Nehemiah 4: Sanballat's Initial Attack - Confuse that mind.

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Nehemiah Chapter 4:1-6

Sanballat's Initial Attack: Confuse that mind. 

by I Gordon

Neh 4:1-6 Now it came about that when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious and very angry and mocked the Jews. And he spoke in the presence of his brothers and the wealthy men of Samaria and said, 'What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore it for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day? Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble even the burned ones?' Now Tobiah the Ammonite was near him and he said, 'Even what they are building - if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down!' Hear, O our God, how we are despised! Return their reproach on their own heads and give them up for plunder in a land of captivity. Do not forgive their iniquity and let not their sin be blotted out before Thee, for they have demoralized the builders. So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

So far we have seen the attitude needed to become a Christian and the action needed to be the Christian you've just become. Nehemiah four however, presents us with a new obstacle; one that every true Christian will face. For we read in chapter 4:1  "Now it came about that when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious and very angry and mocked the Jews."  For a man whose name means "a secret hatred", Sanballat (Satan) didn't keep much hidden this time did he?  [1]  In fact he was furious and openly said so. This is the nature of Satan  [2]  . His hatred is against all mankind, but for the unsaved it is so well hidden that most do not even believe that he exists. Blinded to the fact that they are caught captive, bound by the power of the evil one (1John 5:19), they refuse to become Christians because they don't want to lose their so-called freedom! This all changes once the wall starts going up! If there is one thing that gets up Sanballat's nose  [3]  , its people who begin to build the walls of salvation, restoring glory to its rightful owner - God!

This first attack then, is one that is common to all Christians throughout their life, but is especially common for the one just saved - an attack in the mind! The Apostle Paul, fully aware of Satan's ways, wrote  "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly... We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ."  (2Cor 10:3-5). "And take the helmet of salvation." (Eph 6:17) Both of these passages are concerned with spiritual warfare and both show us the constant need to protect and renew the mind. We see in Nehemiah 4:1-6 that the enemy used fear, depression, mockery and doubts to demoralise the builders. Ask anyone contemplating building the walls of salvation in their life. Satan's first role is nearly always to get in quick and through confusion, doubt, and fear, snatch the word of life before it can be firmly rooted. (Matt 13:4,19) Nothing changes! If he can capture our minds, he captures our emotions, and if captures our emotions he captures our will, and if he captures our will, he captures our actions. Moral of the story - go into the mountains, be a hermit, smash the TV and live off locusts, never seeing a living soul. Well, not quite but protect that mind!

Of course, all Christians are attacked in this way throughout their life. In fact, a quick survey reveals some pretty big names that have fallen to the old mind attack.  [4]  How often have you felt a compulsion to follow harder after God and all you hear are the negative thoughts like 'you'll never change', 'God cannot use you', 'you will lose all your friends' etc. What we need to remember is that when Satan lies he is doing what comes perfectly natural to him!  [5]  Satan however, is not omnipresent or omnipotent so he doesn't do it alone. We read that a furious Sanballat  "spoke in the presence of his brothers and the wealthy men of Samaria and said, 'what do these feeble Jews think they are doing? Are they going to restore it themselves .Can they revive the rubble even the burned ones?'"  (vs 2). Sanballat was the governor of Samaria and had powerful and wealthy support under his control. Again this is consistent with the bible record for our warfare is  "against the rulers, against the powers,... against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."  (Eph 6:12)

Tobiah The Copy Cat!

Now Tobiah the Ammonite was near him and he said, 'Even what they are building - if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down!'

If that wasn't enough, Sanballat's mockery seems to have prompted Tobiah to begin his assault (vs3). This should not come as any surprise as  "the flesh (Tobiah) sets its desire against the Spirit (Nehemiah), and the Spirit (Nehemiah) against the flesh (Tobiah). For these are in opposition to each other."  (Gal 5:17) So the picture is of Satan and the sinful nature joining forces to demoralise the Christian. And this is often how it works it reality. The fears and doubts from Satan are often enlarged and dwelt upon by a nature within us, given to fear, doubt and unbelief. What Sanballat started, Tobiah carried on with. It is usually the way. The two can work separately or together and it's not always easy to know what source the attack is from. Romans chapter 8 speaks of the result of listening to old Tobiah. In Romans 8:6 we read 'For the mind set on the flesh (Tobiah) is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.' So what are you facing at the moment? What fears or doubts do you have? Have you been renewing your mind with the truth, which the Spirit speaks through the word of God, or have old Sanballat and Tobiah tricked you?

