Many years ago I heard a sermon by James Ryle, who at the time was chaplain for the Colorado Buffaloes football team, when Bill McCartney was the coach. The theme of his message really spoke to me, and I made a hand-drawn diagram of his main thought on a sheet of paper, and still keep that paper in my Bible. I recently redid the diagram in Word to make it more legible, and want to share that diagram here and add my own thoughts (I don’t have any notes from his message). Ryle’s message was based on Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem and the Temple.
If you’ve read Nehemiah, then you know the story; if you haven’t, you should read it before finishing this article.
Nehemiah had two major goals – reestablishing Torah in Israel, along with a strong determination to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. A major result of the book of Nehemiah is that it has encouraged people through the centuries to “rise up and build.” Nehemiah was the builder, and the reestablishment of Torah was done by his compatriot, Ezra. These events took place roughly from 445-420 BCE.
Nehemiah faced much opposition while rebuilding the walls. In a similar vein, believers face much opposition concerning the walls of their lives. In Hebrew, the term hasatan means “the adversary.” Sanballat was Nehemiah’s demonically-controlled adversary. Our adversary is demonic also, controlled by the prince of the demonic realm, in English known as satan [I respect his power, but not him, therefore I use a lower-case “s”].
There are three primary methods of attack that the satan will use to break down the will of a believer:
- 1. Criticism – Neh 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.” The Hebrew here for “mocked” is law-ag‘ לָעַג, “to deride, by implication (as if imitating a foreigner) to speak unintelligibly; laugh (to scorn).” The English-translated Septuagint says that Sanballat “railed against [uttered bitter complaint or vehement denunciation against] the Jews.” Other descriptives say that he: “ridiculed” (Amp); “jeered at” (ESV); “vilified” (Msg). Now here we are, 2400-some years later, and not much has changed for the Jews. It’s still the same old enemy, after all.
- Criticism of believers is rampant. It is, of course, worse in some areas than others – China, various locations in Africa, the middle-east, third-world countries. It is becoming more blatant in the USA. But perhaps it’s closer to home for you – family, [ex-]friends, neighbors, co-workers, co-students, etc. We must stand together, and encourage each other, knowing what our Master went through on His journey to the cross: “They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again” (Mark 10:34).
- “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come” (2 Timothy 3:1).
- “For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
- 2. Confusion – Neh 4:11-12 – “Our enemies said, ‘They will not know or see until we come among them, kill them and put a stop to the work.’ 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….’”
- If you face confusion with a situation in your walk, and that will happen sooner or later, if it hasn’t already, immediately place it before Yeshua, and ask for the wisdom from above (Jacob/James 1:5) for guidance. “For God is not the author of confusion…” (1 Corinthians 14:33).
- 3. Compromise – Neh 6:1-2 – “Now when it was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall, and that no breach remained in it, although at that time I had not set up the doors in the gates, then Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to me, saying, ‘Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.’ But they were planning to harm me.” [Many people believe that Yoko Ono was the catalyst for the breakup of the Beatles, but that’s a story for another time and location]. 😁
- Compromise tends to hit stronger when we “relax” in our faith. Not when we are resting in His shalom, but when we become lax in our faith. Relapse into relax!? Psalm 119:1-4 gives us some excellent encouragement: “You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by GOD. You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. That’s right—you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set. You, GOD, prescribed the right way to live; now you expect us to live it” (Msg).
So through all of this, I encourage you and me to “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12). Stand firm, and at the end of the day you’ll see this: “When all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:16). And then we can say, along with the Apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith…” (2 Timothy 4:7). You know that Paul faced a lot of opposition and had to fight, or stand up for, his faith constantly. But he had a lot of fight in him, via the Ruakh HaKodesh.
Strong walls are important to HASHEM. “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands, your walls are always before me” (Psalm 49:16). “In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah: ‘We have a strong city; He sets up walls and ramparts for security. Open the gates, that the righteous nation may enter, The one that remains faithful. The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You’” (Isaiah 26:1-3). “Violence will not be heard again in your land, Nor devastation or destruction within your borders; But you will call your walls salvation, and your gates praise” (Isaiah 60:18). “On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen; All day and all night they will never keep silent. You who remind the LORD, take no rest for yourselves; And give Him no rest until He establishes And makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (Isaiah 62:6-7). “Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit” (Proverbs 25:28).
Below is the diagram of the walls of a believer’s life. Brick upon brick, we labor in our walk to build up and strengthen our walls. The outside wording is the name of a particular wall; the inside wording is the mortar to brace the wall. Build up the wall of Morals with a life of Purity. Build up the wall of Relationships with Love. Build up the wall of Beliefs with Faith. Build up the wall of Character with Humility. And build up the wall of Ethics with Integrity.