Study Notes

Nehemiah 6:1-19


In our most recent study of Nehemiah's book, we saw him have to confront the sin of some Jews taking advantage of the famine and bad economy by loaning their fellow Jews money and charging usurious interest. This difficulty among the believers was quite a change from the opposition he'd encountered from their enemies. But now as we open up to chapter six, the opposition is just as determined as before, and has gotten more intelligent and crafty in their attack.

6:1 Who's Who Among The Enemies

You probably remember our terrible trio of San-bal-LAT the Kho-RO-nite, To-bee-YAW the Ammonite official, and GHEH-shem the Arab. They, along with the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, had opposed the repair work that was happening to the broken-down wall around Jerusalem. It was much easier to intimidate and take advantage of the Jews when they were in a weak and undefended position. Rebuilding the wall would provide them protection, which their enemies did not want to see happen.

When the wall was rebuilt, and only the doors in the gates remained unhung, they felt that there was one last chance, that they still had an opening.

Whether enemies are school classmates, nations in conflict, or demon beings, the fact is that they look for weaknesses, an Achilles' Heel, a chink in the armor, an opening in the defenses. When the devil approached God in the book of Job,

Job 1:7-8 ...the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" Then Satan answered the LORD and said, "From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it." And the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil."

The word "considered" means, "stationed your thinking on." God was saying, "Have you been doing reconnaissance on Job? There's no openings in his defenses, are there? There's no sin that you can take advantage of. The doors are all hung in his gates, aren't they?"

This is why Paul told us...

Eph. 4:27 not give the devil an opportunity.

It can be the slightest compromise, the smallest sin, that will give the devil a foothold. And sometimes the opening is not obvious. Remember that Jerusalem was originally in the possession of the Jebusites. It was David who discovered the opening through the water tunnel (2Sam 5:8).

So before the doors were hung in the gates, the enemies of the Jews were going to try their best to prevent the job from being completed.

6:2-4 Dealing With Distractions

A message from San-bal-LAT and To-bee-YAW came to Nehemiah: "Let's meet together at Kef-EER-eem in the plain of Ono." Now the plain of Ono was about 25 miles northwest of Jerusalem, a day's travel away. And Nehemiah responded, "Oh no. I can't stop working to go meet with you."

It is interesting to me that "Kef-EER-eem" means "lions" and "Ono" means "vigorous." You see, they were trying to draw Nehemiah away from the work of the Lord and into a deadly trap. This is exactly what the enemy desires to do to you: pull you away from the work, and draw you into the jaws of the vigorous lions. Peter told us,

1Pet. 5:8 Be of sober {spirit,} be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

The enemy will often use his agents to pull us from the place God has us working in. The apostle Paul warned the Ephesian elders...

Acts 20:30 will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.

Drawn away from the work and into the mouth of lions - Nehemiah wasn't going to allow it in his life. Even when three more messages came, he stood his ground.

6:5-7 Lies About You

The fifth letter to come to Nehemiah was open. Although official communication was always sealed and secured, Sanballat sent his message unsealed, knowing that it would be "accidentally" read by many during its delivery. What did the letter say? It accused him of rebellion and insurrection against the king who'd appointed him as governor. It was actually a brilliant plan, for as the content of the letter circulated, there would be two opposite but equally destructive conclusions: Those who believed the things written in the letter were true would turn against Nehemiah, and those who didn't believe would become frightened at the possibility of these false accusations brining a military response and would stop working on the wall immediately.

Sanballot was probably looking at history for his source of inspiration. As you recall, this was the tactic of those who had been successful at stopping the rebuilding of the temple in Ezra 4.

6:8-9 Nehemiah's Response

Nehemiah sent a message in response to the accusation. Again, I think there are four things we can learn from it: 1) He recognized the reason for the attack; 2) He responded in truth; 3) He responded in brief; and 4) He prayed for strength

1) Recognize The Reason For The Attack

Nehemiah knew that the reports written about were lies. But he also immediately recognized that the intention of the lies in the letter was to frighten and discourage them. Often, we recognize that bad things are happening, but we don't think to discern the source of them, or the intention behind them. In dealing with our enemy, we need to be aware of the devil's techniques and intentions, so that he doesn't have victory in our lives.

2Cor. 2:11 in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes.

After we recognize who is behind it, then we ask, "Why?" Jesus said that our enemy the devil is...

John 8:44 "...a murderer ... he is a liar, and the father of lies.

John 10:10 "...comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy..."

We know his schemes, and we know his motivation. That gives us great power over the attack. Next time you're in a conflict, ask, "Is this robbing me of my joy?" That's the devil. "Is this destroying my marriage?" That's the devil. "It this killing my confidence in the Lord?" That's the devil. Learn to recognize not only the conflict, but that it is an attack, and the reason behind it.

2) Respond In Truth

Nehemiah, having identified the problem, said, "These things are not true." He stated truth to their lie. He shined light on their darkness. From the beginning,

Gen. 1:4 ...God separated the light from the darkness.