Renewing Your Mind Works!

'Hear, O our God, how we are despised! ... Do not forgive their iniquity and let not their sin be blotted out before you, for they have demoralized the builders.' So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.'

Well, we'll look at Tobiah in more depth later on, but for now, rest assured that the enemy can be resisted as Nehemiah shows us. For after prayer, we read that   "we built the wall and the whole wall was joined to half its height, for the people had a mind to work."   Isn't that great? The enemy can be resisted and the work of building a strong salvation can be achieved but it comes from renewing your mind with the truth. Isn't this one of the hardest and longest lessons that we need to learn? Just when we think that we have learned how to bring the Lord into our situations, a different situation arises and suddenly we find ourselves acting like we are totally alone, not even knowing the Lord! But we shouldn't be conformed to those in the world and how they operate but we should be transformed by the renewing of our minds as Romans 12:2 states. That closes this first attack but it's certainly not the last they will face. With the mockery and fear tactics not working, a more confrontational approach now seemed the order of the day. 

[1] ↩  But believe me, on the whole he is good at keeping things hidden! Given the statement ''Satan is not a living being but a symbol of evil' 62% agreed in a recent survey. Now we can expect this from the world and shouldn't be surprised, but this one is a shock - of those that called themselves 'born again Christians', 52% agreed. And just for interest sake, 72% of Catholics agreed, and split between the sexes, 64% of women agreed, 59% of men agreed.

[2] ↩  So, what does the bible tell us about him? He is spoken of in seven OT books and by every NT writer.

NAMES: Satan (adversary), Devil (slanderer), Lucifer (son of the morning), Beelzebub (Lord of the flies)
TITLES: Evil One (1John 5:19), Tempter (1Thess3:5), Prince of this world (John 12:31), God of this age (2Cor 4:4) Accuser of the brethren (Rev 12:10)
REPRESENTATIONS: Serpent (Cunning, wise, Rev 12:9), Dragon (Powerful, Rev 12:3), Angel of Light (Deception, 2Cor 11:14), Lion (Devourer, 1Pet5:8)
NATURE: He is - A Spirit Being (Eph 6:11-12), The highest of all angelic creatures (Ezek 28:12), A murderer (John 8:44), A liar (John 8:44), A Confirmed Sinner (1John 3:8), An accuser (Rev 12:10), An adversary (1Pet 5:8)

[3] ↩  The hatred of Satan (Sanballat) is, first and foremost, towards God. It was Gods throne that he thought he should be above! Filled with pride, he still desires to 'be like the most high!' His consuming ambition then, is to destroy the work of God - that which God loves. That is why he immediately attacked Adam & Eve - that which was the highest in Gods creation and called 'very good!' Fortunately, the last Adam wasn't so easy. His hatred of us then, is not that personal but due to the fact that we are God's workmanship.

[4] ↩  So you blew it? You are not alone. The same doubts, fear and mockery that Nehemiah and his builders faced, have been thrown down for quite a while. Sanballat's doubts were in the garden with "has God really said 'You shall not eat from any tree in the garden?' and even with the Lord saying 'If you are the Son of God...' His fear was placed upon Peter who even denied knowing the Lord to a little girl. Peters three denials seem very much to be the result of Satan's request to 'sift Peter like wheat.' Or, through his subtlety, Satan can even lift you up with pride. We read in 1Chron 21:1 "Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.' A huge sin costing many lives. It is with this in mind that Paul said that elders must "not be a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation of the devil" (1Tim3:6) All these people fell to attacks in the mind.

[5] ↩  Just thinking of John 8:44 which says 'Whenever he (Satan) speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.' Contrast this with God who, according to Titus 1:2 'cannot lie'! So believe God's word not the doubts that come into your mind!