Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah which describes the second phase of the return of the people of God to the land—namely, rebuilding the wall and repairing the gates. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters six through eight of this Old Testament book. When you come to this particular passage of Scripture you will continue to find the narrative of Nehemiah building the wall of Jerusalem, as well as repairing the ancient gates of the city. The more I read and the more I consider the words which are written and recorded in this Old Testament book the more I can’t help but encounter and come face to face with the tremendous reality that when you think about and consider the return of the people of God to the land of their ancestors and fathers, there were essentially two distinct phases to the return. On the one hand there was the return to the land during the days of Cyrus king of Persia—a return which would have at the very heart of it the rebuilding of the house of the LORD. In order to understand the return of the people of God to the land of their ancestors you must recognize and understand that their return was made possible by the decree of the king according to the sovereignty of the living God and His divine providence. What’s more, is that it is absolutely astounding and remarkable to think about and consider the fact that centuries before Cyrus king of Persia was even born and brought forth into this world the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah prophesied concerning his emergence and arrival onto the world scene. What’s more, is that the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah foresaw and prophesied of a man named Cyrus who would indeed be the servant and instrument in the hand of the LORD to accomplish the divine plans and purposes of the LORD—not for himself, nor for his own self-interest, glory or honor, but for the divine purpose and glory of the LORD. The LORD would indeed raise up Cyrus king of Persia “for such a time as this,” and that time was at the end of seventy years which had been prophesied according to the ancient Hebrew prophet Daniel. We dare not, we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely incredible reality, for the return of the people of God would not only be according to the prophetic word of the LORD which was spoken by the ancient Hebrew prophet Jeremiah, but the very king and ruler who would decree their return would emerge on to the scene in the midst of the earth according to the prophetic word of the LORD prophesied by the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah. Consider if you will the words which are found in the prophetic books of Jeremiah and Daniel concerning the time of the return of the people of God, as well as the words which are written and recorded in the prophetic book of Isaiah concerning the emergence of Cyrus king of Persia who would be used for and according to the purpose of the LORD:
“Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon’ (After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smithed, were departed from Jerusalem;) By the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of HIlkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), saying, The saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them.; Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace. For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviner’s, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which cause to be dreamed. For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I Have not sent them, saith the LORD> For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in amusing you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive” (Jeremiah 29:1-14).
“In the first year of Darius the son of Ahuasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. And I set my face unto the LORD God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: and I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O LORD, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; we have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: neither have we harkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and all the people of the land. O LORD< righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day; to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and unto all Israel, that are near, and that are far off, through all the countries whither thou hast driven them, because of their trespass that they have trespassed against thee. O LORD, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee. To the LORD our God belong mercies and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against him; neither have we obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His always, which he set before us by his servants the prophets. Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore the curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, because we have sinned against him. And he hath confirmed his words, which he spake against us, and against our judges that judged us, by bringing upon us a great evil: for under the whole heaven hath not been done as hath been done upon Jerusalem. As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth. Therefore hath the LORD watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us: for the LORD our God is righteous in all his works which he doeth: for we obeyed not his voice. And now, O LORD our God, that hast brought thy people forth out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and hast gotten thee renown, as at this day; we have sinned, we have done wickedly. O LORD, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy forty be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain: because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us. Now therefore, O our God, hear the pray of thy servant, and his supplications, and cause thy face to shine upon thy sanctuary that is desolate, for the LORD’s sake. O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open whine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name: for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousness, but for thy great mercies. O LORD, hear; O LORD, forgive; O LORD, harken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O My God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name” (Daniel 9:1-19).
“Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break froth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel. Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemers, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that make the all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself; that frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish; that confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cites of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof: that saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers: that saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid” (Isaiah 44:23-28).
“Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, To Cyrus, Whose right hand I have holden, to busdue nations before him; and I will loose the lions of kings, to open before him thee two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: and I will give thee the treasures for darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: that they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD have created it. Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? Or thy work, He hath no hands? Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? Or to the woman, What has the thou brought forth? Thus saith the LORD, the Holy one of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me. I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded. I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts” (Isaiah 45:1-13).
