MENU

Where the world comes to study the Bible

Report Inappropriate Ad

7. Recognizing the Tactics of the Enemy

Related Media

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. Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter…
Nehemiah 6

What are common tactics that the enemy uses to hinder the work of God?

In this story, the Jews have been living in Israel without walls around the city of Jerusalem. Because they rebelled against God during the reign of the kings, the Lord judged them and sent them to exile in Babylon. After 70 years in exile, small remnants started to return to the land of Israel. In chapter 1, the Lord stirred Nehemiah, a man serving under the king of Persia, to come back to Jerusalem and inspire the remnant to rebuild the wall of the capital city and to help restore the worship of Israel.

In chapter 6, Nehemiah had completed the walls but had not added the gates. Because of the progress and the certainty of completion, the attacks of the enemy increased.

From the beginning of this restoration project, Nehemiah and the Israelites had enemies trying to stop the work. Sanballat and other Samaritans had been trying to discourage Israel. In chapter 2, they became angry and incensed that somebody had come to “promote the welfare of the Israelites” (2:10). In chapter 4, when Israel began to build, they mocked them saying that even if a fox went on the wall it would fall (4:10). However, when they saw that the building of the wall was progressing, they decided to secretly form an army and come against Israel (Neh 4:8). When Nehemiah heard about this, he warned Israel and set up guards to fight in case of invasion. The building continued as they worked with a brick in one hand and a weapon in the other (Neh 4:17), and now all that remained was adding the gates (6:1).

Because of this, the enemies of Israel make one last major assault, specifically targeting Nehemiah. If they can stop Nehemiah, they can discourage the people and finally stop this work. This is important for us to see and consider.

The contents of this chapter, I believe, apply specifically to the spiritual warfare of a believer and especially to leaders. In Ephesians 6, we are called to prepare for this warfare. Paul said, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13).

Some commentators have said we always live in “the evil day,” the time between Christ’s first and second coming in which we are always under the attack of Satan. However, Paul is clearly referring to times when the enemy increases assaults for the purpose of discouraging God’s people and hindering his work. He said “when the day of evil comes.” We mentioned this briefly in chapter 4.

I think we get a picture of the evil day when Satan attacks Job. He loses his family, his wealth, and his health, all in a very short time period. There is an all-out attack on Job that he must stand against. Similarly, here in chapter 6, we see many different types of attacks that the enemy brings against Nehemiah. Nehemiah is going through an “evil day,” an evil season of assault on his life and ministry.

We also are called to do the work of the Lord. You may be a student, a teacher, a businessman, or a mom, but you should not be mistaken, you are doing the Lord’s work. Nehemiah’s building of the wall wasn’t preaching the gospel, but it was something that everybody eventually realized was “accomplished by God” (Neh 6:16). It was a work of the Lord. In the same way, when we are doing the will of the Lord, wherever he has called us, we are working for him and, therefore, will incur the attacks of the enemy in various forms.

How do we prepare for the attacks, and how do we defeat these attacks?

Yes, we must put on the armor of God, which is primarily a righteous life. But along with that, we must be aware of the enemy’s tactics. Satan wants to immobilize us and keep us from progressing in our spiritual lives, and therefore, he will come with many different attacks. He wants to keep us from building and completing the work that God has called us to. Because our enemy is both wise and relentless, we must be aware of his tricks and schemes. Second Corinthians 2:11 says this: “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.”

One of the reasons many Christians become immobilized and ineffective in their callings is because they are unaware of the enemy’s tactics. We will see many of these tactics as we study this text. This will be especially important for those in leadership roles just as Nehemiah was. If Satan had one bullet, he would take out the leader because it would affect more people.

Big Question: What were the attacks on Nehemiah in chapter 6? How does our enemy similarly attack our lives, those in leadership, and God’s work through his people?

The Enemy’s Tactic of Deception

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?”
Nehemiah 6:1-3

In verse 2, Tobiah contacted Nehemiah to ask him to meet at a neutral site. The implication is that the enemies of Judah were seeking peace and wanted a meeting in order to accomplish this.

Nehemiah, the governor of Israel, realized it was probably politically wise for him to make peace. In fact, as we see at the end of the chapter, many Jewish nobles were putting pressure on him to make peace (v. 16-19). It would not be a good political move to ignore the pleas of the enemy to have a meeting.

However, the text says that Nehemiah discerned that they were trying to hurt him (v. 2), and Nehemiah, in response, said that he was doing a great project and could not go down (v. 3).

How did Nehemiah protect himself against the attacks of the enemy?

First, he did it by discerning the lies of the enemy. This is important for believers as well. Consider what Jesus said about Satan:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
John 8:44

Jesus spoke this to the Pharisees who were also trying to set him up so they could kill him. He told them that they were of their father the devil, who was a liar and the father of lies.

This is important for us to understand because Satan is always trying to deceive us as well. He lies to many Christians about their identity. He lies about their future. He lies about how they should think and what they should wear.

