What’s Your Defense Strategy? (Nehemiah 6:1-14)

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If you were asked this question “How complete is your defence against those who would side-track you?” what would your honest answer be? One thing we tend to forget as Christians is that we’re constantly in wartime. There is a battle going on! Scripture is very clear about the battle:

11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. (Ephesians 6:11-13)

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And this attack can come in two forms:

  1. From within (Indwelling sin)
  2. From outside (other people who distract us from doing what God calls us to do)

Therefore, it becomes very critical for us to know what our weak spots are and to also have a defense strategy in place to tackle that. And this passage from Nehemiah provides us with a good defense strategy.

1. Dedicated focus on the things of God

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[a] 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. (Nehemiah 6:1-4)

As the rebuilding project is almost over we see how Sanballat, Tobiah and their cohorts deceptively try to pull Nehemiah aside with the intention of harming him. They knew that if the leader of Judah was attacked, it would immediately stop the rebuilding work. So they ask Nehemiah to meet them on the plain of Ono and made it seem like it was a well-intentioned discussion among the leaders of different nations. Nehemiah suspected otherwise because these were the people who fiercely opposed him and the work in Jerusalem from the start. They consistently discouraged, despised and deceived them from continuing the work. He knew that they were pulling their last straw to get him and his people to stop the work. What is fascinating is the response Nehemiah gives to his enemies. Even if the proposed meeting was sincere and well intentioned, Nehemiah doesn’t allow the good to get in the way of the better. He says in v3: 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.

He understood the seriousness of the task at hand and was determined to finish what God called him to do! We see a man with a single minded focus! He couldn’t afford any lapses because he knew that it would cause the entire work to stop.

What would it mean for us to have that kind of dedicated focus on the things of God? In fact we see a great deal of focus when people work out in the gym, play games or when we try to meet the deadline or sales targets but the sad truth is that we don’t show that kind of focus when it comes to God. That’s why many young people show a great deal of enthusiasm and focus to serve God until they get married. After that serving the Lord finds no place in their lives. Another thing we see is how young Christians claim to have such a burden to reach out to the lost in their city but the moment an attractive oversees job offer comes their way, they’ll abandon that calling to follow their desires. Why is it that we don’t have a dedicated focus? It’s because we lack a passion for the glory of God. There are competing desires and passions in our heart. A passion for the glory of God will drive us to have a dedicated focus on the things of God.

2. Dependence on the promises of God

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[b] 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 meet 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.” 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.” (v5-9)

Sanballat and the other enemies were trying to instil fear in the hearts of the people with this unsealed letter. Obviously nobody wants to be perceived as opposing the King. By frightening the public, they were hoping to make them stop working on the walls. In spite of these threats, Nehemiah didn’t jitter. We know that because in these verses he doesn’t react by either trying to talk to the King and sort things out or meet with Sanballat to discuss further steps. Rather he responds by rubbishing their allegations. Secondly, you see him firmly trusting in God’s plan of rebuilding the walls. (v9) This has been a consistent pattern of his life. (Neh 2:8,12,18,20; 4:20)

At all times, either good or bad, before beginning his mission or during the mission, he always turns to God for help and trusts in His providence. What would it look like for us to exemplify that kind of prayer life and trust on God’s promises? Sometimes we may think that Nehemiah was a superstar of the faith and he was able to that. The truth is we all have access to the same God. So what if we had a prayer life and a trust like his? Would that completely turn our lives around?

3. Discernment through the Word of God

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 someone 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. (v10-13)

The prophecy of Shemaiah was intended to put fear in his heart and cause him to sin because the OT law forbade people other than priests from entering the sanctuary of God (Num 18:7). If Nehemiah gave into fear, he would’ve broken the law, disobeyed God, received the taunts of the enemy and then be discredited as a godly leader of the people. And that could put all of the work to halt. Instead you see Nehemiah recognizing that Shemaiah was a false prophet because he knew what the Word said and a true prophet would not contradict God’s law and make him sin. What can we learn from this? How can we distinguish between what’s really God’s will for us and the words of a false prophet or a misguided person?

We can do that by asking two questions:

  • Does it contradict God’s Word? Scripture is the final, decisive authority to know what the will of God is. We know that from different Scriptures (Prov 30:5, 6; 2 Tim 3:16) Anybody who contradicts or rejects the teaching of Scripture cannot be considered a true prophet/reliable witness of God.
  • Does the counsel/advice lead me to love, trust and obey God? We know from John 14:15 that God is interested in the obedience of His people. A person’s love for God is characterized by his obedience. If the counsel isn’t leading us to love, trust and obey God then it’s clearly not in line with what God wants in our lives.

Therefore, it makes it ever so important to know what Scripture says in order to know the will of God.

What are the weak spots in the walls of your heart that need shoring up? It needs to be identified and then defended by dedicated focus on the things of God, dependence on the promises of God and discernment through the Word of God.

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