If you want to truly understand the narrative of the return of the people of God unto the land of their ancestors and forefathers you must not only recognize and understand that their return would be according to the prophetic word which was spoken by Jeremiah and understood by the prophet Daniel. Moreover, the return of the people of God from the land of their captivity would be directly linked and connected to the prophetic word which the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah prophesied, for not only would Isaiah prophesy concerning Cyrus—and do so by name—but the prophet Isaiah would also prophesy specifically what Cyrus would do at the appointed time of the fulfillment of the word of the LORD. It would be through the prophet Isaiah we would learn centuries before Cyrus would even ascend to the throne of Persia that he would not only be the instrument of the living God to lay the foundation of the Temple of the LORD, and to build the sanctuary thereupon, but he would also be the instrument that would be used by the living God at the appointed time to let go his captives, and to build his city. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this reality, for even though the LORD would cast out His people from the midst of the land, and even though He would cut them off from the sanctuary of the living God and from His altar, there would be distinct prophetic words that would speak directly unto them concerning their return to the land. Moreover, thee LORD would also speak forth and declare their return to the land, and how in their returning to the land they would rebuild the Temple which they had been cut off from, and would once more worship the living God before and at His holy altar in the midst of the sanctuary. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely tremendous and astounding reality, for to do so would be to completely and utterly misunderstand the divine sovereignty and providence of the living God concerning the return of the people of God to the land of their ancestors and forefathers. The return of the people of God to the land of their ancestors and forefathers would not only be according to the word of the LORD prophesied and decreed by the ancient Hebrew prophet Jeremiah, but their return to the land would be directly linked to the sanctuary and to the altar of the LORD. In fact, one might very well say that the entire purpose for the return of the people of the land to the land was not only to fulfill the prophetic word which the LORD had prophesied and proclaimed through His servant Jeremiah, but it would also be directly linked to the sanctuary of the living God. In the final verses of the Old Testament book of Second Chronicles, and in the opening verses of the book of Ezra you will find and read how Cyrus the king of Persia issued a decree and put it in writing concerning the Jewish people returning to the land—and not only returning to the land, but also to rebuild the Temple of the LORD and build a house for the glory, the honor and the majesty of the LORD their God.
The Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah are essentially two sides of the same coin that describe the time of the return of the people of God from the midst of the land of the Chaldeans, and unto the land of their ancestors and forefathers. In the Old Testament book of Ezra we find the first phase of the return of the people of God to the land, which would require the rebuilding of the sanctuary and house of the living God. The entire book of Ezra would be centered around and centered upon the people of God returning to the land of Israel in order that they might rebuild the sanctuary of the LORD together with His holy altar, as well as to be taught by Ezra the priest of the LORD concerning the words which were found within the book of the Law of Moses. It’s necessary that we recognize and understand this reality, for the first phase of the return of the people of God to the land of their ancestors and forefathers would be their return to the land and the rebuilding of the sanctuary of the LORD together with His holy altar, while the second phase of their return would be the rebuilding of the ancient wall of the city of Jerusalem, as well as the ancient gates in the midst of that wall. Once the Temple of the LORD had been rebuilt, and once the altar of the LORD had been set up in the midst of the people of God, there would come a point in time when the wall of the city of Jerusalem would need to be rebuilt, and the ancient gates of the city might once more be repaired. In other words—one might very well say that it wasn’t merely enough for the Temple and sanctuary of the living God to be rebuilt in the midst of the land, for there would also be a tremendous and incredible assignment that would surround the wall of the city and the gates which were found in the midst of the wall. The Old Testament book of Nehemiah is indeed a book that centers upon the work of rebuilding the wall of the city of Jerusalem, which would be born and birthed out of a burden within the heart and soul of Nehemiah. If we are to truly understand the work of rebuilding the wall of the city of Jerusalem, and the work of repairing and setting up the ancient gates once more, it is necessary that we understand that the entire work was born out of a burden within the heart and soul of Nehemiah, and one which he would not immediately rush to. As you read the words which are found within this Old Testament book of Nehemiah you will find that after he heard the initial report of his brethren concerning the affliction and reproach of the people in the midst of the land, and that the wall was broken down, and the gates burned with fire, he fasted, he wept, he mourned, and he prayed before the LORD his God certain days. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this, for although Nehemiah would hear the report of his brethren, and although there was undoubtedly a burden within the very depths of the heart and soul of Nehemiah, he wouldn’t immediately rush to engage himself in the work.
