Smile... The Future's On Its Way
by C.J. Horn
Identifying the Enemy: A Perspective on Opposition
I am conscious these days of a mad rush. Perhaps it is my age. But it seems people are hurling headlong toward something, or running as fast as they can away from something. In the Twelfth Century, St. Bernard said "Everyone is his own enemy." Six hundred years later, Theodor Herz observed, "A nation is a historical group of men of recognizable cohesion, held together by a common enemy."
We are at war. But it has become increasingly difficult to identify the enemy. Is the enemy in our mirror? Or is the enemy a man with a different language or a different color of skin? The answer is not that easy. But if one is to go forward in any endeavor, it is important to realize that there is opposition in this world to any good or right thing. That truth has its roots in the original sin of Adam and Eve, the first inhabitants of the world. Their sin opened the door for death and destruction to enter. Satan is the opposer of good and his power and his influence are constantly evident.
Tactics of the Enemy
This is not a chapter about recognizing beings, be it the devil or otherwise. It is a chapter about recognizing the tactics of the enemy that stall progress for good. Psalm 60:12 teaches "through God we shall do valiantly, for He it is that shall tread down our enemies." God will tread down the enemy, but a great challenge to keeping perspective is identifying the enemy and separating the action of opposition from the person who currently opposes the work of God. If one can be drawn into a conflict of personality with one individual, then much energy will be siphoned into that battle, and the vision of what can be accomplished with the leadership of God will be lost.
Sanballat was governor of the Persian province of Samaria. He opposed Nehemiah who returned to Jerusalem from the "captivity" to restore the city, especially the wall. In fact, the Bible records that it grieved Sanballat "exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel" (Neh 2:10).
Sanballat first tried to oppose the work by mocking the workmen. "What do these feeble Jews?" (Nehemiah 4:2). This type of opposition can come from anyone, even that person in the mirror. It is the voice that says "Why are you doing this? What makes this seem so important? Someone has already done this before." Or worse still is that jeering voice that says, "It won't make any difference."
Every child has experienced the feeling of being mocked at one time in his life. It could be his gestures being imitated, or someone poking fun at his accent, or any one of a number of things. This is the root of mocking. It is taking that which is the soul and essence of the person and casting shame and doubt on that action. It is the voice of Satan in the Garden of Eden saying, "Yea, hath God said?" (Genesis 3:1).
When mocking did not stop Nehemiah, Sanballat conspired with his friends and began an open conflict with the workmen. Open oppostiion, though initially more frightening at least makes it very easy to identify who the enemy is, and conflicts of this nature draw the defenders together in a common fight. Nehemiah's battlecry was: "Be not ye afraid of them; remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses" (Nehemiah 4:14). Under Nehemiah's leadership, the wall construction went forward. The enemy next tried rumors and false accusations, spreading the story that Nehemiah wanted to build the wall so he could lead a Jewish uprising and be crowned as king (Nehemiah 6:6-7).
We should take heed that part of the enemy's arsenal is to cower and stop us with public opinion. It wasn't just the rumors and the accusations that Nehemiah and his fellow believers had to stand against. They also heard it said of them that they were too weak to finish. Scorning is one thing--this was outright, orchestrated discouragement. Picture a child trying his first steps with his mother yelling in his face "You'll never make it! You're too're too weak" and one gets the idea of the discouragement Nehemiah faced. He was rebuilding a city and rekindling a faith that had long since been given up for dead. There was no one to encourage him but God, so He prayed, "O God, strengthen my hands."
After the failure of the opposition by discouragement, Sanballat's final tactic was to try and take Nehemiah hostage with His own faith. A messenger was paid to go to him and tell him that God wanted him to hold up and hide and quit the work. Nehemiah writes "I perceived that God had not sent him..." (Nehemiah 6:12). If one is to withstand the onslaught of the enemy, it is vital to be living with a heart and mind that is entirely conscious of God's will and presence. Only a consistent lifestyle of prayer and seeking God through His Word could produce the kind of warrior that Nehemiah exemplified. Nehemiah records his battle strategy in Chapter 4, verse 9: "Nevertheless, we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them." Nehemiah was convinced of two things: God has called him to the task he was doing and there was only one voice to which he could afford to listen, and that was to God's.
