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We left off last time at Nehemiah 3. The theme of the book is “Building God’s people for God’s work.”
The first seven chapters are about God’s work.
The last six are about building God’s people.
We are now at winding down the first half of the book about doing God’s work.
If we are trying to outline these seven chapters, it would be something like this:
Chs 1-2 Preparation of the work
Ch 3     Prospering of the work
Chs 4-7 Problems in the work
So we are going to look at problems in God’s work in our times together for the next few weeks.
At first the attack will be external.
Then the attack will be internal.
Lastly, the attack will be individual, namely, Nehemiah himself.
So let’s start with this:
Remember that every advance of God will face a setback from the Enemy **(Neh.
We have already seen the enemies show up twice already.
Once when Nehemiah first showed up and again when Nehemiah was rallying the workers.
For us the enemy we face is as Paul said, “not flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph.
So though we do not see Satan show up here directly, we can as Stephen Davey says, “see the shadow of his scales and smell the fire from his nostrils.”[1]
Let me give you a brief overview of Satan.
Though we cannot be exhaustive here, I want to try to give you an idea of the Enemy and how he works.
Usually when we talk about this, people tend to fall on two sides.
One side is where people deny his existence or they are indifferent about it because they may not have seen any tangible activity.
Another side is where everything is attributed to Satan.
People are rebuking him constantly and trying to cast him out of everything.
The power is in the balance.
As C.S. Lewis says, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.
One is to disbelieve in their existence.
The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”[2]
So with that said, I want to quickly say these things about Satan[3]:
| *Name* | *Meaning* | *Citation* |
| Satan | Adversary | Matthew 4:10 |
| Devil | Slanderer | Matthew 4:1 |
| Evil One | Intrinsically evil | John 17:15 |
| Great red dragon | Destructive creature | Revelation 12:3, 7, 9 |
| Serpent of old | Deceiver in Eden | Revelation 12:9 |
| Abaddon | Destruction | Revelation 9:11 |
| Apollyon | Destroyer | Revelation 9:11 |
| Adversary | Opponent | 1 Peter 5:8 |
| Beelzebul | Lord of the fly (Baalzebub) | Matthew 12:24 |
| Belial | Worthless (Beliar) | 2 Corinthians 6:15 |
| God of this world | Controls philosophy of world | 2 Corinthians 4:4 |
| Ruler of this world | Rules in world system | John 12:31 |
| Prince of the powerof the air | Control of unbelievers | Ephesians 2:2 |
| Enemy | Opponent | Matthew 13:28 |
| Tempter | Solicits people to sin | Matthew 4:3 |
| Murderer | Leads people to eternaldeath | John 8:44 |
| Liar | Perverts the truth | John 8:44 |
| Accuser | Opposes believers beforeGod | Revelation 12:10 |
Contrary to television or the media, he does not have a pitchfork and a tail or red horns.
In fact, Paul calls him “an angel of light” (2 Cor.
11:13-15) masquerading as religious workers of righteousness.
He was once an angel, a beautiful one at that, filled with wisdom and beauty and enjoying a high favorable position before God (Ezek.
28:12-15), but he and 1~/3 of angels were cast of Heaven due to his pride and wanting to be like God (Ezek.
28:16-17; Is. 14:12-14; Rev. 12:4).
He is not omnipresent, omniscient or omnipotent.
Thus, he is not the opposite of God.
He is a created being and cannot do anything without God’s sovereign approval.
He cannot read your thoughts.
But he does watch you and when you give into your flesh, which is the enemy on the inside—the part of you that wants to rebel against God---he then moves in to take advantage of your weakness.
But God in fact, guaranteed his destruction in Gen. 3:15.
By Jesus’ death on the cross, Satan’s power over believers and death was broken.
Eventually, he will be cast into the Lake of Fire for eternity (Rev.
So knowing that his time is short, Satan is working hard doing one thing: destruction.
Peter says he is like a lion looking for people to devour (1 Pet.
He has no other agenda, ever.
And he is incredibly patient.
In Nehemiah, we can see him working through Sanballat, Tobiah and his friends.
Look at Neh. 4:1.
Neh. 3 was a huge advance to the work of God and so Sanballat comes again to try to set them back.
If you noticed, he is always mentioned first.
He is the instigator.
The phrase “were building” indicates that people were busy at work at the wall and things were moving along nicely.
You can see the progression of anger building up in this guy from the beginning.
He was “displeased” in Neh.
2:10 which led to ridicule and intimidation in Neh.
2:19, but now this guy is ticked off.
With the Jews rebuilding the wall, restoring their identity, bringing worship back to God, they start to become a growing threat to the power and status of Sanballat.
How do you think he feels about that?
Right, probably not too happy!
Notice this pattern, actually more of a cycle of advance and setback throughout these chapters:
Ch 2: 1-8 Advance    2:9-10 Attempted Setback
2:11-18 Advance       2:19 Attempted Setback
3: Advance               4:1-3: Attempted Setback
4:4-6: Advance         4:7-8: Setback
4:9: Advance            4:10-12: Setback
4:13-23: Advance     5:1-6: Setback
5:7-19: Advance       6:1-14: Attempted setback
6:15-16: Final advance   6:17-19: Attempted setback
And now in Neh. 4, that the work of God is prospering and people are working together in unity, we are going to find yet again that anytime Heaven advances, Hell opposes.
What this shows us is that the life truly lived for God is always one of conflict.
Every advance of God faces a setback from the enemy.
Satan has no desire for those who play the religious part and has one foot in the world and another in the things of God.
He cares about those who want to actually step up to love God and proclaim the name of Jesus in their lives.
And God does not remove the opposition.
He allows it and uses it to depend on Him more and bear more fruit for His glory (John 15:2).
But if we do yield to opposition, it will lead us to mediocrity, discouragement and uselessness.
So anytime you try to advance God’s purposes in your life, guess who is going to show up to oppose you?
The Enemy! Everytime!
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