If and as you read the words which are written and recorded in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah you will find that after hearing the words which were spoken to him concerning the affliction and reproach of the people of God in the midst of the land because the wall of the city of Jerusalem was broken down and the gates were destroyed by fire, he would immediately give himself to fasting, to prayer, to weeping and mourning before the LORD his God. The first chapter of this Old Testament book would conclude with Nehemiah praying before the LORD his God—not only concerning the work of rebuilding the wall of the city of Jerusalem, but also repairing and setting up the ancient gates once more. When you come to the second chapter of this Old Testament book you will find that after Nehemiah had given himself in prayer and fasting before the LORD his God, there would come a day when he would stand in the presence of the king with sorrow and anguish in his heart—a sorrow and anguish that would be discerned and recognized by the king. When the king asked and questioned Nehemiah concerning this sorrow and anguish within his heart, Nehemiah was afraid and fearful within his heart, and prayed unto the God of heaven. After praying, Nehemiah would voice his petition and request to the king of Persia, and would not only speak of the desolation of the wall of the city of Jerusalem and the gates thereof, but also requested of the king the ability to return to the land of his ancestors and forefathers that he might survey the damage, and engage himself in the work of rebuilding the wall and repairing the ancient gates. It’s worth noting, however, that even after Nehemiah arrived in the city of Jerusalem, he would not immediately engage himself in the work of rebuilding the wall of the city, nor repairing the ancient gates. In fact, you will find and discover that Nehemiah was in the city three days, and perhaps during the night of one of those three days, or perhaps during the night of the third day he surveyed the damage of the city, and to the wall thereof, and the ancient gates that were set within the walls. The second chapter of the Old Testament book of Nehemiah not only describes Nehemiah’s petition and request before the king of Persia, but it would also speak to and present us with the picture of Nehemiah going out by night to survey the damage, the devastation and destruction of the wall of the city, together with the gates therein. It’s interesting and worth noting that the second chapter of the Old Testament book of Nehemiah would find him actually speaking unto the returned and escaped captives of the people of God, and calling them to the work of rebuilding the wall of the city of Jerusalem, as well as repairing and setting up the gates of the ancient city. The first half of the book of Nehemiah describes Nehemiah in the presence of the king as he would not only holy himself accountable to the king of Persia and make his petition and request known unto him, but would also clothe that petition and request in prayer.
The second half of the Old Testament book of Nehemiah would actually find Nehemiah in the land of Judah and having come unto the city of Jerusalem. It would be after three days abiding and dwelling Jerusalem that Nehemiah would in fact survey the damage of the wall, and of the ancient gates by night, and would do so without having spoken a single word unto the princes, the nobles, the rulers, the priests, and the people of Israel which were living and abiding in the midst of the land. It’s absolutely remarkable and astounding to think about and consider the tremendous fact that before Nehemiah would even call on the escaped captives which had returned to the land to rise up and rebuild the wall of the city, and repair the gates thereof, he would spend a full three days in the city with the burden within his heart and the damage and desolation before him. THE BURDEN WITHIN THE HEART, THE DEVASTATION BEFORE YOU! THE BURDEN WITHIN THE HEART, THE DESTRUCTION AROUND YOU! What I find to be so absolutely remarkable and incredible when reading the words which are found in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah is that Nehemiah would spend a full three days in the midst of the city surrounded by the devastation, surrounded by the desolation, surrounded by the destruction, and surrounded by the great need and work which would be before him. Nehemiah would journey to the city of Jerusalem with the burden within his heart and soul, and Nehemiah would spend three full days in the midst of the city of Jerusalem with the burden in his heart and the work before him, and it wouldn’t be until after three days, and after a night surveillance mission in the midst of the city that Nehemiah would actually speak of the burden that was within his heart, as well as presented the letters of the king of Persia concerning the work. How absolutely incredible it is to think about the fact that not only did Nehemiah present the people of Israel with the burden that was present within his heart, but he presented them with two other realities as well. As you read the words which are written and found within this Old Testament book you will find that Nehemiah would present the burden that was found within his heart before the people who had returned to the land, but he would also present them with the letters he had returned to the land with from the king of Persia, as well as with the knowledge and declaration of the good hand of the LORD their God upon him. Please don’t miss and lose sight of this absolutely tremendous reality, for not only would Nehemiah present the people of God with the burden that was within his heart, but he would also present them with evidence of the good hand of his God which was upon him as evidenced through the letters which the king of Persia had sent with him along this journey.
