Nehemiah Lesson 9 - Halfway!
As believers we sometimes wage war against the devil unarmed and unprepared, like soldiers on horseback fighting against a tank! We forget that Satan is on a search and destroy mission and he'll stop at nothing to hinder God's work in us. So join Stephen in this message as he shows us how to defend ourselves against the never-ending attack of the enemy.
It was many years ago, at the beginning of a major conflict in Europe, when Germany mounted an invasion of Poland. Poland was fairly unconcerned – they had a history of repelling enemy attacks from the barbarians of warring neighbors. The Polish army was renowned for it’s skilled horsemanship – their Calvary was well trained – their horses among Europe’s finest. When they learned that German forces were advancing, they prepared 12 brigades of their finest warriors. With swords flashing in the sunlight, the Calvary officers sounded the charge and their horses surged forward with powerful strides. Trouble was, this was not a war fought a thousand years ago – this was World War II. Manchester, in his biography of Winston Churchill wrote that this Calvary galloped their horses proudly right into the path of newly designed German panzer tanks.
The outcome was predictable. Total devastation.
I am convinced that we as believers often expect to take on the enemy of our soul with methods that rival galloping at full speed into an oncoming German tank.
The Devil, Lucifer, Satan, the Deceiver, the Father of Lies, the Red Dragon – or any other Biblical name you choose to use for the Prince of Hell and the Kingdom of darkness – is on a search and destroy mission.
Any Christian who says, “I will arise and build” will face an enemy who just as passionately says, “I will arise and destroy.”
He seeks to deceive, to destroy, to distract, to divide any attempt by Christians who seek to advance the Kingdom of light and the glory of the Prince of Heaven.
Open your Bibles please to the Book of Ephesians 6:10. “Finally be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. (Then we’re commanded) 11. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having don everything, to
In other words, we are to be properly prepared for battle.
You don’t resist German tanks on horseback. And you do not resist the lure of the Red Dragon with 1 hour of church and a blessing before lunch and dinner.
You are to clothe yourselves in the armor of the warrior which has been designed by God for the Christian warrior.
One of the pieces of armor designed by God that I often think of in my own struggle with the enemy is the shield of faith.
It’s an essential weapon for any believer! And I say weapon because it is not only defensive but offensive. I personally do not believe that these pieces of armor are merely defensive except for the sword of the Spirit. They all have an offensive element in resisting the temptation, the method, the scheme, the lure of the Red Dragon.
Paul refers to it in Ephesians 6:16 as “…the shield of faith which is able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the
The shield has to do with the object of our faith:
When tested by battle conditions, our faith in God has three important aspects.
First, our shield of faith is in the living reality of God’s person. David, the psalmist wrote, “But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me.”
Our shield is faith in the reality of God promises.
Our shield is faith in God’s providence. “For we know that all things work together for our good/our spiritual conformation into the likeness of Christ.”
God is behind every scene, engineering everything toward the praise of His glory.
A few years ago I was on the phone with a pastor named Charlie. Charlie was supposed to have called me the day before but he didn’t call. So I called Friday afternoon. We talked awhile and I said, “Now what about those dates we talked about – they gonna work out.” I’ll never forget him saying, “Boy I don’t know where my calendar is right now – things are a little confusing right now – you see, my 9 year old son was hit by a car yesterday and killed.”
Could I call you back in a few days?
In the thick of the battle – circumstances occur and sure enough, a fiery missile hits directly into your shield – “Do you really believe that God is working everything out for your good and for His glory – look at what you’re having to endure – when’s the last time you’ve heard His voice?” You say, “You’re right, I don’t think He really cares . . . and so you throw your shield down – and now you are open to the enemy like never before.
He can’t steal your soul if you’re a Christian, but he can steal your song.
I remember being so convicted because that same Friday night I had been down at the drugstore. One of our daughters had 104.6 temperature. Mom had her in the bathtub sponging her with cold water. It was midnight and I was getting some medicine. There I was thinking, “Lord, life is really lousy right now. Why can’t this kind of thing happen after breakfast on my day off. Can’t You time these trials a little more conveniently?
Yet I realized later, that while I was standing in that drugstore, Charlie was standing on a curbside where life forever changed.
And when I talked to him that Saturday morning, Charlie and his family were hanging on to their shields for dear life.
This Roman shield that Paul talked about gives us insight into the operation of our faith as Christian soldiers.
It was not a small shield – in fact, is was often referred to as a door. It was large and rectangular – it could be planted in the ground and hid behind. It was overlapped with leather and soaked with water so that the flaming arrows from enemy archers would hit the shield and simply fizzle out.