The Narrow Place
The actual definition of the particular word "enemy" in Psalm 60 means a narrow place, or an opponent who crowds one. The term "narrow" gives further insight into the actions of an enemy. It is the intent of an enemy to stop his adversary, by narrowing him or crowding him back. The Bible is the best source for illustrating and defining its own words, as in the case of the word "narrow."
Balaam was a prophet of God. He was approached by the king of the Moabites, a nation that hated God. The king wanted him to pronounce a curse in order to stop Israel from advancing in the land given them by God. Balaam rose early and went with the wicked king's servants. He came to a narrow part of the path. The Bible said there "was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left" (Numbers 22:26). An angel of the Lord stood in the path and only Balaam's ass could see the angel. Balaam's enemy was not the angel of the Lord that stood in the path. In fact, the Lord was making him do the right thing.
However, the narrowness illustrated by Balaam being boxed in, with no options, illustrates the place where an enemy wants his adversary.
Consider the incident in the Garden of Eden when Satan tempted Eve. He brought all of her concentration to bear on one forbidden tree. In the garden grew "every tree that (was) pleasant to the sight, and good for food" (Genesis 2:9). No one really knows what was in Eve's mind that day. The Bible says she saw the tree was "good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise" (Genesis 3:6). She may have been afraid she was going to miss something. In any case, the enemy of our soul was able to narrow Eve's attention to one tree. She had a multitude of options that day, but she became convinced there was only one.
Flesh and Blood Enemies
There will always be enemies of God on the earth, until the great dragon Satan is destroyed forever. There are those situations when people refuse to live peaceably or reasonably as neighbors to believers. When Israel left Egypt, they asked permission of the Ammonites and the Moabites to cross into the promised land, but they were refused passage. This was the reason for many of the battles there (Judges 11:14-24). It was a land where thousands of men and women lost their lives in hundreds of war campaigns.
When Abraham pled with God for Lot's life, he did not know that one day the descendants of his nephew, Lot (the "children of Ammon), would be a source of "sore distress" (Judges 10:9) for the children of his grandson, Israel. In fact, the children of Ammon played a pivotal role in the history of the nation of Israel. They were used as the excuse when Israel called for a king, refusing to have the Lord God as their only king (1 Samuel 12:12).
Enemies: Tools of God
Another aspect of identifying flesh and blood enemies is difficult to pinpoint, but needful to examine. God has in the past raised up enemies in order to turn His people back to Himself. God spoke to Moses and warned him about Israel's defection from faith:
"Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?" (Deuteronomy 31:17).
God says something very insightful to Moses during this discourse: "I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware" (Deut 31:21). God knew before time began what His people were going to do. When a baby is born on the earth, he is born the son of Adam with "death passed upon him" (Romans 5:12). Not only is man and woman faced with the everyday battle the sinful flesh, the effects of the sins of others are rampant in the world around them.
David's Enemies
King David inherited a kingdom corrupted by Saul. King Saul was a leader demanded by a people who would not recognize God as their true king. The final years of Saul's reign were spent hunting and trying to destroy David, God's anointed king. David perfected the art of the small skirmish during this time, and finally became an expert during the all out battles to restore the integrity of his kingdom. In fact God called him a "man of war" (1 Chr 28:3). His thoughts on enemies are recorded in the Psalms.
There were many of them and they were cruel and strong.
Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred (Psalm 25:19). But mine enemies are lively, and they are strong: and they that hate me wrongfully are multiplied (Psalm 38:19).
They were false accusers.
Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause (Psalm 35:19).
They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head: they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away (Psa 69:4).
They wore him down.
Mine eye is consumed because of grief; it waxeth old because of all mine enemies (Psalm 6:7).
David felt alone in the battle.
For my life is spent with grief ... I was a reproach among all mine enemies, but especially among my neighbours, and a fear to mine acquaintance: they that did see me without fled from me (Psalm 31:10,11)
The Lord was his only hope.
Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek after my soul: let them be turned backward, and put to confusion, that desire my hurt ... But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O LORD, make no tarrying (Psalm 70:2,5).