Despite the fact that you will find in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah the work of rebuilding the wall of the city of Jerusalem, and repairing the gates of the city, you will also find opposition that would rise up against the work. While the Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah would describe the works of rebuilding the Temple of the LORD, as well as the wall of the city of Jerusalem and the gates thereof, those works would not be without opposition from those in the midst of the land. ENEMIES IN THE MIDST OF THE WORK! ADVERSARIES ROUND ABOUT THE WORK! The more you read the words which are written and recorded within these Old Testament books the more you will encounter the fact that although the LORD would call upon His people to engage themselves in the work of rebuilding the sanctuary among them in their midst, and although the LORD would call upon His people to rebuild the wall of the city of Jerusalem, and the ancient gates in the midst of the city, that work would not be without opposition set against the work. Both the Old Testament book of Ezra, as well as the Old Testament book of Nehemiah would describe the work being carried out by the people of God, but it would also describe the opposition that would rise up against the work. You cannot read the words which are found within these books without encountering the great and tremendous opposition that would rise up before and around the work. There would indeed be a great work which would need to take place in the midst of the land—namely, rebuilding the sanctuary of the LORD together with the altar of burnt offering, as well as rebuilding the wall of the city and repairing the ancient gates therein—but each work would not be without direct opposition against it from the enemies and adversaries round about the land of Judah, and round about the city of Jerusalem. In fact, if you come to the fourth chapter of the Old Testament book of Ezra you will find the following words which not only describe the presence of adversaries who were against the people of God, but also adversaries who were against the process and work of rebuilding the sanctuary and Temple of the living God. If you begin reading with and from the first and opening verse of the fourth chapter you will find the following words which were recorded by Ezra the priest of the LORD:
“Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel; then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esar-Haddon king of Assurion, which brought us up hither. But Zerubbabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build and house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us. Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building, and hired counsellers against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. And in the days of Artaxerses wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and the rest of their companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the writing of the letter was written in the Syrian tongue, and interpreted in the Syrian tongue…This is the copy of the letter that they sent unto him, even unto Artaxerxes the king; Thy servants the men on this side of the river, and at such a time. Be it known unto the king, that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city, and have set up the walls thereof, and joined the foundations. Be it known now unto the king, that if this city be builded, and the walls set up again, then will they not pay toll, tribute, and custom, and so thou shalt endamage the revenue of the kings. Now because we have maintenance from the king’s palace, and it was not meet for us to see the king’s dishonour, therefore have we sent and certified the king; that search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers: so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time: for which cause was this city destroyed. We certify the king that, if this city be builded again, and the walls thereof set up, by this means thou shalt have no portion on this side of the river. . Then sent the king an answer unto Rehum the can hell or, and to Shimshai the scribe, and to the rest of their companions that dwell in Samaria, and unto the rest beyond the river, Peace, and at such a time. The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me. And I commanded, and search hath been made, and it is found that this city of old time hath made insurrection against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made therein. There have been mighty kings also over Jerusalem, which have ruled over all countries beyond the river; and toll, tribute, and custom, was paid unto them. Give ye now commandment to cause these men to cease, and that this city be not builded, until another commandment shall be given from me. Take heed not that ye fail not to do this: why should damage grow to the hurt of the kings? Now. When the copy of of the king Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, and Shimasi, the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem unto the Jews, and made them to cease by force and power. Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia” (Ezra 4:1-24).
It is absolutely clear and plain from the words which are found written within this passage of Scripture that there were very real enemies and adversaries which were present in the midst of the land, and round about Judaea and Samaria which sought that the work of rebuilding the walls of the city and repairing the gates of the city might not be rebuilt. Moreover, it is quite clear from these words that there were enemies and adversaries which desired not that the Temple and sanctuary of the living God might not be rebuilt in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. While it is true that there were natural and physical enemies and adversaries which were found in the midst of the earth that stood up to oppose the work of rebuilding the sanctuary and altar of the LORD, as well as the work of rebuilding the wall of the city and repairing the ancient gates thereof, there was also something much deeper and much greater that would be at work—something far more sinister and diabolical which would take place behind the scenes. In the Old Testament book of Ezra you will find opposition against the work of rebuilding the Temple, rebuilding the altar, as well as rebuilding the wall of the city with its ancient gates. In the Old Testament book of Nehemiah you will find opposition to the rebuilding of the wall of the city, as well as repairing the gates therein. Moreover, in the Old Testament book of Esther you will find a third form of opposition that would rise up against the Jews—and not only within the land of Judaea and Samaria, but also within and throughout the entire Persian Empire as Haman the Agagite sought to eradicate the Jews from the earth altogether. It is absolutely necessary that we recognize and understand each of these forms of opposition that would rise up against the Jewish people, for within the Old Testament prophetic book of Zechariah we find a powerful prophetic word that describes the very source and foundation of the earthly opposition which the Jewish people faced in the midst of the land—namely, Satan the adversary rising up before and standing against Joshua the high priest in Israel. What’s more, is that in the Old Testament prophetic book of Zechariah you will find the prophetic word that was spoken unto Zerubbabel the governor of Judah and Jerusalem during the days of the return and the work of rebuilding the sanctuary of the LORD, and the ancient city therein. Consider if you will the words which are written and recorded in the Old Testament prophetic book of Zechariah concerning Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor in the midst of the land:
“And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquities to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by. And the angel of the LORD protested unto Joshua, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will thee places to walk among these that stand by. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: For, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH. For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the >ORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbor under the vine and under the fig tree” (Zechariah 3:1-10).