So it protected the soldier from the fiery missiles of the enemy.
By the way, under this first point, the shield also protected the rest of the soldier’s armor. Study sometime the relationship between your faith in God and the helmet of salvation; the belt of truth; the shoes of the gospel message.
Our confidence in God’s person, promise and providence protects everything about us as believers, from the fire of the Red Dragon.
Secondly, the shield unified the army
The Romans had invented this shield to be used collectively. The edges of these shields were beveled and notched so that they could be locked into place with the shield next to them. You could actually have a row of men that made a wall of metal, advancing against the enemy
This is a tremendous illustration of the church – marching together with unified purpose and oneness of heart.
Somebody came up to me two weeks ago and said, “Hey Stephen, did you know that the Apostles in the Book of Acts used to travel around together in the same automobile?” I said, “Really!” He said, “Yea, it says in Acts that they were all in one accord.”
The bad thing is, now every time you hear that verse we’re gonna think of a Honda.
What kind of impact could we have when, with unified hearts toward advancing the glory of God we are in one accord.
One more point about the shield as I come to the conclusion of my introduction.
The shield not only protected the soldier and unified the army, it also reflected the sun.
In the center of each shield was a round piece of brass. Before going into war, the soldiers would polish that brass so that it shone with the brilliance of a mirror. As they walked into battle, they would reflect the light of the sun into the eyes of their enemies.
What a wonderful illustration of the believer who reflects by faith the truth of God’s Son who is the light of the world. The enemy is easily distracted by the brilliance of the Son. The dragon hates the name of Christ. He hates the reflection of Christ’s gospel – that Jesus Christ died and was buried but rose again on the third day. The brilliant light of the gospel dispels the darkness.
And so, when the Dragon approaches, hide behind the shield, or link it to another believer’s shield; reflect on the light of God’s promises and the attributes of God’s person and the security of God’s providence.
Those three things make up the shield of faith. His Person, His promises, and His providence.
Nowhere in all of scripture will you find the shield of faith so clearly demonstrated than in the Book of Nehemiah.
I would invite you to pitch your tent with me just inside the city walls that are now halfway up.
Turn to Nehemiah chapter 4.
We’re in chapter 4 and the enemies have just added another army to their ranks.
Notice verse 7. Now when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repair of the walls of Jerusalem went on, and that the breaches began to be closed, they were very angry. 8. All of them conspired together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause a disturbance in it.
If you had a map to look at the enemy nations you would notice that with the presence of the Ashdodites (Philistines) to the west, Jerusalem is now completely surrounded.
Verse 6 informs us the reason why the enemies were so alarmed. Notice – “So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half it’s height.” The walls were halfway up when the enemies of God put together a plan to attack Jerusalem.
Let’s be as practical as possible here. What a wonderful time for the enemy to turn up the heat - the Jewish people are just now halfway finished. And the halfway point of any project is perhaps the most difficult point to push past and keep going.
Whether you’re running the mile and you reach the halfway point; or you’re halfway through a difficult semester; or halfway in a household renovation project when the mess looks bigger than the goal; halfway is a difficult hurdle in the course of life.
The newness has worn off – the reality of the challenge has set in.
And even though the people prayed to God (verse 9 tells us, and set up a guard), a popular song was being chanted in Jerusalem.
10. Thus in Judah it was said, “The strength of the burden bearers is failing, Yet there is much rubbish; And we ourselves are unable To rebuild the wall.” 13. then I stationed men in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, the exposed places, and I stationed the people in families with their swords, spears and bows.
Let’s stop a moment and dissect this lure called discouragement. It happens to be one of Satan’s most powerful tools. More believer’s have headed for the sidelines because of discouragement than perhaps any other reason.
And it would not be surprising to discover that discouragement was often felt most deeply at some halfway point in life.
First of all, the people were tired. Verse 10a tells us they sang, “the strength of the burden bearers is failing.”
The first half of the job had exhausted them – they were physically worn out. And vulnerable because of it.
Secondly, the people were distracted. Notice the next line. Yet there is much rubbish!
The key word is the word “yet”. In other words, they were physically exhausted yet, in spit of all the work they’d done, there was still all this rubbish – literally, “dry earth, debris.”
Do you notice where the people have begun to focus their attention? Not on what been finished – not on the progress they’ve made – but on all the stuff in their way. 100 years of stones and overgrown vines and rubbish and mounds of dirt.
That was all they could see.
There are times when you’re raising children, or accomplishing a demanding task at work, or finishing a project, or building a marriage when you can’t see past the rubbish – you ignore what’s been accomplished and you focus on what hasn’t yet happened.
