Nehemiah 6-7 part 4

 

Nehemiah 6:1 Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), 2 that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, "Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono." But they thought to do me harm.3 So I sent messengers to them, saying, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?"4 But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner.

 

Nehemiahís enemies have already tried to intimidate the Jews through mockery and threatening to attack, but none of these things worked, so now they are trying a new tactic before the construction process was complete. Now they want to be friends and they want to meet at a neutral spot and talk things over, but their intent was not a sincere one because they wanted to get Nehemiah off by himself, so they could possibly kidnap him or kill him. The place they wanted to meet was around 20 miles away and it was about 5 miles from Joppa.

 

They sent 4 different invitations to him, but Nehemiahís answer did not change. He told them, ďI am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave and go down to you?Ē His enemies knew that Nehemiah played a critical role in the Jews efforts to rebuild, and if they could get rid of Nehemiah, it could have put an end to there renewed faith or at least slowed them down. Even if their enemies just wanted talk about the situation, Nehemiah was not interested in compromising the work that God put into his heart to do, so he refused to negotiate.

 

A great lesson that we can learn from this is that God doesnít ever want to comprise his truth for the sake of unity. As I have been studying this great book of Nehemiah, I see a lot of similarities in what they went through and what we are going through today.

 

First of all, I want you to realize that there are still many congregations out there that are like the Jews of Nehemiahís day who have a mind to work and they have their good days and their bad days, but they continue to build on the wall of faith with the Word of God being foundation. These same congregations have great leaders like Nehemiah and Ezra and they make sure that their congregation is being feed with Godís Word and they encourage them to serve God with all of their being.

 

However, there are also many today that are just like Sanballat and those that were with him. They donít want to see Godís people be successful at following His Word. They want to cause confusion and doubt and they want mock us for adhering to the Word of God. The more our society keeps seeking change and tolerance to sin, the more it influences the way that Christians think.

 

The Saballatís of our time have been causing some Christians to waiver who used to stand up for Godís Word. They have become like Jews of Nehemiah day who had become tired and weak from building on the wall and they started to allow their enemies words to sink into their hearts. However, Nehemiah did not allow this continue on and refortified their faith, but unfortunately today we have some leaders that are in place that are like the nobles during Nehemiahís days who were loyal to the enemy and because of this these tired and weary Christians throw their hands up into the air and they give up, and they allow the wall of faith to be neglected.

 

To help prevent poor leadership, especial in the eldership, God has given specific qualification for elders in 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1. When a man meets these qualifications, the chances are low that he will be like the nobles who were loyal to the enemy. This is why itís important that these qualifications be met and we certainly donít need a novice that is someone new to the faith serving as an elder.

 

There are also many like Saballat today who have recognized that fighting against the faithful or mocking them for holding to their principle doesnít work, so they change their tactics by wanting to meet together and talk things out, so that we might compromise for the sake of unity.

 

They want us to look at our similarities and to overlook those minor differences. They donít want us to be concerned about them using musical instruments in their worship to God and they donít want us to be concerned about those who have been divorced for some other reason than fornication and then have been remarried. They donít want us to be concerned about how they allow their woman to take on roles that God says are meant for men. They donít want us to be concerned that they donít baptize for remission of sins and the list can go on.

 

While its important for to know the similarities that we have, it just as important to know the difference that we have. Just because have some similarities doesnít mean that we should have unity. For instance, the devil knows the Scriptures very well and He believes in God and if we are faithful Christian we will have this in common with the devil, but those similarities certainly do not put us into unity with him nor would anyone in there right mind join in fellowship with the devil based on those similarities. In the same way, we should never compromise Godís truth for the sake of unity because true unity can only come when we adhere to Godís Word. Anything less than that would be leaving out part of Godís Word or adding to it.

 

God does not approve when we go beyond His word. For instance notice,

 

Leviticus 10:1 Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.2 So fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.

 

These men started thinking like many have started thinking today. They didnít think that God would mind if they did their own thing, but when they offered up that profane fire not commanded by God, He consumed them with fire, which consumed them.

 

2 Samuel 6:6 And when they came to Nachon's threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled.7 Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God.††

 

As far as we know, here we have a man that had good intentions of keeping the ark from falling as the oxen stumbled. Whether his intensions were sincere or not, what he did was against the Law of God and he was struck dead for his error. I think as Christians we need read stories like these to refresh our minds that God considers His commandants as being serious business and He wants us to follow them and not try to compromise just because we feel like it will be ok.

 

Now some might think, well that was under the OT, God is not as concerned with us keeping his law in the N.T. While it is true that God doesnít consume someone with fire or strike them dead for their sin today as He did on occasion in the O.T. He still did it during the first century to show the importance of following His commands. For instance, in Acts 5 Ananias and Sapphira sold their land and then claimed that they were giving Peter all the money from it. However, they were lying. They probably thought that no would know or who would care because they were still getting a large sum of money, but both this husband and wife were struck dead because they were lying about what they did.

