The Sanballat Syndrome

Bob Dylan said it well. “The enemy is subtle. How be it we are deceived, when the truth’s in our hearts and we still don’t believe…” (“Precious Angel”, © Special Rider Music, 1979).

As Islamist terror stretches its icy fingers across oceans from Amsterdam to Paris, and from New York to Jerusalem, the world continually enters into a brief season of shock, to be followed by a determined burying of its head in denial of the spiritual nature of the problem. A post-Christian world cannot fathom the jihadi worldview and prefers to deny its power and its influence. That same post-Christian world view also dismisses the power and influence of the God of Israel and His covenantal promises to the Jewish people concerning their restoration and their land.

It is becoming increasingly widespread (even for some praying believers who believe in a biblical destiny for the Jewish people) to get worn down by the enemy regarding God’s heart for His people and His land. This is not a new thing. In Daniel 7:24-26 a dark world leader – a ‘lord of the kings’ – is described as the one who “will speak out against the Most High and wear down the holy ones of the Most High.” We do know that eventually this anti-Messiah’s “dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever” when YHVH’s heavenly court sits in judgment. Yet even in our day this dark lord’s hand still reaches out, attempting to confuse and deceive (if it were possible) even the very elect of God (Matthew 24:24).

As Gimli says in another context in ‘Lord of the Rings,’ the enemy’s “arm has grown long indeed if he can draw snow down from the North to trouble us here three hundred leagues away.” Today the enemy of our souls is still trying to trouble the Jewish people and the body of Messiah by drawing down his “abominable snow job” – the roots and fruits of Replacement Theology – through dark forces within the Islamic world, the Western secular world and even through anti-Semitic streams within the Christian world.

Opposing Jewish restoration

In the days of Nehemiah, the restoration of the Jewish people to their promised homeland was being carried out in stages, led by the encouraging words of God’s prophets. Though the majority of the sons of Israel chose to remain behind in Babylon, surrounded by comforts, an ardent remnant rose up and ascended to Zion. There they started to rebuild the military defensive walls around their capital city Jerusalem, and to solidify the worship and sacrificial ministry in the Temple area.

At that time there were enemies surrounding the Jewish homeland – descendants of Esau/Edom, descendants of Lot through Moab and Ammon, and also Ishmaelite and Arab tribes moving in and out of the desert areas to graze their flocks or raid passing caravans. The Bible describes some of these as opponents of Nehemiah and of the restoration of the Jewish people to their Promised Land.

One of these opponents was called Sanballat, a name possibly derived from the Akkadian word Sīnuballit which means “begotten by Sin (the moon god).” “When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of it (ed., Nehemiah’s restoration efforts), they were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel” (Nehemiah 2:10).

Herein lies a major key to understanding the enemy’s current strategy.

The Bible defines the well-being of the Jewish people as connected to their physical restoration to the Land of Israel, to the physical rebuilding of their infrastructure and their spiritual center, to the physical flourishing of a Jewish community in the entire land promised by YHVH to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (see Ezekiel 34:10-31; 36:1-15; Isaiah 66:14; Jeremiah 30:18-20).

The gifts of YHVH given to the Jewish people (which include the land) and Israel’s prioritized national calling (see Romans 11:28-29) were irrevocable in Nehemiah’s day, and they continue to determine the fate of nations today as well.

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May they prosper who love you. May peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces. For the sake of my brothers and my friends, I will now say, ‘May peace be within you.’ For the sake of the House of YHVH our God, I will seek your good” (Psalm 122:6-8).

  • Those who oppose the return of the Jewish people to their land, who call that process an injustice, and who attempt to mobilize political opposition against it  – these people are walking in the way of Sanballat.

Nehemiah’s prayerful response

Nehemiah did not respond to Sanballat with ‘political correctness,’ even though he was a professional diplomat (Nehemiah 1:11). When Sanballat accused Nehemiah of acting against superpower interests in the ancient Middle East, the response was not long in coming: “So I answered him and said to them ‘The God of heaven Himself will prosper us. Therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem’ ” (Nehemiah 2:20).

  • God is stating an important principle: those who oppose the restoration of the Jewish people have defaulted on participating in the restoration process going on in Jerusalem.

Mocking Jewish restoration

Nehemiah’s writings reveal another aspect of the enemy’s strategy – mocking and belittling the process of Jewish restoration.

Now it came about that when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious and very angry and mocked the Jews. He spoke in the presence of his brothers and the wealthy men of Samaria and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore it for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day? Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble even the burned ones?” Now Tobiah the Ammonite was near him and he said, “Even what they are building – if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down!” Hear, O our God, how we are despised! Return their reproach on their own heads and give them up for plunder in a land of captivity. Do not forgive their iniquity and let not their sin be blotted out before You, for they have demoralized (or caused great anger to) the builders! (Nehemiah 4:1-5)

Nehemiah’s prayer was Holy-Spirit-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and it shows what God thinks about those who mock Jewish restoration (see Genesis 12:3 as well). Those mockers are described by YHVH as despisers, bringers of reproach and controlled by iniquity and sin. Nehemiah considers these transgressions to be heavy sins, and asks God not to forgive such sins, because these people have attempted to demoralize and deeply anger those involved in Jewish restoration.

  • This whole subject of Jewish restoration is seen as highly serious by the God of the Bible, and those opposing it are described as standing right on the bull’s eye of divine judgment. 

Israel/Palestine – the modern sleight-of-hand buzzword

In Nehemiah 13:1-9 there is a description of some un-kosher under-the-table cooperation between a high priestly descendant Eliashib and Tobiah the Ammonite. Eliashib had allowed the Ammonite to enter the Temple compound and to store his own personal possessions in one of the great rooms there. This was a direct violation of the Mosaic Torah:

  • “No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of YHVH; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of YHVH. No Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly of YHVH; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall ever enter the assembly of YHVH, because they did not meet you with food and water on the way when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you (Deuteronomy 23:2-4)

By allowing someone who was not a descendant of Levi, Aaron or Jacob to enter the Temple courts, Eliashib had violated God’s biblical standards. A desire for political connections and cooperation had caused Eliashib to violate his own priestly calling. A political spirit and a desire for political correctness had become a spiritual trap for him, and had blunted the priest’s spiritual discernment.

In the same way in our day, there are a few even in the Messianic movement who started out believing ardently in the restoration of Israel and in the consolation of Zion (Luke 2:25, 38) but who have now taken the counsel of Sanballat and Eliashib. They have stepped back from supporting the restoration of Israel. They have encouraged mockers and underminers of the Jewish people, their walls and their warriors. They have participated in sowing doubt and in catalyzing unbelief regarding the prophetic word.

Others have opened up holy courtyards for unholy purposes. They have granted platforms to opponents of Jewish restoration, to mockers of the Jewish people – all in the name of political correctness or maverick political strategies.

This letter is both an exhortation and a warning to those so involved. God is not mocked, and His standards of measurement and judgment have not changed in the past six thousand years. Please – if you recognize that these words have reference to your own situation – ask YHVH to reveal His own opinion of your opinion, His take on your plans and strategies, His solution to your quandary.

How shall we then pray?

  • Pray for those trapped in the spider webs of the Sanballat syndrome – that YHVH would burn off the deceptive strands of compromise and spiritual deception involved
  • Pray for those involved in teaching and disseminating this false teaching – that the Lord God of Israel would grant them revelation leading to repentance
  • Pray for the purity of believers in Israel – that deception would not confuse a new generation of prophetic warriors-in-training, and that solid and pure teaching would break forth instead of a non-kosher admixture

Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!

In Messiah Yeshua,

Avner Boskey

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