“And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep, and said unto me, What seest thou? And I sad, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: and two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these my lord? Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel. Thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying grace unto it. Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. For who hath despised the day of small things? For they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth” (Zechariah 4:1-10).
While it is true that when you read the Old Testament books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther you encounter enemies and adversaries which dared raise and lift themselves—not only against the people of God, but also against the work which they engaged themselves in—it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize that behind the physical and natural opposition the people of God experienced, there was something far more sinister, and something far more diabolical that was at work behind the scenes which they could not see. The prophet Zechariah was perhaps the only one—or perhaps one of the only ones—who was able to see in the spiritual realm and see the true and real adversary that was behind the scenes pulling the strings of these earthly adversaries and enemies which would rise up against the people of God. It is critical that we understand this, for when we think about and consider the opposition of the enemies and adversaries that rose up during the days of the rebuilding of the Temple, when we consider the opposition of the enemies and adversaries that rose up during the days of the rebuilding of the wall and the repairing of the gates, and when we consider Haman the Agagite’s hatred, malice and animosity toward the Jews, there was something far more sinister and something far more diabolical that was working behind the scenes. I cannot help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote—not only in the tenth chapter of the second epistle which was written unto the Corinthian saints, but also in the sixth and final chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Ephesian congregation. When and as you read the words contained within these chapters you will quickly encounter the tremendous reality that although we might experience conflict, struggle, opposition, resistance, animosity, and the like from flesh and blood before us within the earth, our true and ultimate struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against that which is unseen. When we read the narratives that are found within these three Old Testament books which describe the time of the Persian Empire it is necessary that we understand that although there was very real and very tangible opposition, conflict, and resistance that was present before the people of God—that opposition and that resistance was not entirely and altogether against flesh and blood, but was against something which had in fact realized it could not keep them out of the land of Israel, and would in reality seek to hinder and halt the work that was before them. With that in mind, consider if you will the words which are found in the tenth chapter of the second epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the Corinthians, as well as the words which are found in the sixth chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Ephesians:
“Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: but I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to their flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ, and having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s even so are we Christ’s. For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority which the LORD hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed: that I may not seem as I would terrify you by letters. For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech is contemptible. Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed when we are present” (2 Corinthians 10:1-11).
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the LORD, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:10-20).
As I consider these words—not only am I struck with the tremendous reality that the apostle Paul wrote unto the Ephesians that we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places, but I am also struck with the words which he wrote in the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints. If you compare the words found in the epistle written unto the Ephesian saints with the words which are found in the second epistle written unto the Corinthian saints you will find that unto the Corinthians the apostle Paul declared that although we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh. Moreover, the apostle Paul would also go on to emphatically and boldly declare that the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds. In addition to this, you will find that immediately after the apostle Paul writes these words, the very next thing that he asks is simply “Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?” Please don’t miss and lose sight of the words which the apostle Paul wrote and asked unto the Corinthians, for while it was true that he was showing the difference and distinction between walking in the flesh and warring in the Spirit, He also asked them if they were still looking on things after the outward appearance. If I am being honest with myself, if I am being honest with the living God, and if I am being honest with you who are reading these words, there are countless times within our lives when although we may be facing an enemy or adversary in the natural, or we might be experiencing conflict or struggle in the physical and natural realm, there is always something greater and something deeper that is behind the enemy and adversary. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand, it’s that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, and we dare not and ought not solely view our conflicts and struggles through the lens of the physical and natural. The apostle Paul was very clear when writing unto the Corinthians and asked them if they still looked on things after the outward and appearance, and I fear that more times than not—not only do we look at things after the outward appearance, but so also do we fail to recognize that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, and against spiritual wickedness in high places. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for when we read of the opposition which was experienced in the Old Testament books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther, that opposition has absolutely nothing to do with the physical realm as much as it does the spiritual and supernatural realm. I am convinced that this is what is so significant in the vision which Zechariah the prophet saw concerning Joshua the high priest, for not only did he see Joshua the high priest standing before an angel of the LORD, but he also saw Satan standing there at the right hand of Joshua to accuse him. For every conflict we face and experience within our hearts and lives it is absolutely necessary that we look beyond simply the physical and natural conflict, struggle and opposition, and look to the supernatural and spiritual realm. With that being said, I invite you to consider the various forms of opposition which Nehemiah faced in his work of rebuilding the wall and repairing the gates of the city of Jerusalem:
“When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobias the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel” (Nehemiah 2:10).