Many Christians struggle with great insecurities and fears because they have been listening to the lies of the devil. He makes them insecure about their body, their wealth, the car they drive, and the job they have. He says they must have this and that to be successful and accepted.

We have a whole society built on lies. We have lies about what is beautiful, lies about what it means to be successful, lies about God, lies about creation, etc. Scripture says the evil one is the prince of this world (John 14:30).

Why does he lie?

He lies because he ultimately wants to harm us and keep us from walking in the calling that God has for us. These lies sometimes come from people who love us, sometimes it may come from our family, sometimes it comes from our churches or friends. Certainly, it comes from the media that we entertain ourselves with.

This is important for us to understand as leaders, not only because the enemy will attack us with lies, but also, because we will be constantly ministering to people who have been lied to. They have accepted the lies of the enemy and are stuck in a spiritual trap (cf. 2 Tim 2:26). We will have to identify the lie and impart the truth of God’s Word to minister to them. Like Nehemiah, we must be able to identify the lies of the devil.

Application Question: How can we develop discernment like Nehemiah so we won’t be deceived by the enemy and also so we can better minister to others?

1. Discernment comes from knowing the Word of God.

Listen to what Hebrews says:

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
Hebrews 5:13-14

The writer of Hebrews is describing the church as spiritual infants because they lived on “milk” and not the solid food of the Word. He said that the believers had not matured because they did not constantly “use” Scripture and therefore struggled with distinguishing between good and evil, just like an infant.

In the context of Hebrews, they were being tempted to go back to the Jewish law, and he writes to show them that the New Covenant is so much better. Christ is better than Moses; Christ is better than angels; Christ is better than the High Priest. They couldn’t discern this because of their lack of spiritual maturity and therefore were being drawn back into the Old Covenant.

With that said, numerous Christians are like this because they don’t constantly use the Word of God. They use it on Sundays when somebody preaches it and maybe they read it on occasion, but they don’t know how to apply it because they don’t constantly use it. Therefore, they lack discernment and are prone to be deceived by Satan’s lies.

They have no discernment in their dating relationships. They have no discernment about how to respond when mistreated. They can’t discern what’s best for their future or their career because they haven’t developed a mature understanding of the Word of God. This opens the door for many deceptions from the enemy.

In the context of spiritual warfare, Paul calls for believers to put on the belt of truth, which is probably referring to the truths of Scripture. Ephesians 6:14 says, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist.”

In ancient armor, it was the belt that held all the other pieces together. Therefore, in knowing the Word of God—God’s truth—one will be protected from many of the enemy’s attacks. This is true primarily because one wouldn’t be fooled by many of the enemy’s lies.

Are you keeping on the belt of truth? By constant use of it, you will be able to discern the lies of the devil.

What else will help us gain discernment?

2. Discernment comes from understanding human nature.

Consider what was said about Christ in John 2:23-25:

Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.

This text says many people believed in Christ but that he did not entrust himself to them because he knew all men. In verse 25, the apostle John is telling us why Christ did not entrust himself to them. The reason was not based on his “omniscience” but his “doctrine of man.” He said it was because Christ knew what was in a man.

Jesus understood that even though the crowds were following him, the heart of man is deceitfully wicked. He knew people were following him for food and for healing but not really for who he was. He knew that men were prone to run after a person who did something sensational, though they were not truly committed. Christ didn’t entrust himself to these crowds because he understood the nature of man.

This is something that we need to understand as well to develop discernment. We need to understand the nature of man, the fickleness of man. Certainly, we learn this from looking at our own hearts and how we are tossed to and fro in our passions and our dreams. The person who seeks to understand himself will have a great understanding of man. But, it is also developed through studying the nature of man in Scripture. Men are like sheep that are constantly prone to go astray (cf. Isaiah 53:6). Man is prone to rebel against God and the things of God (cf. Rom 8:7).

This may seem cynical, but it is true. Christ didn’t commit to the crowds because he knew the nature of man. We are prone to go astray. I have no doubt that Nehemiah’s understanding of the Scriptural teachings about mankind, as well as his personal experience, gave him great discernment as he contemplated Tobiah and Sanballat’s request. I think he understood the nature of man, like Jesus did, and as we should as well.

If we better understood the nature of man, it would keep us from disappointment when friends, family, or church members fail us. This understanding would also help us put our hope all the more in God.

While in seminary, I asked my professor how he kept from discouragement when people in his congregation fell away from God or when friends he served with in ministry stumbled into sin. I asked how he stayed strong. At that time, the church where I was youth pastoring was going through a split, and I was very discouraged. He responded with this, “I have a strong theology of sin.” Essentially, he said, “I understand man’s sin nature, and I also understand Satan and temptation. This helps me minister to people and not become discouraged.” He understood man.

If we are going to have discernment like Nehemiah, we need to start to develop a doctrine of man as well.

