Lord's Day Evening Meditations May
"The Wiles of the Devil"
In chapter 3 we saw the remnant busily working
at rebuilding the wall. The enemy was grieved at this, and in
chapter 4 threatened to come with violence and stop the work.
Chapter 6 continues from chapter 4 with a new tactic of the enemy.
The threat of violence hadn't achieved anything so now the enemy
tried pretended friendship, and their efforts were directed especially
against Nehemiah, the leader of the work. This is an example of
Eph. 6:11 - "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye
may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil"
- not the power of the devil, but his "wiles,"
tricks. Peter speaks of "the devil as a roaring lion
… seeking whom he may devour." 1 Pet. 5:7. We can all
easily recognize a roaring lion, and will stay far away from him.
But then, Satan can also transform himself "into an angel
of light" (2 Cor. 11:14), and it is not so easy to
be able to recognize that "an angel of light"
is maybe Satan after all.
Church history gives us a clear example of this.
Satan "as a roaring lion" is his character
as a persecuter. In the Smyrna period of church history, Satan
persecuted the believers and tortured them to death. The result
was that believers were faithful, strong, and separate from the
world which they easily recognized as an enemy. The enemy lost
ground instead of gaining it. Then Satan changed his tactics;
instead of being an enemy, he pretended to be a friend and in
a short time he had corrupted the believers and the profession
of Christianity. His success was so complete that it led to what
is known as the Dark Ages in which the light of truth was almost
(but God always preserves Himself a remnant) extinguished, and
what carried the name of Christian was more corrupt than the heathen.
There are places in the world right now where Satan
is going about as a roaring lion, persecuting believers. We can
be grateful that we do not have that opposition here, but we do
have to deal with "the wiles of the devil,"
and that is one reason why this sixth chapter of Nehemiah can
be so valuable to us. The enemy tried three tricks on Nehemiah
to try to catch him, but Nehemiah didn't get caught. Nehemiah
was preserved from the snares of the enemy, and we can be also,
if we follow his example.
I wonder if we are as familiar with the identity
of the enemy as Nehemiah was? See verse 1. Their message to Nehemiah
was, "Come, let us meet together …" This was
pretended friendship, as though to say, "Let's get together
and discuss these things." But Nehemiah knew his friends
from his enemies; he knew what this was all about. "They
thought to do me mischief." The world has declared
itself the enemy of Christ. How do I know that? When the Lord
Jesus came they nailed Him to a cross, and He is still as despised
and rejected today as He was then. That is why James says "that
the friendship of the world is enmity with God." Jas.
But Nehemiah's answer to this friendly offer is
most instructive to us. "I am doing a great work, so
that I cannot come down." v. 3. The importance of the
work he was doing, and the urgency of it, did not allow him time
to accept their invitation. It is as though he said, "I
don't have time. I have something more important to do."
What a simple and effective answer that is to all of the enemy's
friendly, evil-intentioned advances! Is it not most important
to be occupied with the Lord's things, with His service, or with
His Word as we are doing here this evening? If all of our leisure
time was taken up with the Lord's things, we wouldn't have time
for the devil's things. You can be sure that the devil can find
many things to occupy idle hands or idle minds.
We need to be impressed with the importance of
occupation with the Lord's things. Then, the evil, or unnecessary
things, that might claim our attention will be easily refused,
and the enemy's "wiles" will be detected and
prove ineffective. Try inviting people to a gospel meeting or
to a Bible reading and see what excuses you will get. They generally
all add up to two things: "I'm not interested," or
"I don't have time." That is the enemy's way to keep
people away from the Lord. Well, we can turn the enemy's device
against Himself. When He, by means of the unbelieving world, would
entice us to join in some sinful or otherwise undesirable activity,
we also can answer, "I'm not interested," or "I
don't have time!"
That reminds me of Psalm 1. The blessed man does
not walk "in the counsel of the ungodly,"
he doesn't stand "in the way of sinners,"
and he doesn't sit "in the seat of the scornful."
Why? Because "his delight is in the law of the Lord;
and in His law doth he meditate day and night." v.
2. He so enjoys the Word of God that he has no interest in other,
especially sinful, things; and, occupied with the Word and the
things of the Lord, "day and night," he doesn't
have time. In this way he is preserved from all of the "wiles"
of the enemy.
But Satan doesn't give up easily. The same invitation
was sent to Nehemiah four times! v. 4. They expected that he would
weaken, and eventually give in, like Samson. Read Judges 14:17
and 16:16 - 17. The strong man gave in under constant pressure,
and the enemy knows that we might do likewise. The Lord Jesus
simply quoted Scripture in answer to the tempter's repeated efforts,
whilst Nehemiah returned his same answer and continued with the
work of the Lord.
The enemy's second trick was an open letter which
was a report that the Jews were building the wall because they
intended to rebel against the king of Persia. Nehemiah hoped to
be their king and had appointed prophets to preach of him, "There
is a king in Judah." If such a report had been true
and had come to the king Artaxerxes, the Jewish remnant could
expect to be severely punished. This fear of punishment would
effectively stop them from doing any more work on the wall. Nehemiah's
answer to this false charge and renewed invitation to consult
together was, "There are no such things done as thou
sayest." This was the work of the father of lies, and
Nehemiah, as we have seen him often do, turned to prayer: "Now
therefore, O God, strengthen my hands." False reports
need not frighten us, for we know who the author of lies is, and
we can turn to the Lord for strength to go on in the path of faith
and service to Him.
The enemy's third effort to get Nehemiah to fall
was the strongest and most crafty one of all. We can see from
verse 12 that Shemaiah was a prophet. A prophet was supposed to
communicate to the people the mind of God. He said to Nehemiah,
"Let us meet together in the house of God, within (inside)
the temple: for they will come to slay thee; yea in the night
will they come to slay thee." v. 10. Nehemiah answered,
"Should such a man as I flee?" It would be
shameful for him, the governor and leader of the people and of
the work, to run and hide. Besides, Shemaiah's suggestion as a
pretended friend and messenger from God, was that he should do
something that was contrary to the Word of God! The people could
go into the outer court of the temple (that is what we read about
in the Gospels), but only priests were allowed into the temple
itself. It would have been sin for Nehemiah to go into the temple
itself, and that is why he replied, "And who is there,
that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life
(Fr. - would go into the temple and live)?" v. 11.
Shemaiah was a false prophet who tried to entice Nehemiah to disobey
God. That was strong delusion, but Nehemiah knew the Word and
he was preserved by simple obedience to it: "I will not
Shemaiah was another Balaam, hired to teach error.
There are many in Christendom today who profess to reveal the
Lord's mind, but who are actually leading multitudes of people
into disobedience, and they are getting paid to do it! What is
our protection from this "wile of the devil"?
Know the Word of God, and obey it. Simple obedience to the Word
is always the way of safety. S.L.