Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Recognizing the Enemy

Every human being is created in 'the image of God'.  No matter how vile a man becomes, buried within him remains that 'image' of who he was created to be like.
It seems that we so easily fall  short of being transformed from the 'earthly image' into the 'godly image'  that we lose sight of how valuable we really are.

Why is it so difficult?
Simple answer ...  everything that has worth or value is fought over.  And we are all caught in a battle for our soul.
Jesus, in His ultimate sacrifice and resurrection, won the right to receive every man to Himself - every man that desires to be His follower is lovingly 'born again' into the family and Kingdom of God.
But ... as soon as we declare our allegiance to the Lord, the enemy - Satan and his demons - screams in anger at his loss and plots to lure us back within his grasp.

Someone once wisely said ... "He who best understands his enemy wins the war."
How true !   Do we as believers understand our enemy?  Do we recognize him when he throws his darts?   Do we know how to defeat him?  How to live in the victory that is declared ours by the mouth of God?

There is a very insightful story in the Old Testament that pictures for us the tactics of the enemy and his limitations, as well as the authority and strength of the one whose trust is in God.  We learn best by pictures or stories  and the lesson learned goes deep into our understanding.

The book of Nehemiah tells his story.  Nehemiah was a godly man, dedicated to love, worship and serve his God.
His heart was toward his people and when he heard of their distress because the 'walls of Jerusalem  were broken down', he cried out to God on their behalf.  (Neh. 1:3,4,5)  Responding to Nehemiah's cry  God sent him out to repair the house of God and the walls of protection around it.
What higher calling does the believer have but to build and repair in the Kingdom of God, to encourage the saints and to restore what has been destroyed.

No sooner had Nehemiah set himself to the work of God, but the enemy immediately heard of it and was 'deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel'.  (Neh.2:10)

The name of Nehemiah's enemy was Sanballet.   This name is interesting when you look for its meaning.  The Jewish Encyclopedia gives the Assyrian meaning as 'sin is vivified' (or, sin has given life)  Another meaning I found was 'enemy in secret'.   So it seems that the enemy in our story was aptly named, and it isn't much of a stretch to link him with Satan.

We see Sanballet's heart motives.  In Nehemiah 2:19 we are told that Sanballet despised Nehemiah and his people and laughed them to scorn !
We know that Satan despises God's people and mocks them in his anger. He "seeks whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8)

Before we examine the tactics of Sanballet, we have a very revealing statement by Nehemiah. He declares to Sanballet ..  "The God of heaven Himself will prosper us, therefore we, His servants, will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem."  (Neh. 2:20)

That is such an insightful truth we need to tuck into our hearts. Satan has no heritage or rights  in God's Kingdom. He shares nothing with God's people!

As we look at the intent of Sanballet to come against Nehemiah and to stop his work, we see that Sanballet was limited in the ways he could attempt this.

The first darts Sanballet threw at Nehemiah were 'lies'.  He accused Nehemiah of working without the king's permission and was in fact in rebellion to the king. (Neh. 2:19)

Satan's first attempt to harm us is always with lies.  We  remember his first lie in the garden of Eden... "Did God really say.....?"
Satan's lies always aim to plant doubt in our minds - taunting us to doubt God's word, to doubt His promises, to doubt His love for us.  He has endless variations on the theme ... "Did God REALLY say....  did He really mean ....?"
He plants the questions in our minds - "Maybe God's promises aren't for me, maybe I did something to incur God's disfavor,  His disappointment, maybe even His anger. Maybe I am not worthy of His love,  maybe God has turned away from me and will not hear my prayers  ...."

Any voice that plants doubt in our mind  is not of God but is the voice of the enemy.

Another tactic Sanballet employed was the mocking, belittling - the destroying of confidence. He cried out that Nehemiah and his people were 'feeble' , unable to accomplish what they set out to do. Whatever they did would fail, and fall down around them.  (Neh. 4:2)

Satan would have us look upon our own weaknesses instead the power of the Spirit within us.  He would have us falter,  like Peter, looking down at the water and sinking instead of keeping our eyes on Jesus.
Jesus speaks words of encouragement ... Satan's words always belittle and discourage.

Sanballet plotted to create confusion, and in the confusion he would be able to  enter and destroy before Nehemiah saw him coming. He sent word to the Jews that no matter where they turned they would be ambushed.
In Neh. 4:10  it speaks of the results of confusion - failing strength to work, and so much rubbish that it kept them from building the wall.

We easily see the truth of that in our own lives , don't we?  In the confusion of all the voices around us, we grow weary and are overwhelmed with the 'rubbish' that we see and hear all around us.
I think of the song lyrics that  refer to the confusion of 'the things of earth'  that grow dim when we keep our eyes on Jesus, believing His voice. (Turn your eyes upon Jesus)

Sanballet sought to strike fear in Nehemiah's heart. (Neh. 6:9) Fear that would cause him to be paralyzed, unable to continue the work. Sanballet tried to distract Nehemiah by threatening him and making him afraid of what the enemy could do to him.  

Fear - Satan knows that fear is man's most crippling emotion.  Fear is never from God .. because God is love and there is no fear in love.  When there is fear in our heart, we see the footprints of the enemy.  Fear lurks in the dark.   In fear there is torment. (I am not talking here about the 'good' kind of fear - the fear that is profound respect, for fire, water, gravity, and God Himself ) 
God never tries to motivate us with fear ..  He motivates us with love.   

When fear threatens our peace, we can with Nehemiah speak to the enemy .. "No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart."  (Neh. 6:8) 

If we stand against the enemy, refusing to allow him to fill our hearts with fear but rather drawing near to God , he will flee !  (James 4:7) 

Sanballet had one more trick up his sleeve.  Unable to distract Nehemiah openly, he sought to find his vulnerability, to deceive him.  So he found someone who was a 'secret informer' - one who Nehemiah thought was his friend.  Sanballet sent this 'friend' to Nehemiah pretending to have his best interests at heart. He came with an invitation for Nehemiah to come meet him in the house of God. There they would be safe from the enemy who were plotting to kill him that night. 
Nehemiah was almost taken in ... but then recognized that God had not sent this man at all but that he had been 'hired' by Sanballet. (Neh.6:13)

We too need to be on guard that we are not taken in by 'friends'  that bring false messages.  If the message is contrary to God's word, it is not from Him and we need not fear the message or the messenger.    

It is interesting to note that in our story Sanballet never 'touched' Nehemiah, never attacked physically, though his army stood ready.  Nehemiah - with God's word in his mouth was protected from the enemy.  He stood in victory because he never faltered in  keeping his focus on God and standing on His truth.  
Nehemiah knew he did not have to fight the enemy, God fought for him and his people, and it was God Himself who discredited the enemy and brought "their counsel to nothing".  (Neh. 4:14,15,20)

Nehemiah finished his work, and "when all the enemies heard of it ... they were very disheartened and perceived that this work was done by God." (Neh. 6:16)
So we too, with the sword of God's word in our mouth, can stand in victory,  not fearing what the enemy could do to us ... because "greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world."  (I John 4:4) 

And as we do the 'work' God has called us to, the enemy watching will be disheartened, knowing it is God who is working in and through us.