3. Discernment comes from prayer.

This is what Paul prayed, for the church of Philippi:

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.
Philippians 1:9-10

He prays for their love to abound in knowledge and depth of insight, so that they could discern what was best. The word “discern” is used of a metallurgist testing a metal to see if it was real. God wants us to have wisdom to test and see what is genuine and what is best. This comes through prayer.

Many Christians have an unwise, undiscerning love, which gets them in all kinds of trouble. They love lots of things which actually keep them from what is best. Paul is teaching that we need discernment with our love. “Following our heart” can actually get us in a lot of trouble. We often see people on TV say, “Just follow your heart.” I want to say, “No! Don’t follow your heart.” Get wisdom for your heart, and one of the ways we do this is by praying for wisdom (cf. James 1:5, Phil 1:9-10).

Many Christians commonly fall to the lies of the devil because they lack discernment.

Are you a discerning Christian? Are you seeking to grow in discernment? We need it because we have an enemy who, from the beginning, has used the weapon of deception. We need it to protect ourselves and also to help minister to those who are trapped in some deception of the enemy.

Application Question: What are some common lies that trip up Christians in their spiritual life and keep them from progressing in the work God has called them to? What lies does Satan commonly use to trip you up?

The Enemy’s Tactic of Persistence

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 6:3-4

Next, Tobiah sent four requests to meet with Nehemiah and each time Nehemiah turned him down. The enemy in this narrative demonstrated tremendous persistence. It seems like he was trying to wear Nehemiah down so that he would eventually give in.

Interpretation Question: Can you think of other times the enemy used persistence in Scripture?

We see this all the time in the attacks of the enemy.

1. The enemy used persistence in the story of Samson and Delilah.

Do you remember? It said that she constantly harassed him, seeking the secret of his strength, and he eventually gave in. Look at the text below:

Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death. So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”
Judges 16:15-17

She nagged and nagged and nagged until he relented and gave her the secret to his power. Satan is persistent in his attacks.

2. The enemy used persistence in the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife.

Genesis 39:5 says that “day after day” she kept asking him to lie with her. The enemy was persistent in seeking to draw Joseph into adultery.

3. The enemy used persistence in the story of Christ being tempted by Satan in the wilderness.

In Matthew 4, when Satan tempted Jesus, he came to him three times with three different temptations until he eventually left Jesus alone.

4. The enemy used persistence in Peter’s temptation to deny Christ.

Several people approached Peter and said, “Weren’t you following Christ?” and with each question there was a temptation to deny Christ. In response, Peter denied him three times.

We have all experienced this, whether it was with lust, depression, anxiety, foul language, or some conflict. Satan is persistent and the purpose of being persistent in warfare is to wear down the other side into compromise and eventually giving up.

This persistence is also used to create deeper strongholds of sin. The more we compromise with the world, the more we give into a particular sin, the greater and deeper its roots become and the harder it becomes to break it and follow Christ.

Satan uses persistence. We see this as Tobiah sends a letter four times to Nehemiah. The hope is that Nehemiah would be worn down, which would open the door to harm him.

How does Nehemiah reply to the four attacks?

He gave them the same answer each time. I am busy with a great work; I cannot come down. He made a stand and would not compromise. In the same way, when the enemy attacks us, God’s desire for us is to stand and not give in.

Application Question: What can we learn from Nehemiah’s reply about how to stand against persistent temptation?

We can stand against Satan’s persistence by realizing the magnitude of the work God has given us. If you don’t realize the magnitude of God’s work and plan for your life, it will be easy to compromise.

Paul taught Timothy something with similar ramifications. Listen to what he said: “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer” (2 Timothy 2:3-4).

Paul told Timothy that he should consider himself a soldier for Christ. In understanding this, he should keep himself from becoming entangled with the things of this world. Practically, when our soldiers go to battle, they are fighting not just to protect themselves, but to protect what is behind them. A soldier fights for something greater than himself. He fights because the cause is more important than his life, his family, his country, and his home. And, ultimately, the attacker is not really after the soldier, he is trying to destroy or gain what the soldier protects.

Similarly, Satan’s attacks on us aren’t so much about us. The attacks are primarily about the kingdom of God and the things God is concerned about. It was the same with Nehemiah. Tobiah and Sanballat were not really after Nehemiah. They were after Nehemiah’s work.

That’s why Satan’s attacks are so persistent. He attacks all day long through the TV, the Internet, music, through teachings in the classroom, family, friends, etc., and by these attacks many lose their God-given convictions and give up ground to the enemy. They give up ground on what a biblical marriage is, between a man and woman. They give up ground on the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture. Satan constantly says, “Did God really say?” “Is this really true?” He persistently attacks the inerrancy of Scripture, just as he has done from the beginning of time with Adam and Eve.

Like Nehemiah, we must know that what we are fighting for is too big to compromise. It’s too great of a work. Compromise in sin will not only affect us, but it affects friends, family, our church, and even the lost. You must realize how important your battle is and what you are fighting for. If you don’t, you will be prone to compromise. Scripture says, “Where there is no revelation [no vision], people cast off restraint” (Prov 29:18).

