Have you been personally
assaulted lately? Have you been intimidated? Do you
feel like Satan never gives up on you?
There is nothing like
intrigue in the office place, or in the life of a
leader in an organization.
opposition to the building of the wall in Jerusalem
by focused faith in God who gave him courage, wisdom
and discernment. He faced outward and internal
opposition until the wall was completed, and then at
a critical moment when the only thing that remained
to be done was the setting the doors in the gates
there was a surprise personal attack. Ridicule,
threat of violence, internal bickering and selfish
greed were all overcome by a man with great
How will Nehemiah handle
a personal assault?
In fifty-two days the
wall was completed to its full height and the only
thing that remained was setting the gates in place.
It was a moment in the project that the enemies of
God set their focus on Nehemiah. They employed
intrigue, innuendo and intimidation in one last
attempt to stop the completion of the wall. Probably
the enemies realized the wall was a sure thing,
therefore they wanted to limit Nehemiah's future
leadership as governor of Judah. The future of Judah
was now a real threat to her neighbor's successes.
It was now time for a personal attack on the leader.
On the surface, each new
encounter with Nehemiah seemed to be sincere and
wholesome council for him. However, in reality, they
would try to humiliate him and destroy his
The enemies to the
wall-building project appear to accept defeat on the
surface and invite Nehemiah to a peace summit in the
luscious green valley of Ono just a few miles away
"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, 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"
(Nehemiah 6:1-2, NASB 1995).
On the surface the
proposal would seem to be a good idea. The wall was
built and the project was almost finished. Let 's
accept the fact and work out our differences. Let 's
find a neutral location and talk things out.
Surface or presenting
problems are seldom ever the true problems.
The Response of
Nehemiah (v. 3)
Nehemiah had keen insight
into his enemies. He was able to read between the
lines and see the intent of their hearts.
God gave him discernment,
and the ability to say, "No. " Not only did he say
"no" once, but four times (v. 4).
"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? ' They sent messages to me
four times in this manner, and I answered them in
the same way" (vv. 3-4).
Nehemiah 's response was
brief and to the point. I am doing a great work and
if I leave it will stop. I am involved in something
that will still be worthwhile a million years from
now. It will last for eternity. I must keep my
focus. He said no in a polite way and stuck to it.
We must do likewise.
There are many distractions that call for our
attention and we must keep our focus. There are
times when there is an evil intent in the invitation
and we must discern the ulterior motives and be firm
in our commitment.
Nehemiah saw through the
issues clearly and took a firm stand, which kept him
from being deceived by his enemies. His enemies did
not intimidate him.
Nehemiah 's enemies did
not stop with simple requests. They moved on to
"hardball " dirty politics. Sanballat sent an "open
letter " to Nehemiah (v. 5). The messenger opened
the letter for everyone to read.
"Then Sanballat sent his
servant to me in the same manner a fifth time with
an open letter in his hand. 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. 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" (vv. 5-7).
That would be like
getting an open letter from the IRS. You know if the
postman arrives with an open letter he is not the
only one who has read it. The intent was we are
going to expose you. We will make you a public
example of the kind of leader we do not want. We
will spread the rumors on you and force you to
The damage of the
innuendo was already done long before Nehemiah read
the letter. Everyone else in Judah was already
aware of its contents and wild distortions by the
time it arrived. The intent of the open letter was
to spread rumors about Nehemiah and misrepresent his
motives. They were attributing to Nehemiah low,
unworthy, treacherous motives. The lies were that
Nehemiah was guilty of insurrection and was going to
set himself up as king.
Gossip, rumors and
innuendos are designed to provoke pain and
suffering. They are not messages of hope, peace and
loving kindness. Have you ever heard any good gossip
on a leader? No, they are designed to destroy the
character, integrity, morale, etc. of the subject of
Be prepared to become the
target of people 's tongues when you seek the will
of God, and to glorify His name. They will plan your
downfall if you get too serious with God.
Nehemiah's Response to
Gossip (vv. 8-9)
Nehemiah gets to the
"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.' For all of them were trying to frighten us,
thinking, 'They will become discouraged with the
work and it will not be done.' But now, O God,
strengthen my hands" (vv. 8-9).
Nehemiah called upon God
in prayer. It was another of his one-liners.
