I. Nehemiah 6:1-19 A Work of God
A. Nehemiah had faced all sorts of problems in rebuilding the wall, but so far all the problems had been attacks against the whole work itself. Now the enemy is going to attack Nehemiah directly as a last-ditch effort to put a stop to the work. All that is left is the gates of Jerusalem and for them it is now or never.
II. 6:1-4 Persisting in Conviction
A. V1, Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem the Arab reemerge onto the scene. Sanballat was the governor of Samaria, the neighboring province and probably had power of Jerusalem before Nehemiah arrived… if not directly then indirectly. Tobiah was an Ammonite noble who had married into power within Jerusalem. Geshem was the commander of the Persian Army in the area. All of these men were outside powers who wanted to use and abuse the Jews for their own selfish interests, their people were also historically enemies of the Jews so the hatred between them goes very far back.
1. The wall is built, and no gaps are left. All they have to do is hang the gates, the completion of the wall is probably only days away. They hear of this and realize that they must do something now to stop this work or it will be too late.
B. V2, The plain of Ono was about half way from Samaria to Jerusalem. This might have seemed like a good idea at first, we can meet in the middle and have a conference, perhaps they intended it to look like a peace conference. Somehow though Nehemiah knows that they wanted to do him harm. Nehemiah had discernment.
1. When the devil cannot get us from outward attacks or inward discouragements, and he is failing at overwhelming us he will attempt to subtly deceive us, and his attacks may be aimed less at the work of God in general and more at the leadership.
2. Nehemiah shows great discernment throughout this trial of rebuilding the walls. We do not know how he found out about them doing harm, but it is possible he just knew their character or God had given him discernment in his spirit not to go. Either way, discernment is extremely important for leaders to have. We will cover the topic of discernment in verse 12.
C. V3, Nehemiah stayed focused on what his mission was and was not going to get distracted by anything else. He knew if he left, even for a day or two, the work would stop during those days. He couldn’t leave his post.
1. You can dodge the clever traps of the enemy, when the enemy tries to send distractions by responding with truth. It was true that Nehemiah was too busy working on the wall and he did not have time for peace talks, they were only days away from finishing the work and the talks could wait.
2. Leaders must keep their priorities right. A million distractions can come your way, even things that look like a good thing, which will keep you from doing the one thing you’re supposed to do. That is why you must know your calling and then walk in it. Satan has kept me running with a thousand distractions, only to realize later that I didn’t get done the one thing that was the most important thing to do. Ever notice when you’re praying all of a sudden you realize all the things you need to do for the day, and none of those things seem like they can wait? Beware of distractions.
D. V4, The enemy is persistent in his temptations. We must respond with the same persistence. Even if I have to say no to the same temptation or distraction 4 times in a row, I must. Sometimes we give into temptation because it has been thrown at us a hundred times in one day, persistence in vital for leaders.
1. Nehemiah had the strong conviction that the wall must be built, and it was the one thing he came to Jerusalem to do. He was persistent in his conviction of what needed be to done, we too must be persistent in the convictions that God gives us no matter how many times the enemy attempts to distract or tempt us away from that conviction.
III. 6:5-9 Trusting in Truth
A. V5, Sanballat changes his tactics. He goes from trying to deceive Nehemiah to trying to slander Nehemiah. Normally letters, especially a letter of this nature, were sealed so that only Nehemiah would be able to see the contents. Sanballat left the letter unsealed because he wanted everyone to know what was in it, he wanted this seed of fear and slander planted in the minds of Nehemiah’s servants. It was a clever way to start a rumor against Nehemiah’s reputation, while at the same time making Sanballat look good as someone who wanted to help.
B. V6-7, The accusation was basically that there were rumors the Nehemiah was building the walls to make himself king of Jerusalem and rebel against Persia.
1. “It is reported among the nations” Some people are saying this, or I heard someone say that. Gossip never identifies where the information came from, likely because it isn’t true. If you don’t know exactly who said what or where an accusation came from and it is just something you heard, then don’t believe it. If the information you have one someone doesn’t have direct sources why would you consider it trustworthy to believe? Why would you join in on sedition if you don’t even know where your information came from? And yet many churches split just because they heard someone say something, but they don’t really know who or where it came from originally.
2. “And Geshem says” Geshem was willing to back these rumors up, being that he is the muscle in the area that could be a pretty intimidating thing. Persian kings did not go easy on rebellion, they mercilessly put them down, being that Geshem was the commander of the standing army in Samaria it means he will go to war over this. Just as God has his champions, so does Satan.