When a person doesn’t realize God’s purpose for his life, he will constantly accept the lies of the devil or give up when attacked. This is because he doesn’t realize how important his battle is.

Nehemiah said, “I am carrying on a great project. I cannot come down.” If we are going to stand against the tactics of the devil, we must not only have discernment but we must realize how important our battle is.

Application Question: What are some of the ways you have experienced the enemy’s persistence? How can we better understand how great our work is so we will not be prone to compromise or be deceived?

The Enemy’s Tactic of Slander and Gossip

Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter in which was written: “It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us confer together.” I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”
Nehemiah 6:5-9

We see that the enemy also attacked Nehemiah through slander. Initially, he sent four personal messages to Nehemiah, but on the last one, he sent an open letter. Typically, when sending a letter to a government official, it would be a closed letter so that no one else could see the contents. However, Sanballat sought to pressure Nehemiah to respond to this meeting by slandering his name. Therefore, this open letter would not only have been read before Nehemiah but, probably, all along the way till it reached Nehemiah.

Sanballat lied about Nehemiah by saying he was trying to become king (v. 6-7). If this had gotten back to Artaxerxes, it could have potentially meant Nehemiah’s life, as Persian kings were known for quickly getting rid of any resistance.

Similarly with believers, when Satan is trying to stop the work of God, slander and gossip are common tactics. The very name “devil” means “slanderer” or “accuser.” That is what he does, he slanders God; he slanders people. He speaks slander to anyone who will listen. He will even slander us to our own ears—offering an array of condemnation. Consider the heavenly description of Satan in Revelation 12:10:

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.

Interpretation Question: In what ways do we see Satan’s slander throughout Scripture?

1. Satan slandered Job before God.

In the book of Job, he told God that Job only followed him because God blessed him. He said, “Touch his family, his riches, his body and you’ll see that he doesn’t love you.” He slandered Job before God.

2. Satan slandered God before Eve.

In the Garden of Eden, Satan said, “you will not die but you will become like God.” Satan slandered God before Eve, implying that God was keeping the best from her and Adam.

3. Satan slandered Jesus through the Pharisees.

Christ was slandered and accused by the Pharisees. They trumped up many false witnesses against him to lie about him.

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward.
Matthew 26:59-60

Satan commonly uses slander. He brings discord and problems to individual Christians and the church by bringing false accusations. That is the devil’s character; he is a slanderer.

Application Question: Why does the enemy use slander?

1. Slander is meant to discourage the Christian.

Listen to what Nehemiah said: “They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed’” (Nehemiah 6:9).

A discouraged, depressed Christian isn’t very productive in serving the kingdom of God. Often they become so focused on their problems that it weakens their hands in serving the Lord. Therefore, Satan works relentlessly to weaken and discourage the Christian, especially through slander.

2. Slander is meant to change the focus of the Christian.

Many times in seeking to defend our own reputation, we will find ourselves drawn away from focusing on God and the work of God. Satan slanders in order to distract the Christian.

3. Slander is meant to bring division.

Solomon said, “a whisperer separates friends” (Prov 16:28). The enemy will divide the church through slander, as he sends his whisperers around the church.

Observation Question: How does Nehemiah respond to the slander? How should we respond to gossip and slander?

1. Confront slander by telling the truth.

Nehemiah 6:8 says, “I sent him this reply: ‘Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.’”

Nehemiah resisted the devil with the truth. He simply told them it was not true. Many times we cannot do much more than that.

2. Confront slander by trusting in God.

We see this by the fact that Nehemiah prays and puts the situation in God’s hands. Nehemiah 6:9 says, “They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’ But I prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands.’”

It should be said that at times, in entrusting things to God, it might be best to just remain silent and not defend ourselves. Because rumors are false, many times the truth will become evident. There were times when Christ was accused falsely, but instead of defending himself, he chose to remain silent and entrusted the situation to God. Consider Matthew 26:61-63:

This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’” Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent.

Certainly, we should confront lies with truth, but sometimes, in trusting God, we should allow him to be our defense (cf. Rom 12:19).

3. Confront slander by living a life that is above reproach.

The lies about Nehemiah seemed to have had very little traction. This was because Nehemiah was a man who was above reproach in the way he lived. As governor of Israel, he brought reform to the previous administration’s corruptness; he never even used his food allotment but instead paid out of his own pocket to meet his needs and others’ (cf. Neh 5:14-18). He had a reputation for being upright.

It becomes hard for anyone to lie about you if you consistently live a life that is above reproach. We see nothing in this text about the Jews or the king of Persia responding to this gossip, and we can have no doubt that it was because of Nehemiah’s chaste and holy behavior.

Listen to what Peter commanded of the Christians being persecuted in the Roman Empire: “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12). Let this be true of us as well.

Application Question: Why does the enemy use slander in the lives of believers? Have you experienced slander or gossip? How did you handle the situation?

