The Devil is a whisperer, a schemer, and a blasphemer. Remember what happened in the Garden of Eden? He merely posed a question to Eve; that's all. He placed a shadow of doubt in her mind and it was enough to lure her into disobedience. What is Satan whispering into your ear today? Is it working?
Psst . . . Have You Heard?!
Over these last few weeks we have observed the Red Dragon, the Devil, the Adversary, the roaring Lion, the Liar and the Father of Lies attempt to stop Nehemiah from rebuilding the city of God.
The attacks have come from the outside, in the form of ridicule and fear and discouragement. The problems have come from the inside with division and anger and betrayal.
And now in chapter 6, it seems to me as if the Dragon pulls out all the stops and launches one attack after another. They are painful, heart wrenching and discouraging to Nehemiah.
The attacks will come from both outsiders and insiders. It will be the loneliest and most fearful moments that Nehemiah will encounter.
There is one piece of armor that seems to not get as much attention as the others – and yet it is this piece that, above all others, protects Nehemiah, and every follower of God against the assault of the enemy.
It is that piece of armor for the New Testament believer called the helmet of salvation. The helmet protects the mind of the believer.
Cyril Barber, in his book on Nehemiah makes a point that there are three areas in the believers life that Satan attacks regularly and each of the three areas relate directly to our relationship to the three Persons of the Godhead.
He wrote that our relationship with God the Father gives us a sense of belonging. We are sons and daughters of His family – and we are secure in our Father child relationship.
Our union with Christ, the Son of God gives us our true sense of worth. In other words, God loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for our sins. With our redemption accomplished, we actually become joint heirs with Jesus Christ. This shows us our incredible worth and value to God.
Finally, the Holy Spirit’s indwelling empowers us to live for Jesus Christ. We are made equal to every task. This gives us our competence to fulfill whatever God designs for us to do.
Our belonging, our worth and our competency are directly related to our union with God.
And the Dragon loves nothing more than to attack us on those three fronts. He attacks our sense of security or belonging - he attacks our sense of worth or value to God and the church – he attacks our sense of competency so that we are paralyzed by doubt and fear.
The piece of armor that combats and protects is the helmet of salvation. Reflecting and remembering and acknowledging the Biblical truth of our redemption and our relationship with each Person of the Godhead protects our minds against these lures of the Red Dragon.
Nehemiah will face his most difficult battles because they are primarily battles that will require Biblical thinking. It will require emotions and will to be saturated by what he already knows is true about who God is and who he is.
It will be his toughest battles yet. One commentator even referred to chapter 6 of Nehemiah as “A Battle of Nerves”.
Let’s find out why.
Now when it was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall, and that no breach remained in it, although at that time I had not set up the doors in the gates, 2. then Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they were planning to harm me. 3. So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” 4. They sent messages to me four times in this manner, and I answered them in the same way.
Did you notice the timing of this request? Verse 1 tells us that the walls are finished but the gates haven’t been hung. It’s the last possible moment for the enemy to stop the work from being completed. It’s also the best time for Nehemiah to feel somewhat confident that the project is going to actually be completed.
And the request from his enemies comes in the form of a polite invitation to begin dialoguing together.
“Come, let us meet in Ono.” Which happened to be an oasis – a retreat location for the wealthy – fertile land with trees and water. Come on Nehemiah, we’ve dogged your heels but let’s get together and talk it over. Relax for just a day or two.
Four times they asked if he wanted an all expenses paid vacation at the Ono Resort and Conference center.
And four times, Nehemiah said the same thing. No. No to Ono. By the way, he ran the risk of looking cold and heartless. While he discerned they were trying to trick him, nobody else knew that. It was an attempt to create confusion.
On the outside, it looked like they wanted to make amends – talk it over – reach an agreement. They’ve been doing that in the Middle East for centuries now.
But underneath, as Nehemiah writes in his diary; 2b. But they were planning to harm me.
One commentator postulated what the newspapers would read had they printed them in this day:
Read Newspaper Articles
For reasons known only to God, Nehemiah was able to discern that this was a trap.
