Mockery. Confusion. Oppresion. That Enemy of our souls…..he is so uncreative. He uses the same tactics over and over again. Well…..as uncreative as that is, why come up with new tactics when the old ones are tried and true? I’ve been so enjoying the book of Nehemiah. So much inspiration leaps off the pages right into my heart. God uses Nehemiah to gather His scattered ones. He appoints Nehemiah, as only God can do, to rise up and rebuild the city walls. And yet, when it comes to God’s heart….He is after something deeper. Yes, the walls need rebuilding, but so do His people. Nehemiah, trusted servant of the Persian king, wakes up one day to fulfill his normal routine. (*Lets just notice that Nehemiah is “trusted”. Life lived faithfully, without complaining and grumbling, in his normal humdrum routines, says so much about his inner character. God is faithful. He looks for faithful.*) Because of his faithfulness lived out before the king….Nehemiah finds favor and God literally thrusts him into a whole new season full of direction and vision. He takes time to pray and circle the city, and gain clarity….hear God’s heart on the matter. “I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do ….” (2:12) After this, he gives his testimony of the king’s favor, and shares his heart with the people. This so reminded me of the purpose and importance the LEADER has in casting vision. The people rally together, joined in one purpose. “Let us rise up and build!” (2:18)
In chapter 4, in marches Enemy Tactic #1. Mockery. How many times have we begun to walk in the purpose and vision God lays on our hearts….and all we hear are the lies. “You aren’t good enough to do this. You don’t have the gift for this. You really think anyone is going to listen to you? Follow you? You are too young. Too old. Too weak. Remember what you did back then? Haha….you are a fake. Loser.” You HAVE heard it, haven’t you??? I know I have. All the time. I know the enemy’s voice immediately. How do I know it? Its the loudest. It doesn’t hesitate. It pipes up immediately and kicks me right in the gut. Oh I know it well. God’s people heard it. “What are these miserable, feeble Jews doing? Do they think they can get everything back to normal overnight? Make building stones out of make-believe? What do they think they’re building? Why, if a fox climbed that wall, it would fall to pieces under his weight!” (4:2 msg) Mockery. Its just simply the lies he shouts in our heads to make us despair and give up. And so often we believe it. The mockery goes on and we wear down. He wouldn’t still be using this tactic if it didn’t work. Nehemiah saw it for what it was. He prays. “……Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their reproach on their own heads! (the msg says: boomerang their ridicule on their heads). For they have provoked you to anger before the builders.” (4:4,5) We can’t wither when we hear the enemy’s voice….we have to give it to God. Because it is Him that they are mocking, and Him that is being provoked to anger, and Him that is going to fight our battle. “We kept at it, repairing and rebuilding the wall. The whole wall was soon joined together and halfway to its intended height because the people had a HEART for the WORK.” (4:6 msg) Wow. Amazing what God can do when the people are faithful and work with a heart full of purpose. Progress. Forward movement. A measurable difference. Unity. Expectation.