The Enemy’s Tactic of Infiltration through False Teaching

One day I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was shut in at his home. He said, “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you—by night they are coming to kill you.” But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should one like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me. Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who have been trying to intimidate me.
Nehemiah 6:10-14

The next tactic of the enemy was to intimidate Nehemiah through false teaching. In this scenario, Tobiah and Sanballat hired a prophet named Shemaiah to deceive Nehemiah. His intent was to get Nehemiah to protect himself from the enemy by hiding in the temple (v. 10).

It seems that Shemaiah was trying to give the illusion of a “prophet utterance.” When we see the prophet “shut in at his home,” he probably was acting out the prophecy. This was common for prophets in the Old Testament. For example, we see Isaiah prophesy naked against Egypt and Cush to demonstrate how Assyria would conquer them, take them captive, and lead them naked in order to shame them (Isaiah 20). We also see that Hosea was called to marry a prostitute to represent how Israel was adulterous in her relationship with God (Hosea 1).

Shemaiah said, “let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you, by night they are coming to kill you” (v. 10). This utterance seemed to be written in the form of a poetic couplet in order to trick Nehemiah into sin.1 However, Nehemiah realized that this prophet had been sent by Sanballat to make him commit sin and to give him a bad name.

This is important because one of the common tactics Satan uses to try to lure people away from God and their callings is through false teaching and false prophets. Listen to what Christ said:

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
Matthew 7:15-16

Jesus said to beware of false prophets. They are deceptive; they come to us in sheep’s clothing. However, they are really wolves trying to destroy. We will be able to recognize them by their fruits.

The enemy has led many astray through his false teachers. In fact, Paul said this:

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15

Paul said that these people are in the church masquerading as servants of righteousness. This is still happening today, and we must be aware of it. Consider what Paul taught Timothy about the last days:

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
1 Timothy 4:1-2

Paul said that false teachers and false teachings will be common in the last days. Essentially a new cult of Christianity pops up every day, and many people from the church are often led into them. If this will continue to increase in these last days, how much do Christians need discernment more than previous generations?

Interpretation Question: How did Nehemiah know this was a false prophecy? How can we know?

1. He tested it by Scripture.

Nehemiah knew this was a false prophesy because he knew it would be sin for him to enter into the temple and close the doors. The fact that the prophet talked about closing the door indicates that the prophet was calling him to enter the Holy Place, which was only for priests (Num 18:7).2 For him to enter would have been sin and possibly led to his death.

He, no doubt, tested this prophecy by knowing Scripture. God would never tell him to enter a forbidden area of the temple. A king in the Old Testament actually entered the Holy place to offer a sacrifice and God struck him with leprosy (cf. 2 Chr 26:19).

The best protection from false teachers and false doctrine is through diligent study of the Word of God. Listen to the story of the Bereans:

Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
Acts 17:11

We need Christians who are diligent in the study of the Bible and test everything that comes out of the teacher’s mouth. God is calling all of us to be “noble” Christians.

2. He knew his identity.

Nehemiah said, “Should a man like me hide?” Nehemiah knew his identity as governor, but more than that, as a servant of God and the people of Israel. In serving God and man, he could not sin against them.

In the New Testament, this reality is also true of us. Part of the reason many of us fall to the deceptions of Satan is because we really don’t know who we are in Christ. When people don’t know their identity, then they will run around trying to find it in everything.

You will find your identity in wealth, education, relationships, or even sin, if you don’t know who you are in Christ.

For example, Christ taught his disciples about their identity as children of God in order that they would not struggle with fear and worry about future provisions. Listen to what he says:

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matthew 6:31-33

Jesus essentially said, “The world runs after what they will eat, drink or wear, but you have a Father who takes care of you. Stop living for food, drink and clothing. The world does that, but you don’t have to because your Father will provide.” Knowing your identity will help free us from the lies of the enemy.

One of the ways we will be kept from the myriads of false teachings that will continue to increase as we get closer to the end times is by knowing the Word of God. Nehemiah knew it would be sin to enter the holy place in the temple. It was only for priests. But Nehemiah also knew his identity as a leader of Israel and servant of God. Knowing who we are will protect us from much of Satan’s tactics.

Application Question: In what ways has knowing your identity in Christ helped set you free from various sins and temptations?

The Enemy’s Tactic of Psychological Warfare

I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me. Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who have been trying to intimidate me…. Moreover, they kept reporting to me his good deeds and then telling him what I said. And Tobiah sent letters to intimidate me.
Nehemiah 6:12-14, 19

We have already dealt with this a little previously, but since it happens twice in this passage, I think it needs a separate point. One of the enemy’s primary tactics against Nehemiah was psychological warfare, more specifically, fear. We just read it in Nehemiah 6:13-14 and again in verse 19. In bringing a false prophet, Tobiah and Sanballat were ultimately trying to make Nehemiah intimidated or it can be translated frightened, which would have led him to sin. Tobiah also tried to intimidate him through the sending of letters (v. 19).