When we bring the light of truth into a situation, then the darkness is driven out. Paul said,

Eph. 5:11 And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them

And so we see that when truth is brought into a situation, it reveals the lie. As Jesus taught,

John 8:32 shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

3) Respond In Brief

Notice too that Nehemiah didn't say, "Alright, enough is enough. I've got documentation, tapes of conversation, and a PowerPoint presentation. I'm going to bring an overwhelming amount of information to prove myself innocent." No, he responded in brief. Warren Wiersbe wrote, "Christian leaders must know how to handle false accusations, vicious letters, unfounded press reports, and gossip. Otherwise, these devilish weapons will so upset them that they will lose their perspective and spend so much time defending themselves that they will neglect their work. Nehemiah didn't make that mistake. He simply denied the reports, prayed to God for strength, and went back to work. He knew that his character was such that no honest person would believe the false reports. If we take care of our character, we can trust God to take care of our reputation."

Respond in brief. As Jesus and James both were fond of saying, "Simply let your yes be yes and your no be no" (Matt. 5:37; James 5:12).

And there are times that your response to the false accusations is so brief that it doesn't even exist! Of Jesus, it was prophesied,

Isa. 53:7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.

Matthew wrote,

Matt. 27:12-14 And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He made no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, "Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?" And He did not answer him with regard to even a {single} charge, so that the governor was quite amazed.

There is a time to answer in brief, and there is a time to not answer at all.

4) Pray For Strength

Fourthly, Nehemiah prayed for strength. Opposition and conflict will drain you of your strength, no matter how godly your responses are. We must pray for strength to fuel us for the fight ahead.

6:10-13 Godly Hiding?

Shem-aw-YAW, the son of Del-aw-YAW, the son of Meh-hay-tab-ALE contacted Nehemiah, asking to meet with him in the temple. This would be a place to be protected, he said. How could anyone ask for a more godly friend? Concerned about his welfare, wanting to hole up in the house of the Lord, it must have sounded like a godly solution.

But in reality, this was a trick, a trap of the enemy. Shem-aw-YAW had been hired by the bad guys to get him to sin. This would ruin his reputation and destroy his ability to lead the rebuilding project.

It is a sad fact that people today continue to fall into the same trap. They want to hide in the house of God, safe from the enemy, and away from trouble.

How many of us haven't thought about how wonderful life would be if we could just hide away in a monastery or convent? But to expand our thinking a bit, how many people have isolated themselves from the world community by hiding in the Christian community? "I only have Christian friends, only work at Christian companies, and only shop at Christian stores. I isolate myself from anything outside the house of God." But that is not glorifying, it is a cause for reproach. I'll never forget that a paramedic friend of mine had a coworker who called Christians, "The Clan of the Cave People" for this very reason.

Saints, we are not to hide in the house of God. We come to worship, to learn, to be healed of our hurts. This is a MASH unit, a hospital, a training base, where we are equipped and patched up, and sent back out into the fight. Paul said that to isolate ourselves from the immoral people of the world would mean,

1Cor. 5:10 would have to go out of the world.

6:14 Noadiah The Prophetess

Nemiah's opposition among the "clergy" wasn't limited to Shem-aw-YAW. It was also No-ad-YAW the prophetess and a handful of others. This is so discouraging, when people who are supposed to be presenting the message of God are bringing the devil's message instead. People like this are certainly in no short supply today.

6:15-16 Finish The Work To Defeat The Enemy

When you finish the work that God has called you to, then the devil loses his ability to attack you. This was the moment that Paul was looking forward to near the end of his life. He wrote to Timothy,

2Tim. 4:6-8 ...the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

I am so looking forward to the day of my departure, because at my final moment, the devil will be discouraged. He will not be able to do anything else to me, and the work that God has called me to will truly be finished.

6:17-19 Frightening Letters

One more thing that was happening to Nehemiah in those days was the enemy's mail system. Back and forth between "his people" and "their people." Gossips on the inside, gossips on the outside. Why did they have such a foothold within? Because he was a relative - he was the son-in-law of Shek-an-YAW, son of Aw-RAKH, plus, his son Yeh-ho-khaw-NAWN had married the daughter of Mesh-ool-LAWM, son of Beh-rek-YAW.

I have spoken many times in recent months about gossip and its ability to destroy. But somehow, when gossip is between family members, it is not thought to be sin. "Well, he's my husband, it's not gossip. She's my sister-in-law, so it wasn't wrong to repeat." But gossip is gossip is gossip is gossip. There are few things more frustrating than knowing that the people around me are talking about me to their family members, painting skewed pictures that I cannot control. Nehemiah had the "double-whammy," because while they were gossiping to To-bee-YAW, they were saying to Nehemiah what a great guy To-bee-YAW was!

But actions speak louder than words, and...

Matt. 7:20 " will know them by their fruits.

Nehemiah wasn't fooled, and he stayed true to the Lord. May we do the same in adversity from the enemy.

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