Monday, 11 February 2008 11:52

Gracious Victorious Perseverance [1]

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Do you know what is so great about the Holy Bible? Not just that it tells us the greatest news, the only gospel of Jesus Christ, but it does so in a context that is so real to life, so true to reality as we also see now in Nehemiah 4. We find in this chapter just when a new and exciting stage and work in Gods church and kingdom is unfolding, there is the vile devil seeking to do what he can to destroy the work and all involved, and then we find the virus discouragement setting in, bringing setback. But we see Nehemiah, the man of God, still moving on in valiant determination and encouraging the people in that way as well. It is a chapter about being, as one put it, knocked down but not knocked out. Our Scripture passage tells about gracious, victorious perseverance in the face of grim vicious perils and it is all meant to be for our instruction and direction in the way we should go here and now. Let us take a close look at Nehemiah 4 today and next week too, the Lord willing, under the theme, Gracious Victorious Perseverance!

Let me read just the first three verses of the chapter at this point. But it came to pass, that when Sanballet heard that we builded the wall [remember they were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem] he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which we burned? Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.

Stopping at this point, notice from our text that when you will live for God and good to His praise and in His service, the devil will do all he can to stop and disturb that and attack and destroy you. Oh, the vile and vicious devil has many instruments in his hand ready to help him in his devious, devilish activity. Wherever there is a work of God by the Lords people together or a work of God in a persons heart and life, or in a congregation, you can be sure there the devil will come to wreck it if he can, using all means possible to do so.

In this case Sanballet again leads the opposition to the work as the main instrument in Satans hands, and right by his side is Tobiah the Ammonite. Sanballet and Tobiah are the main instigators of trouble against the Jews in their rebuilding project. We are told how angry Sanballet was to see the walls being restored. He was furious and very indignant, the text says, or you could also translate, most angry and very enraged. What were they so upset about? Well, the enemy of God and His people cant stand it when Gods people and cause progress and flourish. We see, in fact, the assaults and attacks against the Jews and their rebuilding project growing and intensifying over time. Verse 7 states in addition to Sanballet and Tobiah, eventually there came the Arabs and the Ashdodites joining with them in opposition as well. In other words, opposition and threat of attack was developing from all four sides around them, with the Arabs to the south, the Ammonites to the east, the Ashdodites on the west, and then Sanballet and the Samaritans on the north, all sweeping in on Nehemiah and his people, wanting by all means to bring this new work of revival and rebuilding to a halt and to another dead standstill. Have you experienced this in your own life how when you are resolved to seek the Lord and walk in His ways and to live to His praise and glory, trouble seems to come in from all sides, distractions and disturbances and temptations and postponements from all over to get you off track?

The devil doesnt want people to seek and serve the Lord. Satan cant stand that at all, and look at his tactics to stop that if he can. Sanballet and Tobiah begin with biting sarcasm, stinging ridicule, and harsh mockery of the Jews and their attempts to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Five questions are asked to make fun of them in their work now, and then along comes Tobiah with his ridicule, suggesting that they couldnt build anything to last if they tried. Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall. So Tobiah scoffingly talks. These scorning words of contempt and this negative propaganda campaign with words only were mean and vicious for sure.

We are told, however, at first the Jews just kept on with their rebuilding project, resolved to build regardless of the opposition and challenges and it wasnt too long, maybe a matter of weeks just, and the wall was joined together to about half its height. The people had a mind to work and kept at it, and the results showed amazingly and in a relatively short time too. We know from chapter 6:15 that the whole project was completely finished in just 52 days so maybe now it was just three to four weeks and they were making great headway. In verse 6 we read, and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work. But we are told this only angered their enemies all the more. Verse 8 tells us their anger continued to boil about this ongoing development and what made them so angry, you can be sure too, is that they could not stop it legally, for the king of Persia had given his written permission to Nehemiah for this rebuilding project. These enemies of this work were frustrated in that as one put it, they were helpless spectators of events of which they did not approve.