It’s important to see the enemy’s intent of bringing fear behind the tactic of false teaching and the letters because it was also the same intent behind the tactic of slander. Nehemiah 6:9 said, “They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”‘

Behind the tactic of slander, false teaching, and the letters, the enemy was ultimately trying to make Nehemiah afraid. Satan also constantly tries to do that with us. He is always trying to promote fear, anxiety, and worry in those who follow God. In fact, Peter compares Satan to a roaring lion seeking whomever he may devour. First Peter 5:8 says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Why does a lion roar? The roar is strategic to paralyze his prey with fear, so he can attack and devour it. In the same way, Satan commonly uses fear to try to devour believers.

Tobiah and Sanballat were trying to use fear to immobilize and paralyze Nehemiah. They tried to frighten him with gossip, which could have led to the king of Persia’s wrath. The enemy tried to attack him with the threat of killing him. The enemy was trying to use fear to hinder the work of God. Our enemy, Satan, uses fear for similar purposes with us.

Interpretation Question: Why does Satan use fear as a tactic with believers and leaders specifically?

1. Satan uses fear to stop believers from doing God’s work.

We see this in the Parable of the Talents. Matthew 25:24-25 says,

“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.”

In Matthew 25, the person with one talent never used his talent. His reason was fear; he was afraid. We see this same excuse all the time with believers. They are afraid of failure; they are afraid of success; they are insecure about their abilities. Many are paralyzed and kept from doing God’s work because of fear. They won’t serve in the leadership of a ministry; they won’t evangelize; they won’t pray. Fear keeps them from doing the work of God.

In fact, we commonly see this tendency with many God called for service. We saw this with Moses and Gideon. Both struggled with fear when God called them to serve. Similarly, many Christians are paralyzed by some type of fear which limits their usefulness. The enemy uses psychological warfare.

2. Satan uses fear to hinder the work of God in believers.

We see this in the Parable of the Sowers. Matthew 13:22 says, “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.”

The worries of this life (fear) kept the Word from ever producing fruit in the thorny ground. The Word of God is ineffective in many Christians because of the thorn of worry. Maybe they hear the Word and agree with it, but their fears keep the Word of God from producing fruit. They are worried about the future, about the past, about family, about career, etc. These worries hinder the work of God in them. It chokes the power of the Word of God.

3. Satan uses fear to lead believers into sin.

That was the enemy’s plan with Nehemiah. He was tempting Nehemiah to fear with the hope that he would run into the temple and sin against God, weakening the people and causing them to doubt his leadership.

It’s the same thing in our daily lives. A person’s fear and insecurities will often lead them to sin. Abraham was afraid of losing his life because of his beautiful wife, so he lied to Pharaoh and said she was his sister. Abraham was afraid to not have a child, so he married a second wife, Hagar, and sinned against God. Fear led him into sin, and it is the same for us.

4. Satan uses fear to lead a believer into discouragement.

Nehemiah 6:9 says, “They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’”

Tobiah’s and Sanballat’s desire was to make Nehemiah too weak to complete the work. Similarly, as mentioned before, a discouraged, depressed Christian won’t be very productive in serving the kingdom of God. Their fear weakens their hands in the work. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in the heart of a man brings depression.” Because of this, Satan works hard in sowing seeds of fear to weaken and discourage the Christian.

Application Question: How do we combat the tactic of fear?

1. In order to defeat fear, we must recognize that fear is not of God.

Listen to what Paul told Timothy: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Paul tells Timothy, God has not given you that spirit of fear. He is calling Timothy to recognize that his insecurities, probably in ministry, were not from God. Paul said to the Philippians, “Be anxious for nothing” (4:6). We should not accept fear as from God. Certainly, there are healthy fears, such as the fear of the Lord, but fear that keeps us from serving God or trusting him is not from the Lord. In fact, Paul commands us to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts (Col 3:15).

2. In order to defeat fear, we must recognize our resources in God.

Paul did not simply tell Timothy to reject fear, he also gave him reasons. Look again at what he said: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Paul said, “Timothy you don’t need to be afraid because God has given you power for whatever task he has called you to. He has given you love for people who are difficult. He has given you discipline to get the task done. Timothy, there is no reason to be afraid. Look at the resources God has given you.” God has given us these resources as well: power, love, and self-discipline.

3. In order to defeat fear, we must pray.

In two of the times that Nehemiah was tempted to be afraid, both the open letter and the false prophet, how did he respond? He prayed.

They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”
Nehemiah 6:9

Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who have been trying to intimidate me.
Nehemiah 6:14

Aren’t we encouraged to battle fear similarly in the New Testament? Remember what Paul told the Philippians:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

We combat it by: (a) choosing not to fear, (b) choosing to pray about everything, and by (c) giving thanks in everything.

This is the reason so many are crippled by fear and kept from doing the work God has called them to do. They have chosen to be anxious, chosen to be afraid. They have chosen to not pray about everything. And finally, most Christians don’t give thanks in everything. They complain, they get mad, they get angry, and therefore, the enemy still wins the victory. The promise of peace only comes to those who practice all these disciplines. Nehemiah battled fear through prayer and we must as well.