Nehemiah sent a short,
simple to the point response to Sanballat. He did
not wait and see if the problem would go away. These
kinds of problems never do. Gossip never goes away
before it does its damage. He nipped it in the bud
as soon as he was aware of it. 'I sent a message to
him . . .' The message was sent to the source of
the 'open letter,' Sanballat.
The trouble with most
gossip is you never know the true source. The leader
is usually too busy and focused to even be aware of
the rumors and gossip flying around behind his back.
Another characteristic of
gossip is its use of exaggeration. The vocabulary is
well chosen to promote exaggerated ideas. The
information is not accurate. Of course, that is the
reason for using gossip. The goal is to hurt and
However, one of the best
responses if you are connected to the grape vine is,
"May I quote you?" Another good response is,
"Really? I did not know that. Let's stop and call so
and so and ask him if it is true." Believe me, you
will be immediately disconnected from the sour grape
vine and your name removed from the email list.
If you are the subject of
the gossip and innuendos, keep your heart tender
toward God. That is what Nehemiah did. "But now, O
God, strengthen my hand " (v. 9). The Lord is the
one who knows everything about the situation. Tell
Him your hurt feelings and share with Him your pain.
Draw inner strength from Him who indwells you to
cope with the threat.
Gossip and rumors
threaten the leader at the very core of his inner
being. It threatens your self-esteem. Now is a good
time to remind yourself of your relationship with
God and how He has chosen to meet your inner needs
through His everlasting love, the atoning sacrifice
of Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy
Spirit. You are secure, significant and sufficient
in the sustaining grace of God. It really is true:
"God + me = a whole person."
Gossip attacks our sense
of sufficiency because it says you are hopeless, you
cannot do anything right. The Holy Spirit is our
competence to live the Christian life. He is in
sovereign control of our circumstances that He
allows us to experience. He makes us triumph over
the most difficult circumstances in life. The Holy
Spirit makes us sufficient to accomplish all that
The apostle Paul reminds
us in Ephesians 4:30-32 to guard our hearts. "Do not
grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom you were sealed for
the day of redemption" (v. 30). How do we grieve
Him? Bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander will
do it every time. That is exactly what the enemies
of Nehemiah were trying to do. If they can pull you
down to their level by causing you to lose the joy
of your salvation and defeat you spiritually they
have accomplished much. But on the other hand if you
will be "kind to one another, tender-hearted,
forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has
forgiven you, " you have won the battle and are on
the way to victory.
Don't let yourself fall
into Satan's trap. Our enemy works night and day to
discredit us in the eyes of others and our Lord.
One pastor said to me
recently, "I am convinced that the number one enemy
of Christian unity is the tongue." The Apostle James
would be in agreement.
As soon as Nehemiah heard
the gossip he responded, "Such things as you are
saying have not been done, but you are inventing
them in your own mind" (v. 9). The inventors of
gossip have an over active imagination and too much
time on their hands.
What was the goal of the
gossip? "For all of them were trying to frighten us,
thinking, 'They will become discouraged with the
work and it will not be done.' But now, O God,
strengthen my hands" (v. 9).
You may not think it is
worth getting involved, or want to waste your time,
but if it is about you or your organization, you
have to respond immediately. The best way to handle
rumors, gossips, and innuendos is to deny it
immediately and emphatically.
Ultimately all you can do
is trust it to the Lord. It is His kingdom and His
work and He has promised us that what He has begun
He will finish. The only thing that matters is that
we make Him look good. He will take care of us
because we belong to Him. "I can do all things
through Christ who strengthens me."
"O, God, strengthen my
How does God strengthen
the leader's hands?
We have the Word of God
and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Nehemiah
relied upon the invisible hand of God, and upon the
strength he received from the Law. As believers of
Jesus Christ we have the Bible, God's holy Word, and
that is where we get our guidance, strength and
wisdom from God. We also have the illumination of
the Holy Spirit.
The opposition gets down
right dirty once again when the prophets are called
upon to deliver an urgent message.
We are not told exactly
why Nehemiah went to the house of Shemaiah "who was
confined at home," but he tried to give the
appearance that he was gravely concerned for the
welfare of Nehemiah. He told Nehemiah, "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" (v. 10).
You know something stinks
when the devil comes saying let's get together and
pray. Satan comes as an angel of light and can sound
so pious. Here he tries to seduce Nehemiah into
taking an illegal step, and giving his enemies
occasion for speaking evil of him.
He does not reveal his
source, nor who "they" are who are coming to kill
Nehemiah. That is why "they say" are the biggest
liars in the world.