It’s the hurdle of being halfway.
No wonder their song continues in verse 10 to tell us that the people felt hopeless notice “and we ourselves are unable to rebuild the wall.”
When you’re physically exhausted and the work doesn’t let up and all you see is unfinished business, the next characteristic of discouragement sets in . . .
That’s it Nehemiah . . . we tried. We made it halfway . . . we’ll never make it to the tape.
And to make matters even worse, there discouragement was mixed with fear.
Fourth, The people were afraid of their future
11. Our enemies said, “They will not know or see until we come among them, kill them and put a stop to the work.” 12. When the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times, “They will come up against us from every place where you may turn,”
Don’t you love these other Jews who live in the surrounding area – v. 12 – they came and told us 10 times – “You’ll never make it – you won’t survive – the enemy is too numerous – no matter where you turn, they’ll be waiting for you. Thanks a lot!
The people were ready to throw in the towel and run for cover. verse 14. When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people: “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome…
Remember the object of your faith!
You see, the people had compared the enemies strength to theirs – and concluded, “We don’t have a chance!”
But Nehemiah compared their enemies to the strength of God – and their enemies didn’t have a chance.
- When our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had frustrated their plan, then all of us returned to the wall, each one to his work. 16. From that day on, half of my servants carried on the work while half of them held the spears, the shields, the bows and the breastplates; and the captains were behind the whole house of Judah. 17. Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon. 18. As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built, while the trumpeter stood near me. 19. I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is great and extensive, and we are separated on the wall far from one another. 20. At whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” 21. So we carried on the work with half of them holding spears from dawn until the stars appeared. 22. At that time I also said to the people, “Let each man with his servant spend the night within Jerusalem so that they may be a guard for us by night and a laborer by day.” 23. So neither I, my brothers, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us removed our clothes, each took his weapon even to the water.
Four Timeless Principles of Defense:
- they prayed to God
- they prepared for battle “petition without precaution is presumption.” As Oliver Cromwell once said, “We will trust in God and keep our gunpowder dry.” They not only prayed and prepared to battle, but -
- they continued the process of building
They went back to the wall. They stayed at the task – they returned their eyes to their God and to their goal.
- they committed to defending one another
Nehemiah said in verse 20 – If you hear the trumpet, drop everything and come running – we’ll fight together with the Lord’s strength wherever the enemy may attack.
In other words, “Be prepared to link your shield of faith to the soldier next to you . . . no one fights alone.”
APPLICATON: Going Past Halfway
. . .will call for spiritual vision Remember the Lord, He is great and awesome.
Martin Luther, the 16th century reformer, had been depressed for several weeks. One day his wife entered his study dressed completely in black. Martin Luther said, “Who died?” She said, “God has.” He stood to his feet and bellowed, “God has not died.” To which she lovingly responded, “Then live like it.”
Remember the Lord – He is great and awesome.
For every believer here –
Are you discouraged?
Remember the One who so agonized in prayer He sweat drops of blood.
Are you treated poorly or even rejected by some?
Remember the One who was despised and rejected and eventually crucified by the ones He loved.
Are you suffering in some way?
Remember the One who so often suffered that His nickname would be Man of Sorrows.
Remember the Lord – He is great and awesome!
Going past the halfway hurdles of life. . .will require stubborn faith
And thirdly it will demand selfless assistance
The people began to serve one another even more diligently:
they worked until the stars came out (v. 21)
they went without changing clothes (v. 23)
they were willing to rally together and fight for each other
Nehemiah and the people were rescued from the lure of the Red Dragon – the lure of discouragement.
And the people continued to build the wall of Jerusalem.
By the way, every one in this room is in the process of building walls. Some build a wall between themselves and others. Most tend to build walls around themselves – they build that tower high and thick so on one can ever penetrate it – they’re protected from the enemy. They’ve built a little shopping center in there; they’ve brought all of their toys in there; hooked a satellite dish up to the side of their tall tower – 47,000 channels. They don’t need anybody and they don’t live for anybody else. Truth is, if that’s you, you don’t need to be protected from the enemy – you have become your own enemy.
READ C.S. LEWIS
The enemy knows that all too well. He baits his hook with discouragement and waits to see if some believer will take it and abandon the wall for their own private tower.
If we could rewrite the timeless truths learned in Nehemiah chapter 4 that help us hurdle the half way heartaches, it would simply be these:
-Refocus on what’s important
-Remember upon Whom you rely; then . . .
-Report for duty at the wall.
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “If you want to make sure of keeping your heart intact, you must give your heart to no one. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable.”
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