Do you realize you have an enemy just like Nehemiah?

There are events that are happening to you and your family through which the enemy wants to immobilize you with fear; he wants to cripple you with worries. However, God wants you to have peace so that you can continue serving him. Do you recognize the enemy’s tactics?

Application Question: What are common fears that the enemy attacks you with? How do these fears immobilize or affect you? How is God calling you to get free from these fears in order to better serve him?

The Enemy’s Tactic of Attacking Immediately after Victory

So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God. Also, in those days the nobles of Judah were sending many letters to Tobiah, and replies from Tobiah kept coming to them. For many in Judah were under oath to him, since he was son-in-law to Shecaniah son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berekiah. Moreover, they kept reporting to me his good deeds and then telling him what I said. And Tobiah sent letters to intimidate me.
Nehemiah 6:15-19

It says in verse 15 that the wall was completed in fifty-two days and all the surrounding nations were afraid because they realized God had helped. You might expect an end to the memoirs of Nehemiah or a “They lived happily ever after” because the wall was completed, but that doesn’t happen. The enemy attacked again immediately.

The next attack came through the nobles of Judah, who would have been very influential, as Judah was the royal line. They were bound to Tobiah through marriage and were sharing everything Nehemiah said with him. At the same time, they continually spoke good words about Tobiah. However, these good words were ingenuous, as Tobiah kept sending intimidating letters to Nehemiah (v. 19).

Attacking immediately after a victory is a common tactic of Satan. We get a picture of Satan’s opportunistic nature in Luke 2:13, right after Satan’s temptation of Jesus. Look at what it says: “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time” (Luke 2:13).

The devil is always looking for an opportune time. Though Jesus had won the victory, Satan was still looking and ready to attack. I think a good picture of attacking after victory is seen with Jesus and Peter in Matthew 16:15-23. Jesus said, “Who do men say that I am?” and Peter responded, “The Christ, the Son of God.” Christ blessed him and said, “Blessed are you for man has not revealed this to you but my Father in heaven” and he also said, “On this rock I will build my church.”

Peter had been blessed by God; this was a great victory. Maybe, Peter felt really special after Christ’s blessing. However, only minutes later, he would stumble greatly. Christ told the disciples that he would be crucified and raised from the dead. Peter immediately rebuked Jesus saying that he would not die. Christ responded by saying, “Get behind me Satan for you are an offense to me.” Right after Peter’s victory, the enemy found a door to speak through him.

Similarly, in 1 Kings 18, Elijah had a tremendous victory over the priests of Baal, as God sent fire down on the altar, and Elijah had all the priests killed. However, in 1 Kings 19, Queen Jezebel promised to, likewise, kill Elijah, and he ran for his life. He became depressed and even asked for God to take his life. Right after his greatest victory came his greatest defeat.

Satan is always looking for an opportune time and typically that comes very shortly after a victory. Many Christians go to the mountain top only to stumble quickly down to the valley. This is a common tactic of the enemy.

As one who worked with youth over seven years, I saw this many times. The students would go to a retreat and get on fire for God, and it was right after the high that they would come stumbling down. It was right after the mountain top experience that they had a valley experience. They would have a major fight with a friend or family member, stumble on the Internet, start dealing with depression, etc. It was common.

Satan likes to attack right after a victory. Many couples stumble into an argument right after leaving a Spirit-filled service. Many are tempted right after getting out of their devotions and going to work. Satan attacks right after a victory. I think part of the reason this is common is because it is right after a victory that we have a tendency to let down our guard and relax.

Scottish minister Andrew A. Bonar said this, “Let us be as watchful after the victory as before the battle.”3 We must be as watchful after the victory as before the battle, especially because we know our enemy’s tactics.

Application Question: In what ways have you experienced the enemy’s tactic of attacking right after a victory or spiritual high? How can we more wisely protect ourselves from this tactic?

The Enemy’s Tactic of Infiltration through Compromise

So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God. Also, in those days the nobles of Judah were sending many letters to Tobiah, and replies from Tobiah kept coming to them. For many in Judah were under oath to him, since he was son-in-law to Shecaniah son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berekiah. Moreover, they kept reporting to me his good deeds and then telling him what I said. And Tobiah sent letters to intimidate me.
Nehemiah 6:15-19

The last tactic the enemy used against Nehemiah was infiltration through compromise. As mentioned, the nobles of Judah were under oath to Tobiah through marriage. Like other Samaritans, Tobiah was ethnically mixed. He was part Jewish and part Ammonite (cf. Neh 2:9). His name in Hebrew meant “God is good.” He had married a daughter of Judah, and the tribe of Judah had great influence in Israel.

It is obvious that the nobles were compromising. This is not only seen in the fact that they gave their daughter to someone from the surrounding nations, which was forbidden by God, but also in that they were praising Tobiah who had been antagonistic to Israel from the beginning. Proverbs 28:4 says this: “Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law resist them.”

