause us to WASTE TIME by forwarding them or following their instructions. But some hoaxes come that cause us to FEAR...they give us instructions that, if followed, will actually make things WORSE.
That reminds me of the strategies and tactics of Satan...who, like the lion he’s compared to in 1 Peter 5: 8 and 9...is deceptive. Doing most of his hunting when his prey is weak, alone, unaware or confused.
“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, because you know that your brothers
throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” 1 Peter 5:8 & 9
Those who study lions say one of the times you can expect a lion to roar is when they are trying to confuse or frighten their victim...trying to get them to run from what they believe is the source of “danger” into the waiting jaws of an entire pride of lions.
In Nehemiah chapter 6, Nehemiah’s enemies are back and they are determined to bring him down. Their tactics can help us understand three common ways our enemy tries to defeat and destroy us.
1.) ISOLATION: Leave your people and your work (v. 1-4)
“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– 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.” Nehemiah 6:1-4
HUGE accomplishment: The walls are rebuilt! This monumental task is almost completed! BUT...
A.) Beware of the letdown that can come when you are near the FINISH LINE.
Nehemiah has OUT PRAYED, OUT LASTED and OUT MANEUVERED his opponents and with everything done except the hanging of the city gates, it would be easy to let your guard down a little. BUT Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem realize that if there is to be any chance of them stopping this project, they are going to have to focus on either killing or AT LEAST discrediting Nehemiah NOW.
LESSON: You can NEVER let your guard down! As soon as you start to pat yourself on the back for what you “have” accomplished and cease to be vigilant and diligent...you are opening yourself up to being attacked.
B.) The enemy wants you ON YOUR OWN.
They want Nehemiah to leave the SAFETY of Jerusalem and the PROTECTION of his relationships there.
Their invitation “Let’s meet on neutral ground.”...in one of the villages on the plain of Ono. This plain, about 20 miles from Jerusalem, was considered more or less “neutral” but it was right next to the border of Samaria...Sanballat’s home. Nehemiah cannot actually PROVE that this apparent “peace conference” is a trap, but he suspects they are “scheming to harm” him, so he sends his regrets: “I’m carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?”
Nehemiah’s WISE answer: I have a job to do! If there is going to be PEACE it will be a result of YOU accepting MY terms...not ME accepting YOURS. Inferred is: “You can meet me here.”