(by Heather Marshall)
Have you ever heard the phrase “letting one’s guard down”? It essentially means someone has stopped being careful and alert and has relaxed their vigilance against attack. The people in Nehemiah’s day literally had their guard down because the wall of Jerusalem was broken and its gates had been burned by fire (Nehemiah 1:3).
In ancient days, walls were symbols of strength, peace, and prosperity. A city lacking in walls was subject to all kinds of terror.
A broken wall meant an unstable environment that often resulted in various physical and psychological consequences. Enemy invasions could lead to loss of life, crops, and commerce. Most importantly for the Jewish people, it could also lead to the destruction of the temple, the center of worshiping God.
For these reasons, rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem was of paramount importance to Nehemiah. He sought God’s will through careful prayer and received God’s favor to go to Jerusalem and complete this important project (Nehemiah 1:1-11).
As believers in Christ, we are called to build spiritual walls in our lives. Spiritual walls strengthen and protect our spiritual life. Through activities such as Bible study and prayer and being a member of a local church, we are helped with the defense of our faith, with moral strength in temptation, and with separation from the values and attitudes of the world.
We are all temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), but we may not all have strong and solid spiritual walls in place in our lives. We need to be on guard against becoming content with living with broken walls. Just as God thought it important to have walls around his temple city, He wants us to be fortified and protected against Satan’s attacks in times of spiritual warfare (1 Peter 5:8-9).
Spiritual wall construction is not easy and takes daily commitment and diligence. We can expect to face opposition from the enemy as we seek to build our walls, just as Nehemiah faced opposition to rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. In Nehemiah chapter 6 we see the tactics that Nehemiah’s enemies used to try to keep him from rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls.
One of these tactics was distraction. It can easily be disguised as a seemingly necessary and legitimate task, but it results in our attention being diverted from building our spiritual walls.
How often have you opened your email in the morning, fully intending to check just one thing only to find that you’ve used up most of your Bible study and prayer time scanning through your cluttered inbox? I am writing from experience. Sadly, my wall building efforts have often been interrupted this way.
Nehemiah’s enemies tried to distract him from his goal of building up Jerusalem’s walls. They requested that he come and meet with them. But Nehemiah’s response was quick and decisive. He would not let his attention be divided. He recognized that what he was doing was of utmost importance and that he could not stop to meet with them.
“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 6:3).
It is no wonder that Satan’s next tactic, when distraction didn’t work on Nehemiah, was to create lies. Satan is called the father of lies (John 8:44). Nehemiah’s enemies used lies and twisted the truth to sow seeds of doubt and fear (Nehemiah 6:5-7). Where doubt and fear exist, we know Satan is working.
He used this tactic at the very beginning with Eve in the garden of Eden and we can be sure that he will use it on us to prevent us from building our spiritual defenses.
The Hebrew word for lie is sheqer which means “lie, deception, disappointment, falsehood.” Satan is a master manipulator who knows the disappointments and woundings that we have experienced, and because we are vulnerable in this area, he presents a lie that we are likely to believe as truth.
What happens? We become deceived! It’s not reality. Only Jesus and His truth are real.
The fruit of a lie is fear and this is the next tactic employed by Nehemiah’s enemies. In Nehemiah 6:9 we read, “They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’”
Fear is the opposite of love. According to 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” Love and fear cannot exist together in our hearts. We choose which one we will allow to occupy our inner beings.
Whenever we have fear, we need to probe our hearts for the deception that we are believing, because underneath our fear is a lie that was spoken to us and has broken down our spiritual wall.
These are formidable tactics that Satan uses to break down or prevent us from building our spiritual walls. But there is hope! We can follow Nehemiah’s example in Nehemiah 6:9 where we read that he prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”
We too can ask for God’s strength and He has promised to give it to us (Phillipians 4:13). He has also provided us with His armor that we can put on each day to “take our stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6:10-18).
The final result of Nehemiah's stand against his enemies and his persistence in building the wall was that the wall was completed (Nehemiah 6:15). His enemies were now the one’s shaking in fear: “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” (Nehemiah 6:16).
Friends, take heart, with the help of our God, we too can be victorious in building our spiritual walls because we have all the tools we need to fight against the tactics of the enemy.