3. “that you may be their king” Nehemiah had, from the start, considered others over himself. He had neglected the governor’s tax, and had refused to buy property, and had set a good example in not charging interest to loans. Nehemiah could have easily made himself a king, but all along he had done exactly the opposite of this. If Nehemiah did not have the integrity in the first place to do what he did, it is possible this accusation could have stuck, but the character of Nehemiah was so evident that this would be a very hard accusation to stick on Nehemiah.
a) The importance of integrity and living above reproach cannot be overemphasized for leaders.
b) At the very least this accusation would have been very offensive to Nehemiah, and he would be tempted to defend himself pointing out all the ways he had denied himself of many rights that were his.
4. “you have also appointed prophets to proclaim concerning you” This accusation was utterly false, and it was a claim that spiritually Nehemiah was corrupted. Interestingly enough this accusation is exactly what Sanballat and Tobiah are guilty of. How often does the world accuse Christians of that which their hands are already covered in blood for?
5. “Now these matters will be reported to the king” They threatened that these matters would be reported to the king, and perhaps the reports were already on their way. This report didn’t have to make it to the kings ears, it only had to make it to the ears of the people of Jerusalem. It would have been tempting to Nehemiah to go to this meeting just to defend himself from the accusations.
6. “So come… and let us consult together” Sanballat invites Nehemiah to discuss these things, and is in a way offering his “help” to Nehemiah.
a) Satan is just a subtle, he invites us to work with him promising strength and aid, yet his “help” comes with the price of death. Christian leaders must be extremely wary of any help they receive, especially if it is from a known enemy of God, no matter how tempting it may be.
C. V8, Nehemiah doesn’t bother by giving a lengthy defense of himself, nor does he accept the invitation to go. He just calls him out and says, it is not true and your making this up. If you have integrity you won’t be afraid to say this.
1. This is called trusting in truth. You know what people are saying about you isn’t true so you don’t have to worry about defending yourself, the truth defends itself. You can respond by saying, that’s not true then go along your work.
2. Nehemiah would rather his reputation be destroyed, and possibly loose his position as governor or even his life, than the work of the Lord to be stopped. This is what made Nehemiah such a good leader – he didn’t care about what other people thought about him; he just did what was right. Nor did he spend all his time and energy trying to set straight all the lies about him.
a) “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. Even so, I will defend my own ways before Him” Job 13:15
b) Phil. 2:4-11, following God in obedience even if it costs us our life.
D. V9, Somehow Nehemiah had intel as to what their motivations for this meeting was. He had obtained a quote that they were just trying to cause fear to weaken their hands. Sanballat was content in his plan of getting Nehemiah to meet him in Ono not working, the main thing he wanted to accomplish was fear of finishing the walls.
1. Sanballat attempted to cause fear in Nehemiah, fear of losing his position with Persia or even his life. To finish the walls will be reported as rebellion Sanballat told Nehemiah. If he could get Nehemiah afraid to finish the walls that was enough to stop the work.
2. If Sanballat couldn’t get Nehemiah to be afraid, then he could at least cause fear by spreading these rumors through the open letter to Nehemiah’s servants and leadership. They might fear repercussions from Persia and could possibly refuse to continue with the work.
3. The enemy very rarely reinvents the wheel. Fear works so well that it is a weapon he uses over and over again; even if it wasn’t successful in the other ways he tried to use it.
a) 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind.”
b) Proverbs 14:26-27 “In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and His children will have a place of refuge.” If you fear nothing but God you will have a strong confidence against everything else that you come into contact with, this will be your refuge (the LORD) when you are in danger. The fear of the LORD is like a refuge to run to, keeping you safe from fearing anything else.
4. “Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.” We see that Nehemiah, as usual responds to this attack in prayer. He commits his hands, that would be weakened by his enemies, to be strengthened by the Lord. If we are to be able to complete the work of the Lord, our hands are going to need the strength of the Lord.
IV. 6:10-14 Committing Vengeance to the Lord
A. V10, Nehemiah goes to the house of a prophet, perhaps to get encouraged or to hear from the Lord or perhaps because he thought that Shemaiah was in danger as well (some versions say Shemaiah was shut up in his house) only to find a false prophecy and a temptation. Even the prophets had been corrupted, there was no one Nehemiah could trust.
1. Shemaiah informs him that they plan to murder Nehemiah and that they should go hide in the temple to save their lives. This was against the law of God, and according to the Law of God to be convicted of this was to receive the death penalty. They didn’t have to murder Nehemiah, they just had to get him to break God’s law then they could lawfully put him to death. The temple would have been one of the only really safe places in Jerusalem, it was a fortified building, and would have been tempting to hide in it.