So the first tactic didn’t work. Enter Enemy Tactic #2. Confusion. Its still his voice we hear loud and proud. He just changes it a little, so we think we are hearing a different voice. Nope. Still belongs to enemy….who is out to thwart God’s plans, derail the train from its intended destination, and basically destroy us in the process. “Now it happened (when all these enemies) heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jersualem and create confusion.” (4:7,8) Conspiracy. Attack. Confusion. Ever feel confused? Yep, me too. Did I hear God’s voice? With all this stuff going on….maybe I heard it wrong. Maybe this isn’t the right timing? Was I supposed to do this next week? Next month? Next year? Maybe I was supposed to do it yesterday, and I missed my window. Maybe I missed God’s plan for my life and now someone else is supposed to be doing this. If this is God’s will, shouldn’t this be easy? Where is He in all this? Am I abandoned? Should I just go back to what I’ve always done….after all I was very comfortable. And good at it. Hmmmm….so many questions. Not so many answers. And its easy to give up. Heres what God’s people started to say…..”the builders are pooped, the rubbish piles up; We’re in over our heads, we can’t build this wall.” (4:10 msg) So see? The battle rages. With the enemy yelling so loudly, its hard to hear the gentle whisper of God’s voice. Encouragement is so gentle to our hearts….so settling to the ruffled edges of our soul, such a “sight for sore eyes”. So it can often be missed. Our ears so focused on the loudness of the battle that we miss hearing God in the midst of it all. “our adversaries said, “they will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease.” (4:11) God’s people panicked. “From whatever place you turn, they will be upon us.” (4:12) Can you hear it in your own life? “It doesn’t matter what I do….its never going to change. Its hopeless. What am I doing here? Maybe God has someone else for this job. Is anyone even hearing me? Do they think I heard God’s voice or do they think I’m crazy?” Well, Nehemiah, thankfully knew God had a purpose and a plan and despite the enemy’s tactics….they would continue. God’s plan involved a strategy. Ha! Imagine that….you enemy! We have a strategy. We are NOT going down. God is with us…..who can be against us. Certainly not you. “I positioned men mehind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows.” He identified their weak points….and their vulnerabilities….and he strengthened them with people who knew the enemy and were prepared for the fight. The enemy then realized the people knew what they were up to and that “God had brought their plot to nothing.” (4:15) Nehemiah planned it out. Half the people would stand watch and fight….the other half would build. So much to say here….but we must realize our roles in God’s strategy. Some people hold the line in prayer and intercession, watching and warfare, while others do the building. We may need to do both….we just need open ears and hearts to know what God is saying in what season. “Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built.” (4:18) We have to be ready, prepared. For anything.
Okay. So first two tactics didn’t work. Along comes Enemy Tactic #3. Oppression. The enemy saw God’s people making progress, moving forward, fulfilling their purpose, closing in on the desired goal. Mockery and confusion didn’t work….I’ll just have to hover over them all with my overwhelming hopelessness and discouragement. I’ll take their eyes off God and onto their hardships: hunger, finances, debt, quarrels. Every feel overwhelmed in these areas? Its smooth sailing, and out of *seemingly* no where…..the business slows down, debts add up, where peace reigned in relationships now there is strife. Where did this come from? I’m so overwhelmed! This can’t be God with so much darkness hovering? I’m tired, exhausted….don’t want to get out of bed, don’t want to face the day. Direction has fled, I am left feeling worthless, feeling purpose-less. If you allow the oppression….you allow the enemy to take your eyes off God and turn them onto yourSELF. Mark that…..a point for the enemy. Its so easy isn’t it. Its a vicious tactic. We just think if we had a little more money we could move forward. If we had “her husband” or “his wife”, life would be so much better and there wouldn’t be so much arguing. If we had that gift or that talent, then we would be recognized. If we were a part of that group, we would be so much happier. All the sudden, the boat and Jesus quickly disappear and the rocky waves engulf us and the sea weed pulls us under. Oppression. Depression. Obsession. Yikes! I’ve been there! Have you? Its ok to say so. It really is! You know God uses it all. “They (the enemy) were trying to intimidate us into quitting. They thought, ‘they’ll give up; they’ll never finish it.'” (6:9msg) That’s the bottom line. He really just wants us to quit. That call God put on your life, the dream in your heart, the purpose to your very existance….the enemy wants it and you….destroyed. But GREATER is He that is inside of us than little, old him that’s in this world. Pray like Nehemiah, “O God, strengthen my hands.” (6:9)
The enemy has his tactics. But we pray. prepare. strategize. and then fix our eyes on the ONE that leads us in it all. Things we thought were all wrong, weren’t from God, weren’t in the plans…..”our God turned the curse into a blessing.” Those tactics of the enemy make us stronger in Christ if we don’t allow them to crush us, more purpose-full, more focused, more discerning, more fearless, more hopeful, more expecting. Its beautiful. Its a miracle. Joy in the morning. Victory over the darkness. “When all our enemies heard the news and all the surrounding nations saw it, our enemies totally lost their nerve. They knew that God was behind this work.” (6:16msg) Its undeniable. God gets the glory. He had a plan. He carried it forward. My prayer continues to be that God would see me as faithful and persevering and unwavering until the end; that HIS plan and purpose would carry forward thru the heat of the battles; and that eventually the enemy will just lose his nerve altogether. Ha!! Amen:-)