And his answer four times was No, No. No. No.
By the way, that’s a wonderful word to learn how to say. You should say “No” more often to your children. You need to say “No” to television commercials. You need to say “No” to temptation. You need to say “No” more often to the shopping mall, amen?
Let’s practice saying that little powerful word together.
On the count of three. One two three – NO! Say it again, NO! Louder, NO! Will you listen to temptation’s voice this week? NO. Will you live for yourself this week? NO! Am I almost finished with my sermon? NO!
- Then Sanballat sent his servant to me in the same
manner a fifth time with an open letter in his hand. 6. In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Gashmu says, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel; therefore you are rebuilding the wall. And you are to be their king, according to these reports. 7. You have also appointed prophets to proclaim in Jerusalem concerning you, ‘A king is in Judah!’ And now it will be reported to the king according to these reports. So come now, let us take counsel together.”
2) We can’t trick Nehemiah, so let’s discredit him.
This was an attempt to create a scandal.
Let’s tell everyone that Nehemiah wants to rebuild Jerusalem just so he can sit on the throne and be the King.
Frankly, this was a bombshell of a letter. It started a rumor that could destroy the credibility of Nehemiah.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the point. That was their hope.
Can you imagine how this news rifled through the camp. Nehemiah wants to be the King of Jerusalem. Frankly, the more interesting the gossip, the more likely it is to be untrue and yet the faster it will travel.
There is something about all of us that causes us to believe things that are whispered to us. Any sentence that begins with the words, “Psst, have you heard?” is a sure fire way of getting that other person’s full attention.
And once it’s out, it’s out. Many times the damage is irretrievable done. And trying to squash a rumor is like trying to un-ring a bell.
It’s no wonder that of the 7 things we are told in Proverbs that God hates – three of them have to do with the tongue.
My friends, if you’ve ever been gossiped about or rumored about you can learn a lot from Nehemiah’s response.
- Then I sent a message to him saying, “Such things as
you are saying have not been done, but you are inventing them in your own mind.” (that’s it . . . not, “Listen, here are ten reasons why your wrong – and I can explain why some misguided prophets are announcing I’m the next King of Jerusalem – but I haven’t hired them . . .” NO self-defense – no long letter in return – no self-vindication. Just simply, “It’s not true – you’ve made it up.” But would you notice how Nehemiah stays focused on the real issue – look at verse 9. For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking, “They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.”
Unfortunately, the gossip spread and many in Jerusalem become suspicious of Nehemiah. In fact, later in this chapter you discover that the leaders of the tribe of Judah believed the rumor and add to the discrediting of Nehemiah.
There is no insurance policy for word of mouth.
This so hurt Nehemiah that did you notice he didn’t pray about the invitation to come to the resort town of Ono. He didn’t pray when they threatened in the previous chapter to fight him with swords and spears.
But here, after being accused of having deceitful motives and proud ambitions, he prays 9b. “But now, O God, strengthen my hands.” Oh God, strengthen my hands!
Nehemiah with his tough exterior and “nothing’s too big to tackle” attitude is deeply hurt.
He writes here in his journal, “O God, strengthen my hands.”
There’s a little article that says this:
ARTICLE ON GOSSIP
How do we protect our church, our families, our work ethic from the erosion brought about by the tongue?
Alan Redpath, who once pastored the large Moody Church in Chicago wrote how he once encouraged the members of his church during a particularly stressful time in their church history to subscribe to a simple formula before speaking.
He wanted them to think before speaking. It was an acrostic - T.H.I.N.K.
T – for, Is it true?
H – for, Is it helpful?
I – for, Is it inspirational?
N – for, Is it Necessary?
K – for, Is it Kind?
If it didn’t pass the T.H.I.N.K. test, it wasn’t spoken to another person.
That’s good advice for the church, but it’s good advice for life. If you’re running down your coworkers or your boss – your wrong. As a believer, you have no business working with that attitude. The THINK test will revolutionize your work environment, and it just may revolutionize your home and your church environment as well.
