The Enemy's Schemes
Nehemiah was uniquely positioned. He was the right person at the right time in the right position.
This is true of many of the heroes of the Bible.
Moses, Joshua, Debora, Samson, Ruth, David, Elijah and Esther all can be described in the same way.
These people all share a common theme. They each served a history-shaping purpose in God’s plan for His people.
For Nehemiah, his history-shaping purpose was rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, as well as leading in the spiritual reformation of God’s people at that particular time in their history.
Not one of the people mentioned above operated alone. Many, many people helped, advised, supported and strengthened them in their calling. The leaders are the names we know, but others had a part.
You and I may not be Bible heroes, but God calls each of us for His purposes. We almost never have any idea of the history-shaping nature of the work God calls us to. You or I may not be the one whose names are put on the book, but we all have a part.
The New Testament likens the Church to a body and says:
The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. (1 Corinthians 12:21-22)
In the Body of Christ, each member has a part. Each member is gifted by the Holy Spirit to fill a particular need or place.
As an important part of what God is doing, each one of us can expect to face opposition. This is why in Ephesians 6:10 we are encouraged to “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Accompanying this admonition to be strong is the command, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11, ESV)[ii]
In Nehemiah 6, we see the schemes of the devil at work.
By this time in Nehemiah’s account, all the gaps have been closed in the wall. The only thing remaining was to set up the doors in the gates. (Nehemiah 6:2)
The first thing the enemy did was to try to stop the work. Nehemiah chapter 4 tells the story of how Nehemiah’s enemies tried to attack and stop the work. In my analogy, this is equivalent to our enemy who tries to stop us from coming to Christ in the first place. Our enemy will do anything to try to stop even one person from accepting Jesus as Savior. Once a person accepts Christ, a wall of protection exists around that person. The Bible says, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4, ESV) 1 John 5:18 explains that the evil one cannot touch the child of God.
Today, we are looking at the devil’s schemes once the decision has been made.
Once the wall was built, the builders were not vulnerable to attack in the same way. However, this does not mean that their enemies gave up. Their enemies changed their strategy.
The first strategy or scheme was to trick Nehemiah.
We see this in Nehemiah 6:1-3.
Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies found out that I had finished rebuilding the wall and that no gaps remained—though we had not yet set up the doors in the gates. So Sanballat and Geshem sent a message asking me to meet them at one of the villages in the plain of Ono.
But I realized they were plotting to harm me, so I replied by sending this message to them: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?”
When the straightforward frontal attack failed, Nehemiah’s enemies resorted to trickery. On the pretense of wanting to talk, they sought to draw Nehemiah out into the open where he was vulnerable.
This scheme is still used by our enemy.
One common way he practices to deceive is to convince us that the consequences of our behavior will not be bad or that the behavior itself is not bad. God’s protection is on those that love Him and obey Him. If our enemy can trick us into disobedience, he can get us into the “open” where we are vulnerable. The Bible warns us:
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8, ESV)
This phrase “Do not be deceived” for our purposes today could say, “Do not let the devil trick you.” As believers and children of God, we can still sow to the flesh and from the flesh reap corruption. However, the devil tries to trick us into thinking this is not so. These messages are in our culture. We cannot have sex outside of marriage without consequences, but our world says it is okay. We cannot harbor resentment in our hearts without consequences, but the enemy convinces us that we are justified in our bitterness. We cannot be selfish and greedy without consequences, but the enemy tells us that we need these things. The list goes on and on. Therefore, the way to counter this is found in the verses above. We reap what we sow.
Nehemiah wanted a wall so he stayed working on the wall. Metaphorically speaking he sowed a wall and reaped a wall.
Do you have a clear vision of what you want to reap?
If you seek God with all your heart, he will make your path clear. If you are praying, reading God’s word and seeking God, then you should pursue whatever God puts on your heart.
When Nehemiah could not be tricked out into the open, his enemies tried another scheme or strategy.
They sought to intimidate and discourage Nehemiah.
This is found in Nehemiah 6:4-9:
Four times they sent the same message, and each time I gave the same reply. The fifth time, Sanballat’s servant came with an open letter in his hand, and this is what it said:
“There is a rumor among the surrounding nations, and Geshem tells me it is true, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel and that is why you are building the wall. According to his reports, you plan to be their king. He also reports that you have appointed prophets in Jerusalem to proclaim about you, ‘Look! There is a king in Judah!’
“You can be very sure that this report will get back to the king, so I suggest that you come and talk it over with me.”
I replied, “There is no truth in any part of your story. You are making up the whole thing.”
They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination.
Nehemiah’s enemies openly accused him of treason, which was a capital offense. Nehemiah knew there was no truth in these accusations. However, they were frightening and just by being brought up, these accusations were very dangerous. Instead of being intimidated, Nehemiah trusted God for strength to continue the work.
When trickery does not work, our enemy will use a different scheme. He will accuse us in order to intimidate and discourage us. Depending on the work, this can be a public accusation like Nehemiah experienced, or it can be a personal, private accusation. We all experience the personal private accusations.
The personal, private accusations are usually related to our identity as children of God. “You are not good enough.” “You cannot do that.”
When fear and uncertainty threaten to keep you from doing the work God has put before you, remember two passages of Scripture.
First, Philippians 4:13:
For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
And second, James 4:7:
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Notice with me that Nehemiah did not waste much time with the accusation. He all but ignored it. He denied it and then got back to work. For us, when the devil accuses us, we need to remind ourselves of the truth of Scripture and get back to work. It is true. I am a sinner, but so is it true that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, ESV)
When trickery, intimidation and discouragement did not work, Nehemiah’s enemies tried a third scheme. They sought to discredit him. They did this through another form of trickery.
This is found in Nehemiah 6:10-13.
Later I went to visit Shemaiah son of Delaiah and grandson of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home. He said, “Let us meet together inside the Temple of God and bolt the doors shut. Your enemies are coming to kill you tonight.”
But I replied, “Should someone in my position run from danger? Should someone in my position enter the Temple to save his life? No, I won’t do it!” I realized that God had not spoken to him, but that he had uttered this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. They were hoping to intimidate me and make me sin. Then they would be able to accuse and discredit me.
Here we see that Nehemiah says that his enemies were trying to intimidate him and cause him to sin. This would allow them to discredit Nehemiah.
Nehemiah’s enemies tried first to create fear, and then do something inappropriate based on that fear.
Fear is not from God. The Bible says:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)
The Spirit of God gives us boldness.
The Apostle Paul asked for prayer saying:
I am in chains now, still preaching this message as God's ambassador. So pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should. (Ephesians 6:20)
What is your biggest fear?
Is it financial? Is it health? Is it a relationship? Is it fear of failure?
Whatever your biggest fear is, the devil will use it to get you to do something inappropriate if you do not learn to handle fear with faith.
This is why Ephesians 6:11 says:
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. ESV
The devil and his schemes have not changed since the days of Nehemiah. We can still expect trickery, intimidation and attempts to discredit us. However, we have the encouragement of the Scriptures which say:
For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. (1 John 5:4)
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[ii] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.