Nehemiah 6:1-4 (NIV) 1 When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it–though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates– 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.” But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.
On verses 1-4: First Nehemiah’s opponents tried using insults, then intimidation to throw Nehemiah off. Now they resort to schemes and trickery. Four times they try to get Nehemiah alone so that they can harm him. What can we learn from this? Like Nehemiah’s enemies, your enemy Satan wants to take you away from the work God has called you to do. He wants to isolate you from the people of God. If he can do this, he knows he is on his way to successfully harming you. Each time Satan tries to do this, stand your ground like Nehemiah. Keep serving God. Keep sticking with God’s people.
Nehemiah 6:5-8 (NIV) 5 Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter 6 in which was written: “It is reported among the nations–and Geshem says it is true–that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king 7 and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us confer together.” 8 I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.”
On verses 5-8: Like Nehemiah’s enemies, your enemy Satan is a deceiver. He loves to spread rumours that are not true and convince people of lies. Jesus says about our enemy, “He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44, NLT) So when Satan tries to disturb you with a lie, like Nehemiah just reply, “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head. In Jesus’ name, Satan get away from me.”
Nehemiah 6:9 (NIV) 9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” [But I prayed,] “Now strengthen my hands.”
On verse 9: When critics attack you, in those very places where critics say you are weak, ask God for strength.
Nehemiah 6:10-14 (NIV) 10 One day I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was shut in at his home. He said, “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you–by night they are coming to kill you.” 11 But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should one like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” 12 I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me. 14 Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who have been trying to intimidate me.
On verses 10-14: Why did Nehemiah agree to meet with Shemaiah the prophet? Perhaps Nehemiah did so out of compassion for Shemaiah because Shemaiah was “shut in” (i.e. unable to leave his home perhaps because of ceremonial uncleanliness). Or perhaps Nehemiah went because he was open to God speaking through His prophets. In any event, Nehemiah had no reason at the time to suspect anything about Shemaiah. Shemaiah after all was one of Nehemiah’s own people. But when Shemaiah suggests to Nehemiah that they together go and secretly hide in the temple for safety, Nehemiah becomes suspicious. That’s because God’s Word prohibited Nehemiah, who was not a priest, from entering the temple sanctuary. Why would a prophet from God tell Nehemiah to do something that is contrary to God’s Word? Nehemiah then realizes that Shemaiah has been hired by Nehemiah’s opponents Tobiah and Sanballat. With the hired help of prophets like Shemaiah and Noadiah (v14), Tobiah and Sanballat were trying to convince Nehemiah to break God’s law and in so doing hurt Nehemiah’s credibility as a leader (v13).
What can we learn from this? How do you know if a message from a so-called prophet is from God or not? One clue is that God will never tell you to disobey His Word. If a “message from God” or from a “prophet” tells you to do something that is clearly against God’s Word, you know that message is not from God.
Nehemiah 6:15-16 (NIV) 15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. 16 When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.
On verses 15-16: If you want to scare the enemy, you don’t need to shout threats or plot revenge. To make the enemy nervous, all you need to do is keep doing the work God has called you to do. That’s the reason why he is going after you in the first place.
Nehemiah 6:17-19 (NIV) 17 Also, in those days the nobles of Judah were sending many letters to Tobiah, and replies from Tobiah kept coming to them. 18 For many in Judah were under oath to him, since he was son-in-law to Shecaniah son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berekiah. 19 Moreover, they kept reporting to me his good deeds and then telling him what I said. And Tobiah sent letters to intimidate me.
On verses 17-19: Tobiah, Nehemiah’s most prominent opponent, was an influential man who was also known for doing good (v19), was well connected and had many who were indebted to him (v18). Tobiah forms an alliance with Judah’s nobles against Nehemiah (v17). By forming alliances with the prophets and the nobles of Judah, Tobiah was obviously trying to use key influencers in Judah to turn the people against Nehemiah. But they would not succeed.
What can we learn from this? It doesn’t matter how influential, powerful, well connected or popular your critics may be. If God is for you – and He is – He will make sure to protect you and preserve you. For greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). The Greatest Influencer of all is on your side.
Heavenly Father, thank You for exposing the strategies of the enemy so that we can be alert and stand firm against him. Like Nehemiah, may I be aware of the enemy’s schemes and wise to avoid his traps. Thank You that greater is He who is in us than he who is the world, and that the Greatest Influencer is on my side. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!