I think we see this in the church all the time, especially amongst our youth. It’s common to find them pumping certain music stars that teach anti-God messages. They will be watching shows that dishonor God’s design for man and woman or teach other forms of corrupt living. But not only do they watch and listen, they praise it. They boast about it. They honor those who dishonor God. Those who forsake the law praise the wicked.

Of all the attacks Nehemiah shared, compromise was probably the most dangerous because he doesn’t share a resolution. It just says that the nobles kept reporting the good Tobiah had done and sharing what Nehemiah said. In fact, Nehemiah later shares that this compromise was still happening many years after the completion of the wall, even after all the reform in chapters 8-12. When we get to Nehemiah 13:7, we see that Tobiah had moved into the temple. Israel had given a room in the temple to a person who was not a priest which was clearly forbidden.

In addition, in chapter 13, the Israelites again started to marry foreign women, which was also forbidden by God. It was the same compromise Solomon committed, which eventually led Israel away from God and into judgment.

Compromise is one of the enemy’s most dangerous tactics; it commonly destroys individual Christians, churches, and Christian organizations. It’s like a weed that is hard to pluck out. It can stay rooted for years, causing havoc amongst an otherwise healthy harvest.

Interpretation Question: Why does the enemy work so hard to bring compromise amongst believers?

1. Compromise spreads very fast like yeast.

Look at what Paul says: “Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?” (1 Corinthians 5:6).

Compromise and sin quickly spread throughout a congregation or ministry. It will open the door for more sin and deeper strongholds in a person’s life and a community’s life. Paul said that it must be removed because it will spread.

2. Compromise removes the blessing of God.

David said this: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers” (Psalm 1:1).

David said that those who compromise lose the blessing of God on their lives. Only the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked is blessed.

What is the counsel of the wicked? It is anything that proclaims the opposite of God’s revelation. This includes things we read, watch, listen to, or meditate on. James says that friendship with the world is enmity with God (4:4).

Many Christians miss the blessing of God on their lives because of compromise.

3. Compromise hinders intimacy of God.

Consider what Paul said about being yoked with unbelievers:

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?… ”Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” ”I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
2 Corinthians 6:14, 17-18

Now this Scripture is often used for not marrying unbelievers, but its applications are much deeper than that. Paul gives a promise to those who separate from the world, “I will be a Father to you, you will be my sons and daughters” (v.18).

This seems like a weird promise since he is writing to Christians. Paul is writing to the Corinthian church. What does he mean by the promise, “I will be a Father to you”? It is a promise of intimacy with God. Many Christians lack the intimacy God wants to give them because of compromise. They say, “God where are you; I can’t hear your voice?” They find their time in the Word and worship as dull. The problem may be that they are compromised and, therefore, can’t hear the voice of the Father or truly experience his love. Paul says that we must separate from the world in order to have this promise.

Compromise spreads quickly. It removes the blessing of God and hinders intimacy with him. One of Satan’s greatest tactics is infiltration through compromise. Many Christians’ lives have been destroyed by a little compromise. Churches have been destroyed by compromise. They compromise their teaching because the doctrine is unpopular in the culture. Christian universities have been destroyed when they have allowed liberalism to creep in; they compromised the gospel by focusing on grants, money from the government, and the approval of the world.

Even today, there are many Tobiahs in the house of God, and we often have welcomed them in to our demise. Nehemiah clearly ends the chapter saying, “The problems are not yet over. The enemy is still attacking.”

In what ways are we compromising? A little leaven leavens the whole lump (1 Cor 5:6). Sin will keep spreading. Satan only needs a little room to destroy a harvest—to make a Christian or a Christian community ineffective.

Application Question: In what ways have you seen compromise harm Christians and Christian communities? What temptations to compromise does the enemy constantly attack you with?

Conclusion

As godly leaders we must be aware of our enemy’s tactics both to protect ourselves and also our communities. What are Satan’s tactics to stop the work of God?

  1. The enemy’s tactic of deception: He is a liar and the father of lies.
  2. The enemy’s tactic of persistence: He wants to wear believers down with his attacks and temptations.
  3. The enemy’s tactic of slander and gossip: He will slander God, slander others, and he will slander us.
  4. The enemy’s tactic of psychological warfare: He works through fear and discouragement.
  5. The enemy’s tactic of infiltration through false teaching: We must know the Word and our identity to not be deceived.
  6. The enemy’s tactic of attacking right after a victory: We must be as alert after victory, as before.
  7. The enemy’s tactic of infiltration through compromise: This might be the most dangerous tactic. It spreads; it removes the blessing of God and hinders intimacy with him.

1 Kidner, D. (1979). Ezra and Nehemiah: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 12, p. 108). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

2 Getz, Gene (1995-06-22). Men of Character: Nehemiah (Kindle Location 2841). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

3 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Determined. “Be” Commentary Series (77). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Related Topics: Leadership

Report Inappropriate Ad