The enemies of Nehemiah and of the work of God said, “Let’s trick him . . .” Then, “Let’s discredit him.”
But Nehemiah kept on building.
The third attempt was an attempt to create compromise
If we can’t trick him or discredit him, let’s tempt him to sin.
10. When I entered the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined at home, he said, “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, and they are coming to kill you at night.”
Sounded good – coming from a priest. In fact, he was a prophet and a priest. The English translation obscures the fact this is in the form of a prophecy as if it came from God.
Imagine somebody telling you, “Listen, I got word that some of your enemies are coming over some night and they’re going to kill you . . . you’d better hide.”
Imagine trying to sleep after hearing that. You’d hear every noise, every dog bark, every rustle of a tree branch.
So this priest says to Nehemiah, come over to the temple and let’s hide out together in the Holy Place.
But Nehemiah saw through this phony prophecy 11. But I said, “Should a man like me flee? And could one such as I go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.” 12. Then I perceived that surely God had not sent him, but he uttered his prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13. He was hired for this reason, that I might become frightened and act accordingly and sin, so that they might have an evil report in order that they could reproach me.
Was it sin for Nehemiah to be afraid? No. Was it sin for Nehemiah to hide during the night? No!
If you look closely you’ll notice that Shemaiah proposed that they hide out in the Holy Place, where only priests could enter.
To go in there, even though it would mean being rescued from assassins would violate the law of God.
Ladies and Gentlemen, he would rather lose his life than sin.
How much sin will you allow in your life before you become even a little bit bothered. Here’s a man who would rather risk his life than risk losing the pleasure of God on his life.
By the way, this provides great insight in how to determine good counsel from bad:
Let me give you three things to ask yourself.
1) does the counsel violate your character?
2) does the counsel contradict scripture?
3) does the counsel hinder your commitment?
14. Remember, O my God, Tobiah and Sanballat according to these works of theirs, and also Noadiah the prophetess and the rest of the prophets who were trying to frighten me.
We can’t trick him or discredit him or tempt him . . . so let’s abandon him. This is another attempt to create division
Skip down to verse 17. Also in those days many letters went from the nobles of Judah to Tobiah, and Tobiah’s letters came to them. 18. For many in Judah were bound by oath to him because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah the son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah. 19. Moreover, they were speaking about his good deeds in my presence and reported my words to him. Then Tobiah sent letters to frighten me.
I personally couldn’t take a week of this, could you? But Nehemiah endured it for months and even years. Tobiah was the enemy of God’s work – but here you have prophets and a prophetess and leaders in Judah who were constantly telling Nehemiah what a great man Tobiah was in verse 19. In other words, “C’mon Nehemiah, you need to get over your problem with Tobiah – he’s really doing us all a favor – we need him around”. Yet all the while, according to the last part of verse 19, Tobiah is sending letters to Nehemiah trying to scare him away.
You could circle a word that appears throughout chapter 6 – it’s the word frighten. They constantly tried to frighten Nehemiah into quitting.
But he just wouldn’t quit.
Now verse 15. So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. 16. When all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.
Can you imagine any sweeter words than these. . . “So the wall was completed.”
The wall is finished. Put away your tools, take down the scoffolding, swing the massive gates shut and bolt them tight. We finished it.
When Believers Resist the Lure of the Dragon and build on, two things eventually happen:
- God’s work reaches completion. Think about it – for 90 years they hadn’t been able to do it. But this time, the people had their hearts in the work, and a leader who wouldn’t quit. I can only imagine the celebration as the nations around them all their plotting and planning and intimidating and rumor mongering had ultimately failed.
- Something else happens dear friends: God’s name receives the glory.
Would you look back at verse 16 again – And it came about when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence. . .why? for they recognized that this work had been accomplished because of Nehemiah’s leadership . . . because the people were skilled at building . . . because conditions were favorable and the King of Persia had provided lumber for the gates . . . NO! “They recognized that this word had been accomplished with the help of our God.”