“But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? Will ye rebel against the king? Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no position, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem” (Nehemiah 2:19-20).
“But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, 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 are burned? Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a Foxx go up, he shall even break down their stone wall. Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity: and cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders. So built we the wall; and the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work” (Nehemiah 4:1-6).
“But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the greatest began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, and conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it” (Nehemiah 4:7-8).
“Now it came to pass, when Sanballat and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;) that Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you? Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner. Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand; Wherein was written, I ‘tis reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words. And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together. Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feigneste them out of thine own heart. For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands” (Nehemiah 6:1-9).
“Afterward I came unto the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabeel, who was shut up; and he said, Let us meet together in the house of God, within the Temple, and let us shut the doors of the Temple: for they will come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee. And I said, Should such a man as I flee? And who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in. And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. Therefore was he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me. My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear” (Nehemiah 6:10-14).
IT GRIEVED THEM EXCEEDINGLY THAT THERE WAS COME A MAN TO SEEK THE WELFARE OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL! THEY LAUGHED US TO SCORN, AND DESPISED US! WHAT IS THIS THING THAT YE DO! WILL YE REBEL AGAINST THE KING! HE WAS WROTH, AND TOOK GREAT INDIGNATION, AND MOCKED THE JEWS! SPAKE BEFORE HIS BRETHREN AND THE ARMY OF SAMARIA! 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 ARE BURNED? EVEN THAT WHICH THEY BUILD, IF A FOX GO UP, HE SHALL EVEN BREAK DOWN THEIR STONE WALL! THEN THEY WERE VERY WROTH! CONSPIRED ALL OF THEM TOGETHER TO COME AND TO FIGHT AGAINST JERUSALEM, TO HINDER IT! COME, LET US MEET TOGETHER IN SOME ONE OF THE VILLAGES IN THE PLAIN OF ONO! THEY THOUGHT TO DO ME MISCHIEF! THOU AND THE JEWS THINK TO RE EL! THEY ALL MADE US AFRAID, SAYING, THEIR HANDS SHALL BE WEAKENED FROM THE WORK, THAT IT BE NOT DONE! HE PRONOUNCED THIS PROPHECY AGAINST ME: FOR TOBIAH AND SANBALLAT HAD HIRED HIM! THEREFORE WAS HE HIRED, THAT I SHOULD BE AFRAID, AND DO SO, AND SIN! THAT THEY MIGHT HAVE MATTER FOR AN EVIL REPORT! THAT THEY MIGHT REPROACH ME!
SO THEY STRENGTHENED THEIR HANDS FOR THIS GOOD WORK! FOR THE PEOPLE HAD A MIND TO WORK! CAUSE THE WORK TO CEASE! WE RETURNED ALL OF US TO THE WALL, EVERY ONE UNTO HIS WORK! HALF OF MY SERVANTS WROUGHT IN THE WORK! EVERY ONE WITH ONE OF HIS HANDS WROUGHT TO THE WORK! THE WORK IS GREAT AND LARGE! SO WE LABOURED IN THE WORK! I AM DOING A GREAT WORK! WHY SHOULD THE WORK CEASE! THEIR HANDS SHALL BE WEAKENED FROM THE WORK, THAT IT BE NOT DONE! THEY PERCEIVED THAT THIS WORK WAS WROUGHT OF OUR GOD!