David trusted God.
O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me. (Psalm 25:2)
The Lord was David's defender.
From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies ... As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with they likeness (Psalm 18:3,15).
There's no doubt about the disposition of the Lord's enemies.
But the wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the LORD shall be as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume away (Psalm 37:20).
God's enemies were David's enemies.
For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain. Do not I hate them, O LORD, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies (Psa 139:20-22).
He was confident of the future.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me (Psalm 138:7).
David had no fear, only praise.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over (Psalm 23:5). And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD (Psalm 27:6).
What to Do?
The question is this then: Is a person my enemy because of who he is or because of what he does? The answer is it can be both. There are flesh and blood enemies of God. They oppose the believer because of who he represents. There are spiritual enemies of God. The devil leads this group of created supernatural beings. It is important to remember as it relates to the enemies of God that they are under His final authority. He can raise them up or destroy them, according to His perfect will. The believer will waste precious energy trying to identify the person or being who opposes him and engaging that person or being in a battle of wits.
The key to winning the battle and doing the right thing is keeping our attention focused on the goals before us, those that have been fixed in us by an earnest seeking after God's heart regarding those things over which He has given us care. This brings us to the pivotal point of the battleground. Are we truly on an offensive to gain any ground, or are we simply to hold that ground already taken?
Jesus finished the battle of all battles on the cross. He dealt a death blow to the enemy's head. It is our part to carry the news about the great battle that was fought and won by our Savior. Even though we encounter all of the enemy's tactics along our way, all of our battles pale in the light of what our Lord and "Man of War" (Exodus 15:3) has done.
The Last Enemy
First Corinthians 15:26 says, "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." Everyday in every city many people die. It is the result of sin in the world. But God sent His own son so that "whosoever liveth and believeth in (Him) shall never die" (John 11:26). The earthly house of man decays as a result of sin in the world, but the believer never dies.
The believer has been "redeemed ...from (his) enemies:" because God's "mercy endureth for ever" (Psalm 136:24), and Jesus Christ our Savior became "cursed" for man (Galatians 3:13).
The One that suffered death for man commanded "love your enemies" (Mat 5:44). He told man to do this in order to be "children of the Father," because the Father is kind to the "unthankful and to the evil" (Luke 6:35). All men are "unthankful, evil" enemies of God until they come to the Father through Jesus Christ. Christ reconciled man to Himself "in the body of his flesh through death" (Colossians 1:21,22). He offers all believers the same ministry of reconciliation (ambassadors) and has given them the "word of reconciliation" (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
This is why life's true battleground is not a wrestling against flesh and blood. It is against "principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places" (Ephesians 6:12). The true enemy always has been and always will be the enemy of man's soul. His tactics are used by thousands of men and women influenced by him, but these men and women are not the enemy. The souls of men and women are trophies in a battle we are compelled to enter as a servant of Christ. The heart cry of David could be that of all believers: "Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies" (Psalm 27:11).
The Battle's Conclusion
The word enemy is translated "anguish" in Scripture and means great pain in body or mind, and it is also translated "trouble." The mad rush today is because people are in pain. They look for deliverance. They run from the pain. But there is only one help and one resting place: "But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: He is their strength in the time of trouble" (Psalm 37:39). Jesus prayed a lonely prayer that is recorded in Psalm 22: "Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help" (Psalm 22:11). Living the life of a believer must include following the Lord Jesus Christ. Bearing a daily cross will often include days of loneliness in the battle; days when the enemy tries to crowd and narrow the options. But "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).
The enemy will mock us, oppose us, and terrorize us--anything to keep us from operating our lives in the sure knowledge that he is ultimately defeated. He will try to draw us into battles with those who are only pawns in his battle against God. But our refuge is the eternal God and "underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deuteronomy 33:27).
The Psalmist wrote: "Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me: yet thy commandments are my delights" (Psalm 119:143). One of the delights of God's Word is to read and know the divine "battle plan" contained there. Over and above that, the end of the battle is recorded! There is an "everlasting fire" prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 20:10). It is no wonder Psalm 91 is a favorite of all believers: "He (the believer) shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation" (Psalm 91:15,16).