These unbelievers knew that someone supernatural had to have been involved in order for the walls to have been re-built in just 52 days.
What a way to live. To stay at the hard labor of building families and marriages and homes and a church so that those around us can only explain us in terms of God’s involvement. That is vindication enough!
And God is glorified and His cause advanced. Is it any wonder then that the Dragon battles whatever God builds. Is it any surprise then that there are no opportunities for the Kingdom of heaven without opposition from the Kingdom of hell.
Expect it – be alert to it. We don’t battle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against ruler in high places – we battle against the kingdom of darkness whenever we attempt to build something for the Kingdom of light.
So keep building the walls of your character, your marriage, your personal walk with Christ, your friendships, your relationships and testimony to unbelievers . . . and know all the while that the Dragon will continually drop the lures into the waters of your life.
Dudley Tyng was a well-known speaker in the eighteen hundreds. In 1858 he had just finished speaking to 5,000 young men at the Young Men’s Christian Association that we know today as the YMCA. He preached to 5,000 young men and 1,000 of them accepted the free gift of salvation. He was a young man. That day after preaching he went back to the farm, he decided to go out to the barn and watch the men shelling corn. He got a little too close to the machine, and his jacket was caught, and his arm was pulled into the grinding gears of that machine, and it was lacerated beyond repair. In a few hours, he would die--medicine was so primitive and the loss of blood . His father was there and he reminded Dudley that thousands of people were gathering to hear him preach again that evening. What did he want said to them. Dudley Tyng strained to get the words out of his failing lips and said, “Tell the people to stand up for Jesus.” That night the assembly hall was packed with people expecting to hear Dudley preach. But instead of hearing him preach, they learned of his accident and death. And then they were given the words of his final message. George Duffield heard those last words and sat down and composed a poem. The poem was put to music and we know the hymn as:
Stand up, stand up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross
Lift high His royal banner, it must not suffer loss
From victory unto victory His army shall he lead,
Till every foe is vanquished and Christ is Lord indeed.
Stand up stand up for Jesus, stand in His strength alone,
The arm of flesh will fail you, ye dare not trust your own,
Put on the gospel armor, each piece put on with prayer
Where duty calls or danger, be never wanting there
Stand up stand up for Jesus, the strife will not be long
This day the noise of battle, the next, the victor’s song
To him that overcometh a crown of life shall be
He with the King of glory shall reign eternally.
In other words, just keep building. Let finished walls answer the Dragon. Build to the glory and honor of God, our faithful Father and our sovereign Lord.
From Samaritan sources it is learned that Governor Nehemiah of Judah has again turned down the invitation of Sanballat, head of the district of Samaria, to come to the village of Ono for a conference of the big four; Gashmu, leader of the Edomites, Tobiah, leader of the Ammonites, Sanballat and Nehemiah. Sanballat issued an announcement today in which he sharply criticized Nehemiah for his repeated refusal to appear at such a meeting – the purpose of which, according to Sanballat, is “simply to adjust the relations among these rulers and bring about peace in the area.”
The following week, another article appears:
The Samaritan leader claims that this is the fourth time that Nehemiah has asked for a postponement of the conference on the grounds that he is too busy. This despite the fact that Ono, the place designated as the site of the meeting, is no more than 4 ½ hours ride from Jerusalem. “The responsibility for anything that may happen and for the blood that may be shed rests solely upon Nehemiah,” the announcement concludes.
Truth was, it was all a pseudo-peaceful sounding invitation – but the bottom line was deceit.
ARTICLE ON GOSSIP
I have no respect for justice. I maim without killing, I break hearts and ruin lives. I am cunning and malicious and gather strength the older I am alive. The more I am quoted the more I am believed. My victims are helpless. They cannot protect themselves against me, because I have no name and no face. To track me down is impossible. The harder you try, the more elusive I become. I topple governments and wreck friendships. I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights and heartaches. I make innocent people cry in their pillows. Even my name hisses. I am called Gossip. I make headlines and headaches. I am nobody’s friend.