You see, when God calls for a work and approves it and stands behind it, giving His blessing upon it, then no one and nothing will stop Him or thwart His plans. How does Jesus put this in Matthew 16:18? He says there, I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. This is still the great frustration for Satan now and for those who will follow and serve him. They are fighting a losing battle for in spite of all their tactics, Gods kingdom will be established and be triumphant over all, for this we may know about Jesus Christ the Saviour - His is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory and Satan and his hosts are fighting a losing battle and are going down to defeat, eternal everlasting defeat one day, who knows how soon.

But our text makes clear while there is still time, Satan will not give up, certainly not back then yet in Nehemiahs day even before Christs coming and once for all victory over Satan, and even now still, in this time shortly before Christs second coming and His ultimate and eternal victory day. In our Scripture passage we see the attacks and strategy changing but not diminishing in intensity. From constant ridicule and scorn, the enemies moved to actual threat of attack against the Jews and to different scare tactics with the aim to divide and confuse the people, so diligently working to rebuild the broken down walls of the sacred city. The enemies said, and kept saying as we are told in verse 11, They shall not know, neither see [anything] till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease. Verse 12 mentions how relentless was this fear tactic of sudden attack coming upon them by their enemies. The Jews who dwelt nearest the enemy told over and over, as it were, The terrorist threat is real, we are in danger for our very lives!

How real to life this all is in for Gods people seeking to live for God and good. Then vile, unceasing, demonic attack and opposition comes against us in all kinds of ways from all kinds of fronts. To be forewarned of this is to be forearmed, or not? Isnt that what our Scripture passage should surely teach us? Are you able to stand against the wiles, the many sly schemes and plots and tricks and pressures of Satan to distract, disturb, and defeat you from seeking and serving the Lord to His praise?

Will you learn from this passage so to watch out for and be on guard against Satan and his wiles? We will see more in next weeks broadcast how to do that, Lord willing, for Nehemiah 4 is so helpful in this regard too. But before that, let us notice yet how Satan made inroads in the camp of Nehemiah during the rebuilding of the wall. Again this is so instructive just for the fact it is so common a problem. By his relentless assaults and unceasing

demeaning propaganda, what do we find out did take place in the camp of Judah? Discouragement set in after awhile. We read in verse 10, And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall and they focused on their enemies and their unceasing assaults. Here we observe that the people of Judah, from that very tribe that was to be the strongest and the Messianic tribe even, were falling prey to discouragement. We see them weak and discouraged here in themselves. Maybe you are a person who is discouraged too. Perhaps you are so full of discouragement even, you say, Pastor if you only knew! You feel down and out, overwhelmed, distressed and depressed, downright discouraged indeed, not just with life, but especially with the Christian life and calling. Am I describing you or rather, is our text doing so?

Notice too when particularly it set in, namely, when they were about at the halfway point of their project, as verse 6 states. When on a hike up a mountain, the halfway point can also be the most discouraging point. Just halfway means still as much to do as you just accomplished, and it can seem overwhelming. On top of losing strength and losing sight of their goal, they were beginning to lose hope and confidence of ever getting done and concluding, they just couldnt and wouldnt be able to finish it. Isnt it true when you lose hope and confidence in your way, you lose heart and motivation, you become listless, you get that empty feeling of whats the use? and the overwhelming discouraging sense that you are never going to catch up anyway? You know the feeling. Who doesnt at some point in their life? On top of this all, the threat on the security of their lives, or their constant insecurity with the unceasing threats of the enemy, was getting to them and wearing them down. We see them slumped into discouragement.

How would they escape their discouragement and be able to continue on in the right way? Well, they would escape, but not through their own power or efforts, but by looking to the Lord their God. The way of deliverance from sin and Satan and the grip of discouragement is to call upon the Lord as revealed in Jesus Christ. Listen again next week for Nehemiah 4 also unfolding and proclaiming this blessed gospel truth. In the meantime, if possible, read the whole chapter and even the whole book of Nehemiah. It teaches us so much gospel truth for all times for all people, whoever has ears to hear. Amen.

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