B. V11, Nehemiah’s character proves itself in this situation. Nehemiah didn’t need to think about it, he already was not the type of man to run from danger. Nehemiah didn’t need to run, he had an armed guard with him 24/7. Fear will make a man think unclearly though, and that is what Shemaiah is banking on. Nehemiah also knew the scriptures, and that such as man as he was not permitted to enter the holy temple of God. He would not go in because he knew it was wrong to go in, no matter if he was murdered for not going in or not.
C. V12, At this point Nehemiah perceives that Shemaiah was a false prophet. He knew the word of God and what Shemaiah was proposing was against the word of God. We must test all spirits, if we ever hear a prophecy that is against what God’s written word says then we know that prophecy was not sent from God.
1. What is discernment? David Guzik writes,
“Discernment is the ability to judge matters according to God’s view of them, and not according to their outward appearance. We are often deceived by outward appearances; For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)….
How can we develop discernment? First, if you want to see things as God sees them, get to know His Word. Second, discernment comes through spiritual maturity; Hebrews 5:12-14 says that discernment is something spiritual babies don’t have (a baby will stick anything in his mouth). Third, discernment can be given as a gift from the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:10). Seek Him for it.”
2. As a side note, discernment is not just being able to detect fault in others that no one else sees, it includes being able to see the good in others that everyone else misses.
D. V13, Again Satan tried to use fear but just in a different way. This time the tactic came from an angel of light, someone who looked like a trustworthy servant of God but was actually a messenger of Satan. Their goal was to “have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me.” If they couldn’t kill him they were at least going to try to reproach him, which would have made his position as a leader much weaker.
1. It is just like Satan to tempt us into something then immediately accuse us for what we just fell into. He tempts so that he can destroy, and if he can’t destroy he will at least try to cause your reputation to be shamed, and if he can’t do that then he will at least try to make you feel condemned. Satan is the accuser of the saints, thankfully as Christians we have an advocate, Jesus Christ the righteous who can answer on our behalf, offering up the defense of His righteousness which He accomplished for us on our behalf on the cross.
E. V14, We find out here that there were a lot more false prophets in on this then just Shemaiah. All of them were attempting to cause Nehemiah to be afraid. The corruption in Jerusalem was bad, yet Nehemiah committed all of the defense and vengeance to the Lord. The Lord is always the best defense we have, I would much rather have the Supreme Judge of the Universe defend me than for me to try to offer up a defense for myself. Commit your defense to God.
V. 6:15-19 The Wall Completed During Troublesome Times
A. V15, They had completed what had been left undone for over a hundred years in little less than two months. They had done what was considered impossible to do. God had said He would do this though, and God keeps His promises, even if it seems impossible for Him to do so.
1. Daniel 9:25b “…The street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times.”
2. Nehemiah prayed twice as long as he worked to rebuild the walls. He waited and prayed for four months and the work took two months. Our work is won and wrought in prayer.
B. V16, The work of God disheartened the enemies of Israel because they saw that their God had done this. Here we have victory, and the enemies of Israel know it. This work is so obviously miraculous that they see only God could have done it. When God wants something done no device of the enemy can stop it, surely this must be very disheartening for him. Yet to us, it is a great encouragement that our God is able to perform His Word.
C. V17-18, Here we find out that all along there was an information leak from the very nobles that pretended to serve Nehemiah. From this verse we see that Tobiah was interested in the destruction of Nehemiah because if Nehemiah was out of the way he would have control of the nobles in Jerusalem.
D. V19, These guys were either two faced, or they actually were really deceived into thinking that Tobiah was a good guy. They constantly told Nehemiah how great Tobiah was, while at the same time reported all that Nehemiah said to Tobiah acting as spies against their own brethren. Nehemiah knew better though, the nobles got letters from Tobiah speaking of how great he was, while Nehemiah received hate mail and threats from Tobiah.
1. Beware of people who only talk about how good they are to you, because if this all they do they probably are not as good as they want you to believe. Truly good people let their works speak for themselves and don’t have to convince you of it.
2. We must never choose bonds of human loyalty, even bonds of family, over that of serving God. God has to come first, yet in this instance they let family ties get in the way of serving God and did what was good for their families instead of what was good for their nation.
3. These verses are put after the fact that the wall was built to show us that even though the threat was dealt with overall, the problem did not go away. Tobiah continued to send letters to people in Jerusalem to attempt to assert his power and those who were pledged to Tobiah spoke well of him to Nehemiah, yet then reported all Nehemiah said to Tobiah. Tobiah sent these letters to attempt to cause fear in Nehemiah, showing that he still had servants in Jerusalem. Perhaps this is why Nehemiah finds it necessary to stay 12 years in Jerusalem. Even after the victory, the battle continues, though it may take on another form.