We do not know where he
got his information about the plot, but he seems to
have an inside source. In fact, he is in on the
to the False Prophet
"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" (v.
God gave Nehemiah
discernment. "Then I perceived that surely God had
not sent him, but he uttered his prophecy against me
because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 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" (vv. 12-13).
Literally Nehemiah said,
"Then I recognized, and behold, it was not God who
had sent him." The problem was false prophecy.
Nehemiah could not wait around to see if it was
fulfilled (Deut. 18:18-22). God gave him
insight into the false prophet. Shemaiah 's
hypocrisy came to light, but his prophecy did not
Nehemiah was being asked
by Shemaiah to go into "the Holy Place," not just
the temple enclosure. Nehemiah was not a priest. He
was forbidden to go into that room and he knew it.
It was obvious Shemaiah was speaking as a false
"To enter and to shut
himself within the holy place would have been a
grave desecration of the house of God," writes Keil
What he was suggesting to
Nehemiah was against the Old Testament teaching.
Therefore, he was not from God. God never
contradicts Himself. Let's make sure that the
spiritual leaders we follow are true to God 's Word.
Can you imagine the
consequences if Nehemiah had joined this hireling in
the temple? He would have desecrated it. Remember
what happened to Uzziah, one of the most righteous
kings of Judah who had faithfully served the LORD
God until the day he got impatient? "But when he
became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted
corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his
God, for he entered the temple of the Lord to burn
incense on the altar of incense" (2 Chronicles
26:16). A great ministry of over fifty years was
shamed in one foolish act. "And King Uzziah was a
leper to the day of his death" (v. 21).
Perhaps that historical
event flashed through Nehemiah 's mind. "Then I
perceived that surely God had not sent him . . ."
Like Nehemiah, we too need the gift of discernment.
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the
spirits to see whether they are from God; because
many false prophets have gone out into the world "
(1 John 4:1).
Shemaiah was hired,
Nehemiah says, "that I might be afraid, " and "if I
had sinned (by entering the holy place) it (my sin)
would have been to them for an evil report, that
they might defame me" (Keil and Delitzsch).
"Nehemiah 's influence
depended greatly on the weight of his moral
character. One false step, and he would have been
lost, his influence would have been gone; and the
work on which his heart was set would have come to
naught," writes George Rawlinson.
assignation and a sure death from the wrath of God
by being obedient to God 's Word.
You would think that the
enemies would concede defeat and move on, but the
truth is they hang around until the last chapter.
The wall was completed in fifty-two days (v. 15).
Although the enemies "saw it, they lost their
confidence; for they recognized that their work had
been accomplished with the help of our God" (v.
16). Then they began another letter writing campaign
among the "nobles" in Jerusalem (vv. 17-19).
LET'S TRY INTIMIDATION
"Also in those days many
letters went from the nobles of Judah to Tobiah, and
Tobiah's letters came to them" (v. 17). The "nobles"
were with the opposition all along.
Tobiah hated the things
of God. He was Nehemiah's arch enemy.
Family ties became the
next means of intrigue. Members of Tobiah's family
had married into the families of the Jewish nobles.
Rumors were flying everywhere through the family
lines of communication. These influential families
were intimate with the enemy. Every church had its
"fifth column." It is tragic when the world and the
world system 's tactics come into the church.
"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. Moreover, they were speaking about his
good deeds in my presence and reported my words to
him. Then Tobiah sent letters to frighten me" (vv.
There was no break from
the evil work of the enemies of Nehemiah. No doubt
these nobles were planning and waiting for the day
when they would be in control of Jerusalem and Judah
The picture of leadership
presented in Nehemiah is one of a godly man who
sought only the will of God. He is seen as faithful
to Him with his eyes focused on the Lord and His
glory. He is committed to completing the task God
has assigned him as a strong leader. He is a man of
vision, determined and focused faith.
Verse sixteen needs to be
imprinted on the heart of every godly leader. "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." Human
pretensions are put into perspective by God's
overwhelming sovereignty. God is exalted even in the
eyes of Nehemiah's enemies. What appears to man to
be strong is in reality weak. What appears to us so
often to be frail is in God's hands strong. When I
am weak, He is strong (2 Cor. 12:10).
Every Christian leader
needs to stand back and shout, "I saw God do it!"
when he sees God come to the rescue in an
impossible and helpless situation.
