The Main Idea:  Nehemiah faces opposition throughout the building of the wall, largely presented through two men, Sanballat and Tobiah.  Certainly opposition comes from flesh and blood “enemies” but the Bible makes it clear that this is not the full extent of the battle.  Paul instructs us that we have to look behind flesh and blood to see that there is a very real spiritual battle being waged as well.


The Study Guide: The following content is based on the message “The Battle Behind the War” spoken on 10/21/12 by Brian Kruckenberg at New City Church in Phoenix, AZ.  The following is not meant to be a full synopsis of the message but rather a brief look at the main ideas.  For more context and understanding, please and listen to the message in its entirety.

Leaders using this Study Guide for group study and reflection should read the Biblical text thoroughly before beginning, using this resource as assistance and not relying solely on this material for insight. We encourage all leaders to pray and ask the Spirit for revelation as they lead their respective communities.

The Scripture:

Nehemiah 4:1 Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. 2 And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” 4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. 5 Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.  6 So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.  7  But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. 8 And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. 9 And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night. 

Ephesians 6:10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 

Transcendence of Evil.  In our modern age, many do not believe in the existence of transcendent or evil powers.  Often we are taught that if we can educate people enough or leverage technology enough that we can eradicate evil. The Bible teaches us, however, that there is evil that exists in transcendent beings.  The Scripture teaches that an angel fell from grace and became Satan (a.k.a. the devil):

“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground,  you who laid the nations low! 13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven;  above the stars of God  I will set my throne on high; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ “ Isaiah 14:12-14

We see throughout the Scriptures, like Revelation 12, 2 Peter 2:4, and Matt. 25:41 that Satan and his demons are quite real.   As we learned from the character, Hannibal Lector:

Nothing happened to me, Officer Starling. I happened. You can’t reduce me to a set of influences. You’ve given up good and evil for behaviorism, Officer Starling. You’ve got everybody in moral dignity pants – nothing is ever anybody’s fault. Look at me, Officer Starling. Can’t you stand to say I’m evil?” 

Complexity of Evil. Often in our attempt to sensationalize the supernatural, we can fall into one of two mistakes: believing that EVERYTHING bad that happens is caused by demonic forces or NOTHING is behind evil that happens.

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” – C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

What we must remember is that evil is real and it is complex.  It presents itself most often not in outward manifestations (like demon possession and visible demonic activity) but in our greed, envy, anger and strife. This is the evil that we must “wrestle” with as Paul writes about.  We wrestle with things close to us and it is the evil in us (our flesh) and right around us that is of most concern and what we most often battle with as human beings.

Defeating Evil.  In using the image of a soldier, Paul reminds us that we are at war.  That is definitely true, but we need to understand how to defeat evil. To do so, we should look at what Jesus did.   He became weak, so that the power of God might fight for Him. He let go of control…He didn’t seek to seize power!

2 Corinthians 13:4 For indeed He was crucified because of weakness, yet He lives because of the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, yet we will live with Him because of the power of God directed toward you.

Satan yearns for power!  Satan tries to seize it. We get it by letting go.  Power, through weakness. Humility and service are the power of God. Paul reminds us to “take up” the weapons of God, not of our own power, to defeat evil.


Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do yo think our culture is fascinated with evil?
  2. Do you think most people you know believe in a literal Satan or demons?
  3. How does evil most often manifest itself in you?
  4. How are greed, anger, bitterness, etc. evil?  Do you think this is what Paul was talking about when he wrote about evil and dark forces?
  5. Can you defeat evil on your own?
  6. Why is it so hard to let go of control in a battle?
  7. How can we become weak so that God can be strong? How do you “take up” the full armor God?