The Warfare - A Peculiar Warfare
We come now to the warfare, the warfare related to the full testimony of the Lord or the Lord's testimony in fullness and completeness. Let me say again at once that this is a peculiar warfare. There is a warfare relating to the salvation of the unsaved, which involves all who seek to bring to the Lord those who know Him not. We know very well that it is a real battle and there is real warfare associated with that. There is that warfare which relates to being a Christian and just going on as a Christian. It is not an easy thing to continue in the way of the Lord. Most of the militant hymns that we sing have to do with the Christian life in general, and they certainly have a rightful place, because the Christian life on one side is truly a warfare. But when we have said that, we have not said all. There is a peculiar warfare connected with the Lord's ultimate purpose. The warfare becomes of a different character, is in a different world, and takes different forms, when it is related to this, and it is with that that we are occupied in the present meditation.
So, coming back to this book of Nehemiah, which, after all, is only an illustration of the spiritual and heavenly realities which we find in the New Testament, particularly in such parts as the Letter to the Ephesians and the Book of the Revelation, we find ourselves in the presence of a very great deal of conflict, which takes on a peculiar form because of the thing that is in view. It is that wall that is the trouble, or the cause of the trouble; that is to say, the recovery of a full expression of what the Lord wants concerning His people; and that provokes a great deal of very positive and persistent antagonism of a particular character.
If you look into this book, you will find that there are a number of people mentioned who are the sworn foes of this particular object, so we look at these before we look at their methods and the forms of their opposition. There is Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem. Who are these people? What are they? What are they doing here? How have they got here? And when you answer those questions you get very near to the heart of things as to spiritual opposition. You go back to the Second Book of Kings, chapter 17, and you read from the 24 verse to the end of the chapter, and you have the whole thing explained.
First of all, they are superstitious people. They see certain things happening and they draw the conclusion that those happenings have some background of a supernatural character. They do not know the Lord and they do not know that this thing is from the Lord, but they come to the conclusion that it has a supernatural background, it is something occult. They think if only they can find out the secrets of the supernatural realm, can be initiated into the mysteries of it, they will be able to clear up this situation, and so they proceed. They make their complaint to the king of Assyria, mark you, about the Lord, and he sends one of the priests who had been taken away from the land, and he tells them about the Lord - but the thing is so unreal, so false, in such a wrong, altogether wrong realm. You have a statement here which is almost unthinkable: "They feared the Lord, and served their own gods." 'Fearing the Lord' there does not by any means mean what the fear of the Lord means among the Lord's people. To fear the Lord means that He really is the Lord, and that you have become utterly and completely subject to Him as Lord. That is fearing the Lord in the true sense. But that was not true of these people. They had superstitious recognition of Him, born of fear, misfortune, difficulties, things going wrong, but their knowledge never brought them really to the Lord. They went on serving their own gods. These are the people. That is the first thing that we take account of.
This statement, made more than once, that they feared the Lord, must have implied something. I do not know what to say about the priest or what to think about him. He evidently spoke about the Lord, about Jehovah, taught them something, but they merely received it second-hand for their own convenience, to save them in their troubles. So we may conclude that they used the Lord's Name, they probably offered Him some kind of recognition. They took on a form of worship which was ostensibly to Him, but right deep down they knew not the Lord. They were using the Lord's Name and using the Lord's things, but were mere professors, without any real knowledge of the Lord. Their religion was an imitation, a second-hand thing, not something of the heart.
And then you notice that, in any case, they are all the time referring and deferring to Babylon. They are in servitude to the king of Babylon. They are in servitude to the king of Babylon. And so, because of all these things, there was plenty of ground for this hostility to Nehemiah. The real test of them was their attitude toward this thing which is of primary importance to the Lord, the thing which is truest and nearest to the heart of God. How do they stand related to that?
(continued with # 7 - "No Living Relationship with the Lord")