CONSTRUCTION OF THE WALL (6:15; 7:1-73)
With the completion of
the wall Nehemiah makes key appointments for the
preservation of the city, and the building up of its
"Now when the wall was
rebuilt and I had set up the doors, and the
gatekeepers and the singers and the Levites were
appointed, then I put Hanani my brother, and
Hananiah the commander of the fortress, in charge of
Jerusalem, for he was a faithful man and feared God
more than many" (7:1-2).
With the intrigue still
going on by the enemies Nehemiah chose "a faithful
man " and one who "feared God. " May God give
wisdom to those who lead in order to choose faithful
people who fear God. How sad to see much of the work
of God destroyed or ineffective because of
unfaithful subordinates backstabbing, dragging their
feet and bickering.
"Nehemiah found the
register, i.e. the genealogical registry, of those
who came up at first (from Babylon)," notes Keil
People who serve
Zerubbabel, Nehemiah and
Ezra were chosen of God to rebuild a fallen nation.
It never returned to its former heights, but it was
the vehicle of God to preserve the lineage of the
Messiah until His coming in the fullness of time
God provided priests,
singers, gatekeepers, temple servants, even horses,
mules, camels and donkeys for His service. God was
in deed faithful to His people, and He still is to
Nehemiah keeps bringing
us back to priorities. That is where our focus
should always be. Where is God at work in your life?
What is He doing in your church? Where is He
touching lives in your community? That is where we
should camp. Our eye of faith must be upon Him and
His all sufficiency.
The walls were completed.
God is faithful! The credit goes to Him.
PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
1. Nehemiah saw his work
as governor through the eyes of God. The building of
the wall was God's work. He spent time with God and
went to Him when the enemy threatened the work.
Nehemiah's first line of defense was prayer and
fellowship with God.
2. Nehemiah kept his
focus on the LORD God and the assignment God had
given him. There was a sense of the call of God that
kept his faith focused. He was God's man in God's
place, doing God's work in God's way, for God 's
3. Nehemiah relied upon
the gift of discernment God had given him. God gave
him insight into the intent and schemes of the
enemy. We need to be aware of the subtle devices of
those who oppose Christianity. Those who seek to
defeat the kingdom of God often come in sheep's
skins and would deceive even the elect of God. Let's
be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit so we
can say with Nehemiah, "my God put it into my heart"
to accomplish His will.
4. Nehemiah's ultimate
decisions were not based on popular opinion polls,
or pleasing certain "nobles," but on seeking God 's
will and doing it with all of his heart.
5. Nehemiah stood his
ground in the face of the enemy. "O, God, strengthen
my hands." "Should a manlike me flee?" May the
Lord Jesus Christ give us the same resolve to fight
the good fight against the enemy of our souls.
The apostle Paul could
testify shortly before his death of a good fight.
"But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so
that through me the proclamation might be fully
accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear;
and I was rescued out of the lion's mouth. The Lord
will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring
me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the
glory forever and ever. Amen" (2 Timothy 4:17-18).
Cyril Barber speaks of
Nehemiah: "His was the faith that moves mountains.
His confidence in God gave him the courage to plod
on in spite of the clouds of opposition that
gathered around him. He boldly championed the cause
of right and scorned the things that would inspire
fear. Nehemiah's courage helped him attain new
heights of achievement. Armed with this fortitude,
he turned obstacles into opportunities, and outward
trials into personal triumphs" (Nehemiah and the
Dynamics of Effective Leadership, p. 111).
6. Nehemiah was careful
to give glory to the LORD God. "This work had been
accomplished with the help of our God" (v. 16).
Even his enemies had to acknowledge the hand of God.
7. Satan's attacks are
always well timed. The enemy never ceases his
attacks. If he fails at one attempt the will return
with other devices, but he never quits. He is
constantly scheming for our downfall the moment we
become complacent (2 Cor. 10:12).
8. Our adversary
Satan is a liar, and he never hesitates to tell lies
about the people of God, or to charge them with
lying. Nehemiah called Satan's bluff and told his
enemies, the henchmen of Satan, that they were liars
to their faces.
9. People who use
rumor and gossip manifest a lack of intelligence and
G. K. Chesterton was
right when he said, "Christianity has not been tried
and found wanting; it's been found difficult and not
this Series on Nehemiah
Title: Nehemiah 6-7
Satan Never Quits: How to Handle Personal Attacks
Series: Nehemiah: A
Leader with a Focused Faith