Nehemiah 6: The Perfect? Trap
1. Introduction: Have you seen someone caught in a "trap" or moral dilemma that seemed to be rationally the right thing to do but in fact was a violation of God's word? Have you ever only told part of a situation so that the other person would not be "hurt"?
Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem tried one more time to de-rail Nehemiah and stop the project. This time they tried intrique, innuendo and intimidation. They were not successful because Nehemiah knew God was behind the project.
2. What was Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem's attempt to thwart the completion of the rebuilding of the wall? What tactics did they use as recorded in v 2 - 7
They asked Nehemiah to come to Ono which was about 50 km from Jerusalem. This would take him away from the work of re-building the wall. Sanballat tried to attribute a motive of rebellion to the reconstruction of the wall. They tried to use distraction and intimidation.
3. Read what they had done some years earlier when Ezra had attempted to rebuild the city. Ezra 4:11 - 23
The Jews had attempted to rebuild the temple. The commanding officer of the king wrote a letter to get the building to stop fearing that if the temple was rebuilt he would loose power. He cited that previous kings of Judea where powerful and the king would loose revenue that he was receiving from this area. The king looked into the matter and sent back a message to stop the rebuilding.
4. How did Nehemiah respond? Why could he not be intimidated?
He told them he was busy so he couldn't go. Nehemiah knew that they were attempting to harm him and stop the work. 4 times they sent the same message. 4 times Nehemiah sent the same message back. The fifth time Sanballat attempted to accuse Nehemiah of rebellion by writing an unsealed letter - unofficial letter.
Putting something in writing is more intimidating and they were attempting to threaten Nehemiah by lying about his true intent for rebuilding. Nehemiah realized their intent in verse 9.
Nehemiah then prayed "Strengthen my hands."
5. What other tactic is recorded here in Chapter 6:10-14?
Tobiah and Sanballat hired a prophet Shemaiah to lure Nehemiah into the temple area into which only priests were allowed to go into. ie. To violate God's commands by intimidation and fear. By going into the temple Nehemiah would be disobeying God's rules for the temple and destroy is reputation.
6. How can we be discerning and withstand false counsel?
We need not fear man but God. If we do not keep God's law in our minds to follow it, we will be tempted to sin and disobey. One of Nehemiah's friends was Ezra, a scribe, and devout leader of the Jews in Jerusalem. Good friends keep us from wrong doing and keep us accountable.
Discernment comes from our personal exposure to the Word of God (Heb 5:13,14; Prov 2:1-9)
Heb 5:13 - 14 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
7. Even after the walls were completed and the doors were in place, what did Tobiah continue to attempt to do to Nehemiah?
Tobiah continued to send letters to intimidate him.(v. 19)
8. How was Nehemiah able to successfully oppose the enemy?
Note that he was appointed and sent as governor from King Artexerxies himself and had been one of the most trusted servants in the personal service of the king as cupbearer. His godly character and loyal service in Susa had earned him trust. Thus the king would not fear rebellion by Nehemiah.
Previously a letter to the king had stopped the rebuilding in Ezra's era but since Nehemiah had been a close associate of the King, it would not work this time. Thus only threats to send something to the king was a way to try to intimidate Nehemiah and distract him by trying to get him away to defend his reputation.
9. What kind of trials have you faced? Has anyone attacked your character or attempted to belittle what you are doing for the kingdom of God? How do you think God wants you to handle that situation?
At one point I was giving a presentation in church which ran longer than the minute or two that they felt was all they wanted. I wanted to clearly make a point so the whole service took longer than they wanted. I offended the worship leader when asked to cut down my time by saying that I would say what God had laid on my heart. The leadership response was to try to intimidate me by using my son's rebellion against me. I did apologize for hurting the leader's feelings.
10. How would you handle people who compare your ministry to that of some other well known leader in an attempt to intimidate you?
We need to have confidence in God that He is leading us and we know that there will be others that can do a better job but that should not discourage us. Instead we need to rely totally on God's Spirit to direct us. If we are listening to God's leading and following his way, we will not be intimidated by others.
11. What key character qualities should we be demonstrating?
We need to be bold but also humble. We should not be intimidated by others who are trying to compare us. We should be using what God has given us to the best of our ability and when we are depending on Christ, He will guide us. We should be listening to God not just people around us. We need to be proactive, bold and diligent - not easily intimidated.
Extra Challenging Question:
12. In reviewing Nehemiah's work since he first arrived in Jerusalem ( Neh 2:11 - 6:19) make a list of his character and leadership skills. Which of these characteristics do you believe are true of you at the present? What plans can you realistically begin to implement now so as either to improve on or develop the other qualities seen in Nehemiah?