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Nehemiah 6:1-14

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In this chapter we meet again with Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem, whom we have already encountered in Nehemiah chapters 2 and 4.
Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, Tobiah, the Ammonite official, and Geshem, the Arab, had underestimated the stamina and resourcefulness of their rival Nehemiah.
The supporters of these wicked men were superior in strength to Nehemiah’s workforce-cum-army, but his reliance was in God, the defender of His people (2:20; 4:20).
Now these enemies whose pride was wounded try different tactics with the aim of destroying the credibility of Nehemiah in the eyes of the Jews.
Spiritual leaders must expect to be the targets of attack from Satan and his human allies.
The combined forces lined up to oppose Nehemiah redoubled their efforts when they heard that the walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt.
All that remained to complete the venture was to hang the doors in the spaces reserved for them in the walls.
‘The open gateways (1) were the enemy’s last hope of regaining the upper hand without actually mounting a siege, which would be out of the question against fellow subjects of Persia.’
Many schemes were concocted in an attempt to defeat Nehemiah and his workers. These schemes are easily frustrated by God’s good providence and His care.
Today I’m going to warn you of traps, terrors, and tricks and then we’ll see that by toughness (that comes from God’s grace) we are delivered.
First is a plot to trap Nehemiah into a snare.
It’s going to be now or never for these enemies of God. in v1 they “heard” about the progress, so they are going to take one bold swing at Nehemiah.
He’s too well guarded to attack him on the spot, so they begin the art of negotiation, seeking to get him to come among them.
We need to note this: with what hellish subtlety they sought to flatter him to meet them.
that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm.
Come, let us meet together. Not in a city, so as to excite a suspicion, but in a village, in the lot of Benjamin:
Come, let’s meet and discuss our common interest…yeah right!!!
Nehemiah’s reply to the request by Sanballat and Geshem for ‘peace talks’ in the valley of Ono, is found in
So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner.
The valley of Ono was more than a day’s journey from Jerusalem;
therefore if Nehemiah travelled to this location he would waste valuable time needed
to push the building work on to its completion.
This assignment was too important and too demanding for him to leave;
besides his presence was needed in Jerusalem to prevent the nobles and officials going back on their promises (5:11–13).
Nehemiah’s refusal to desert his work provides us with another example of his single-mindedness (5:16).
There was no strategy employed by his opponents which caused him to sidetrack him from his God-given task of building the walls.
Behind the face of human enemies is our greatest adversary the devil,
who has a box full of tricks to distract us from serving God.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.
Satan not only instigates opposition,
he also presents us with persuasive reasons for
spending less time in private devotions and for opting out of Christian service.
And he won’t just try once, but in v4 Nehemiah is sent the same proposal four and and each time, he gave the same reply.
For example, do we allow secular employment and legitimate recreations to encroach on our time
so that God’s work is neglected?
Nehemiah’s reply to Sanballat compels us to consider our priorities.
So he is plotted against to be trapped.
Second is plot to terrify him from his work.
Look how Sanballot attempts this:
— 5 Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand. 6 In it was written: It is reported among the nations, and Geshem says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king. 7 And you have also appointed prophets to proclaim concerning you at Jerusalem, saying, “There is a king in Judah!” Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together.
So rebuilding the walls are seen as divisive and seditious.
It’s going to be perceived by the King that you are a trader.
Notice it’s an open letter (v5). This is general information and spoken of.
Yeah, Nehemiah is seeking to make himself king!
The charges were downright lies, but Sanballat was working on the principle that ‘There is no smoke without fire.’
It is a sad fact of life that People are always quick to believe the worst about others.
Would Nehemiah be blackmailed, through fear of losing his reputation, into a compromise with Sanballat and his cronies?
Nehemiah’s priority when invited to leave Jerusalem was to carry on working for God;
his priority when his character was maligned was to pray to that same God.
His petition, preceded by an open denial of the accusation,
Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.”
Which was simple and to the point: vFor they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, “Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.” Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.
He brings God into the picture.
This was something which Sanballat had not bargained for!
The feeble drooping hands of Nehemiah and his builders were made strong by the mighty God of heaven.
There is not only a contrast in verse 9 between the weakness of the Jews and the strength of God;
there is also an implied contrast between
the puniness of Sanballat and the power of God.
It is utterly futile for anyone to set himself up against God. The attempt to defeat God’s people is doomed to failure.
When we are tempted to be afraid then we need to recall the words of the apostle Paul:
‘We are more than conquerors through him who loved us’ ()
Nehemiah’s conscience was free of guilt; therefore he did not hesitate to plead with God for divine assistance to remain firm in this painful trial.
A clear conscience gives us boldness when we supplicate the holy God.
Nehemiah was convinced that the righteous God who sees into the heart would vindicate him.
Let me illustrate this in the life of Christ. Turn over to .
Many years after Nehemiah’s time the apostle Peter wrote to believers scattered throughout northern Turkey who were struggling with misunderstanding.
He directed their thoughts to the Lord Jesus Christ, who was falsely arraigned: who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;
Peter depicts the patience and endurance of Jesus and suggests that we follow Jesus’ example.
However, the tendency to retaliate when we are insulted is always present
By contrast, Jesus prayed for his enemies: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (; and see ).
In the last part of verse 23 Peter states the reason for Jesus’ meekness.