THE ADVERSARIES AND THE WORK! THE ENEMIES AND THE WORK! If and as you read the words which are found within the Old Testament book of Nehemiah you will find a strong contrast that existed between the labor and the work that was to be done in the midst of the land of Judah and in the midst of the city of Jerusalem. In all reality, there is a strong and powerful narrative of the great work which needed to be done in the midst of the land of Judah with the rebuilding of the wall of the city and the repairing of its gates and the great and terrible opposition which rose up against it. I am completely and utterly convinced that you cannot truly understand the work that was before Nehemiah and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem without also understanding the resistance and opposition to the work. In all reality, I would dare say that for every great work of the living God in the midst of the earth there has always and there will always be a great opposition and resistance to the work. Review church history and review any and every great move of God, every awakening, every revival, and every manifestation of the divine presence and glory of the living God and you will quickly encounter and recognize that no work which has been divinely appointed by the living God has been without opposition. Regardless of how great or perhaps even how small (in our own minds) the work before us is—such a work has never been and will never be without opposition. Truth be told that if you are engaged in a work and that work is and has been divinely appointed by the living God then you can absolutely and without a doubt expect persecution, opposition and resistance. I would absolutely and without a doubt declare that if you have been called to any work for the living and eternal God, and if you have been called to put your hands to something before you—you must anticipate, and perhaps even expect opposition, resistance, and some conflict or struggle of some type. I feel it is entirely deceptive and altogether delusional to think and believe that we can engage in any great work of the LORD and there not be opposition within the physician and natural realm, as well as in the spiritual and supernatural realm. What’s more, is that I am completely and utterly convinced that there has always been, and there will always be a strong and intrinsic link between the conflict, the struggle, the opposition and the resistance we face in the physical and natural realm, and the opposition that is present in the unseen and spiritual realm. It is possible to have enemies and adversaries in this world, for even Jesus Himself spoke of men and women hearing in times of old that they were to love their neighbors and hate their enemies, however, Jesus instructed His hearers and His followers to love their enemies, and to pray for those who despitefully used them and did them wrong. Consider if you will the words which Jesus the Christ spoke in His famous Sermon on the Mount beginning to read with and from the thirty-eighth verse of the chapter:
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eyes, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That the resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right check, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:38-48).
What’s actually quite interesting about these words is that with them Jesus not only seems to be preparing us to have enemies, but to actually love and pray for our enemies. Pause for a moment and think about that fact—the fact that you should not anticipate a life without enemies. Please note this doesn’t mean that you will have enemies perpetually and continually, but that there will be times within your life when you will find yourself experiencing enemies and adversaries. What’s more, is that as you read the words which Jesus the Christ declared unto His disciples, you will find that not only did He prepare to have enemies which they were to love, but He also prepared them to be hated. Stop and think about that fact, for when you consider the words which Jesus spoke—you would think that Jesus would prepare us to be loved by others, and to be loved by the world. We anticipate being loved by our brethren, and being loved by our neighbors, but what about being loved by the world, and loved by those who aren’t our brethren? We must recognize that when Jesus sent His disciples into the world, He did not send them into the world with the anticipation that they would be loved by all, but that they would be hated by others. This flies directly in the face of what we have been taught and led to think and believe, for there are many of us who think—perhaps even expect—to be loved by others whom we face in this life. The truth of the matter, however, is that we haven’t been, nor were we prepared to be loved by all, but to be hated in this life. Jesus would go so far as to say and declare that if they hated Him, they would indeed and would in fact hate us also. It’s quite remarkable and astounding to think about the fact that not only did Jesus seem to prepare us to have enemies within this life, but Jesus also seemed to prepare us to be hated in this life. PREPARE TO HAVE ENEMIES, PREPARE TO BE HATED! ANTICIPATE ENEMIES, AND PREPARE FOR HATRED! In all reality, I would dare say that one of the single greatest expectations we can and should have during and within this life is to be hated by many, and to experience and encounter enemies—perhaps not on a continual basis, but definitely at certain points within our lives. If not even Jesus walked through this life without enemies and adversaries—and if we profess to walk with and follow Jesus—what makes us think and even believe that we cannot and will not have enemies. Consider if you will the words which Jesus spoke unto the twelve disciples which are recorded in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative of Jesus’ life and ministry written by Matthew, as well as the words which are written and recorded in the twenty-fourth chapter of the same New Testament book:
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take not thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The disciples is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciples that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the mater of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. And fear not which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than manny sparrows. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. He that receiveth your receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me. He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matthew 10:16-42).
“Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:4-14).