Title: WEATHERING THE STORM OF INTIMIDATION
Text: Nehemiah 6:1-19
It seems the enemies of Nehemiah (Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem) just won’t give up. Like Wiley the Coyote and all of his “ACME something-or-another” traps, the roadrunner had to navigate around them using discernment…so do we when it comes to non-stop criticism and intimidation.
As we will see in tonight’s passage, the wall is complete and all that is left of the project is to hang the gates, but these three critics don’t give up. Like Wiley, they set a trap at every turn, and discernment is needed to keep a steady course. We would all do well to see how Nehemiah handled the howling coyotes.
Previously these three aimed their attacks at Israel, but we shall see they now single out Nehemiah directly. They try to separate him and his leadership from the people and their project. To keep the separation from happening, this leader didn’t draw closer to his people…he drew closer to God. We’re in for another inspiration of how to handle difficult circumstances.
1. According to 6:1, when did these 3 men choose to execute their next attack?
Insight: As it was in Nehemiah’s case, so it is with us…often the enemy plans a sneak attack when we least expect it…when we are celebrating a great success. Israel had completed the wall and the people must have been euphoric over their accomplishment, but that’s when the enemy decides to focus its attacks. 1 Cor. 10:12
2. Do you think you are more susceptible to attack when you’ve just celebrated a success?
Insight: We wouldn’t be the only ones to let our spiritual reflexes go limp after a success. David’s gaze and adultery with Bathsheba came when he had never known defeat on the battlefield and he was at the height of his career as king. Joseph’s temptation to lie with Potiphar’s wife came right after he had been promoted. Satan often tailor’s his attacks when our accomplishments have us walking on air. The city’s main defense is just about ready, but its Nehemiah’s defenses that are about to be tested.
3. How would you describe the disguise of the first attack in 6:2a?
Insight: Like the invaders of Troy, this wooden horse was an attempt to get past his defenses by luring him out of the city where they could kill him. It seems to be a peace offering in the lush valley of Ono at first glance, but their intentions were a one-way ticket for Nehemiah. Ps. 12:2
4. Not only did Nehemiah discern their treachery, he also sensed another danger in 6:3; what is it? (Stopping the work to meet with them.)
Insight: One of the qualities we need to develop is modeled here…we need to learn the ability to say no. Nehemiah didn’t say it just once, he said it 4 times. 6:4; Prov. 14:15
5. After four unsuccessful attempts, Sanballat crafts a treacherous letter as a pressure tactic. 6:5-7 What’s the treachery of this letter? Jer. 20:10
Insight: This is not a private, sealed letter; it’s an open one (that most likely was shown to others along the way). In it were untrue elements which spread rumors about Nehemiah planning a rebellion and his desire to be their king.
Insight: These verses reveal characteristics found in all rumors. 1) The source is often unknown. “It is reported…” 2) Rumors are filled with exaggeration and inaccuracy. This news was discussed “among the nations”. 3) Rumors lead to hurt and misunderstanding. Any time your integrity is attacked, it hurts. 4) Rumors are spread by those with evil motives. They didn’t want to “take counsel together” …they wanted to kill him.
6. Nehemiah is put in a precarious position here. What is it? (If he refuses to go to Ono, it looks like he is guilty and afraid to let the truth be known; but if he goes, the work will stop and he’ll walk right into a trap.)
Insight: The #1 threat to the unity of the Body of Christ is not crime, poor church programs, or even a weak pulpit…it’s the tongue!
7. What strategy do you suggest for combating wagging tongues in the church?
Insight: We need the Holy Spirit to speak through all of us here, for this one element has destroyed more churches and soldiers of the Lord than any other element.
Insight: Here are some helpful suggestions a wise saint once gave me. Ask, “Is this necessary to say?” or “Is this confidential information that I shouldn’t be hearing?” Gossiper’s usually lack accurate information. When you discover it, set the record straight and firmly tell them to report only the truth. Then ask, “Will this benefit or build up the person we are talking about? Then ask, “Are you asking me to go with you to correct the problem with this person? If not, you are not following Scripture that states that you are to go to that person directly and confront them in love.” When you run into someone spreading rumors, a loving rebuke is the best response. Prov. 6:17-19
8. How did Nehemiah handle the rumors according to 6:8? (He calmly denied the charge; he put the blame where it belongs.)
9. Verse 6:9 is the hallmark of how Nehemiah handles slander and rumors; it reveals how we, too, should handle them. What does he do? (He takes his hurt to God and asks for strength.) Ps. 56:3; Isa. 41:10; Eph. 3:16
10. Being unsuccessful thus far, the evil trio now engages others in their treacherous attack. What is the subtle conspiracy revealed in 6:10?
Insight: What better place to catch Nehemiah with his guard down than in the place he would feel most secure…the temple?
11. Discernment and the voice of the Holy Spirit aid Nehemiah in seeing this is only another disguised attack. How so, according to 6:11-13? (God reveals it is a false prophesy and they were hired by Tobiah and Sanballat to lure him to the temple.) Jer. 14:14
12. Through all this, there was another attack going on through Tobiah’s in-laws in verses 6:17-19. What was it? (They made sure his subversive letters were planted in Nehemiah’s presence.)
13. Verse 6:14 reveals how Nehemiah reacted to all these attacks. What did he do?
Insight: Oh that criticism and rumors would produce the same fruit in each of us…it drove him to his knees, and because of that, he was able to face the threats without giving in to them or losing sight of his purpose.
6:15 – “So the wall was completed in 52 days.” Nehemiah rose to the challenge…defended his people…and defeated his opponents with the same intensity with which they attacked him. Because of his faith in God that took him to his knees often, he was able to face the threats without giving in to them or losing sight of his goal to finish the wall…and he did it in record time!
Intimidation is meant to frighten or deter you with threats. Inspiration helps you to brazenly set your course for the finish line no matter what the battle. Matt. 10:24-33; 1 Pet. 3:13-17
Is it possible to be right smack in the middle of doing God’s will and experience direct or subtle attacks? What inspiration do you glean from tonight’s study?