Writes Peter, “Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.”
That is, Jesus did not invoke God’s wrath upon his persecutors and demand retaliation.
Jesus knew that His suffering was divinely ordained.
He had to take upon himself the curse that was resting on the human race in consequence of man’s sin.
Jesus was fully aware of God’s righteous judgment against sin (see ).
For this reason, Jesus entrusted himself and his cause to God, the righteous judge.
The sinless and suffering Savior left his honor in the hands of his heavenly Father.
We must learn to copy His example if we experience the distress of slander.
The attitude of Nehemiah and of Christ will guard us against the snare of resentment and revenge.
Before leaving this thought, we note something else: Christian fortitude (determination) is strengthened by opposition.
So since they cannot get Nehemiah to them, they are going to seek to drive him into the temple “for his own safety”.
Let Nehemiah be anywhere but at his work.
They see the Nehemiah is a very cautious man, now they’ll seek to make their point by making him cowardly.
Watch how tricky the enemies managed this temptation.
In v10 is an attempt to lure him through fear and the thoughtlessness fear induces into committing the sin of sacrilege.
Nehemiah is summoned to the house of a professed prophet name Shemaiah, who presented to him as revelation from God, an oracle that said,
— {middle of v10} ...“Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you.”
But Nehemiah already had a sense of
vocation as Israel’s governor, guide, and mentor,
plus, no doubt, his sense of
being under God’s protection already while he labored at God’s work,
These kept him from panicking and prompted a forthright refusal of Shemaiah’s suggestion.
And I said, “Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!”
Here, as on other occasions, Nehemiah showed great courage—
a quality that has been well defined NOT as an absence of fear,
but as a resolute doing of what is known to be right
however much we feel afraid, disturbed, or hurt.
Remember the words — “... I became dreadfully afraid”
Right at the beginning a habit was established...
a habit that would become a real service to him later, moving ahead in spite of fear!
Let me ask you dear believer, should a person like you run away?
These words in v11 echo down across the centuries to us.
Like Nehemiah we live in days when we must let our courage be seen by the way we act and speak.
It will help us, perhaps, to realize that true courage does not consist in the absence of fear but in doing what God wants even when we are afraid, disturbed and hurt.
Who is not afraid at times? Who is not disturbed? Who is not hurt? We all are.
Yet it is precisely when we yield those fears to God and press on that we show leadership.
The aim by these enemies is intimidation. For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me.
Here’s the devils work, who is men’s tempter that he may be their accuser, drawing believers into sin, that we may glory in our shame!
Intimidate us from our high callings from God and bring us to do what is sinful!
Then we see how tenacious Nehemiah’s mastery of this temptation.
Look first at the reasonings for mastering this temptation: “Should such a man as I flee?” (v11)
Am I one to desert God’s work? Would I be one to discourage my fellow workmen whom I have worked with and encouraged?
Another might flee but I won’t! Not I...
This teaches us that when we are tempted to sin, we should remember who we are and what we are!
That we wouldn’t communicate to others that we are not follower of Christ, nor undermine our profession of Him!
Look at the results of such reasonings. “I will not go in!”
I’d rather die here at my work than live in an degrading and detestable retreat from it.
Then look at what he begs God for in v14. For God to reckon with them according to their sins.
My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to these their works, and the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid.
That’s toughness. He is determined that the righteous God shall be the judge, not Jerusalem’s governor.
The Lord
knows their hearts,
their unworthy allegiance,
corrupt motives and
damaging intentions, and
he will deal with them all, Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, Shemaiah, Nodiah and the rest of the prophets in sovereign justice.
They imagine they are devising imminent destruction for him; in reality, they are preparing a grim destiny for themselves.
Satan through his agents, devilish and human, assaults all Christians, and leaders, it seems, most fiercely;
all Christians, therefore, and leaders supremely, must learn to pray with Nehemiah,
“Now strengthen my hands” (6:9)—not only for constructive ministry, corresponding to the building of Jerusalem’s wall,
but also for mortal combat,
corresponding to the sequence of defensive measures against Jerusalem’s enemies (who said, “we … will kill them,” 4:11; “they were scheming to harm me,” 6:2).
When this is truly the prayer of our hearts, then the outcome of the conflict is assured, for all believers, which we are caught in this fight.
What’s spoken in v11 about Nehemiah not running, is a phrase that was answered from his prayer at the end of v9, “But now, my God, strengthen my hands.”
Toughness is by God’s grace. Those who seek God’s strength will find it.
The outcome will be salvation, not destruction:
Satan will be thwarted and the church built up, and the God through whose help all the work is done will be glorified.
Fear is our enemies’ great weapon.
Nehemiah recognizes their aim to frighten him (vv. 9, 13, 14, 19).
His words from 4:14 echo here in chapter 6, calling God’s people not to fear but to remember their God.
One of the key strategies of faith is to tackle fear not by belittling the fear or wishing it away
but by taking our eyes off of that which makes us afraid and looking to God.
For us today, Jesus’ words echo: “Do not fear, only believe” ().
The Father’s wise ordering of all things in the world and in our own lives is of great comfort.
We can bank on God’s goodness, for we have seen him send His only Son to die on our behalf.
He has done the hard thing; He will surely care for us in the little things ().
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
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