 

This was a compromise of Godís truth and He didnít tolerate it and He used this couple as an example to show that He doesnít want us to lie or break His commands. He is just as serious about us keeping His commands today as He was in the Old Testament. In fact, you could say that he is even more demanding today because we donít have any valid excuses for not knowing what He wants because all have full access to Godís Word. As Luke records,

 

Acts 17:30 "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,31 "because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.

 

Now let me tell you what I am not saying. I am not saying that we shouldnít sit down with different religious groups and have a discussion. In fact, I think that would be wonderful if that could happen. However, the discussion should not be about compromise. Instead, it should be a discussion about what the Bible says because the only unity that is going to be pleasing to God is if that unity comes from His Word.

 

So donít every allow the Sanballatís of this world to confuse, intimidate, or befriend you into compromising Godís truth. Instead, be like the Jews of Nehemiahís day and have a mind to work and continue to build on that wall of faith.

 

Nehemiah 6:5Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand.6 In it was written: It is reported among the nations, and Geshem says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king.7 And you have also appointed prophets to proclaim concerning you at Jerusalem, saying, 'There is a king in Judah!' Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together.

 

Once again Sanballat has changed his tactics. This time he is making false accusations hoping it will cause Nehemiah to come meet with him. This 5th letter was an open one. This would allow this messenger to read this letter and if he choose to tell everyone what it said. Sanballat would have loved for the Jews to think that these rumors were true.

 

Sanballat is accusing Nehemiah of having a hidden agenda to become king and that he is using the prophets to help him manipulate the Jews. To strike fear into them, he said he was going to send this message to the king as well.

 

Again, this is another tactic that the Saballatís of the world are using today because there are many false claims that are made against the church of Christ. There is old joke that goes something like this:

 

A man is goes up into heaven and Peter starts showing the man around. They start walking down a hallway. They came across one room where the people were playing bingo and he asked who are they, and Peter said they are the Catholics. He came by another room where everyone was dancing and he asked who are they, he said that the Methodist. Then another room contained some who raising their hands in the air and were babbling and Peter told him these were Pentecostals. Then as they approached another room he heard all kind instruments being played and Peter told him these were Baptist. As they approached another room Peter told the man to be really quite because that room was full of the church of Christ and they think they are the only ones up here.

 

This joke shows that people think that the church of Christ thinks they are the only ones that are going to heaven and everyone else is going to hell. This is not a teaching that we made up nor do we teach that just belonging to a congregation that has church of Christ name written on will get you into heaven. Instead, Gods Word makes it clear that if you obey the Gospel and you were baptized into Christ for the remission of your sins then you were added to the one church by God. If you belong to the Lordís church and you continue to live a faithful life, then you will go to heaven. Again, this is what the Godís Word teaches and is not an invention of those who attend the church of Christ.

 

Also many accuse of us of not believing in the OT, and they say that we are legalistic just like the Pharisees were. Again, none of these things are true, but that doesnít keep the Sabballatís of this world from trying to spread false rumors to keep people from the truth.

Notice Nehemiahís response:

 

Nehemiah 6:8 Then I sent to him, saying, "No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart."9 For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, "Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done." Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.

 

Nehemiah didnít allow these false accusations to slow him down. Instead, he denied them and accused them of inventing them in their own heart. Then he prayed to God to strengthen his hands to continue on. As Nehemiah did, we should spend much time in prayer to God requesting that he strengthen our hands so we can continue on in our work for the Lord.

 

Nehemiah 6:10 Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, (meh-het-uh-bel) who was a secret informer; and 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; indeed, at night they will come to kill you."11 And I said, "Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!"12 Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.13 For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me.14 My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to these their works, and the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid.

 

Here we learn that Shemiah was an informer and he was hired to prophecy to Nehemiah. He was wants Nehemiah to meet him in the temple where only the priest were allowed to go. This is what caused Nehemiah to know that this was a false prophecy because it would violate Godís Law for Nehemiah to enter the temple because he was not a priest. Even if there was going to be attempt on his life, he was not going to comprise God Law and hide in the temple.

 

Besides, what kind of leader would he be if went and hide in temple just because his life was in danger, after he asked these Jews to put their lives on the line in rebuilding the wall. Even if wasnít against Godís Law for him to hide in the temple he wouldnít have hide anyway. His enemies were hoping they could force him into sinning so they could have some leverage to use against the Jews. They would be able to say something along the lines of, ďLook at you, you pathetic Jews. Your working hard to build up your city under the direction of Nehemiah, yet he is a coward and has hid himself in the temple of your God, which goes against you laws. Why do follow a coward and a sinner.Ē

 

Now we are not given all the details in this plot, but there was more than one prophet involved in trying to strike fear in Nehemiah and cause him to sin, but he did not relent to their words, and once again he prayed to God and asked Him to remember these evil deeds of Tobiah, Sanballat and the prophetesses and prophets that were involved with this.

 

Nehemiah 6:15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days.16 And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God.

 

Despite all the opposition of their enemies they managed to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in 52 days and when their enemies saw this it discouraged them because they could see that all their efforts had failed. They came to conclusion that the only reason this was possible was that the work was done by God. Sometime even the enemy has to admit that God is real and that He is in control.

 

Nehemiah 6:17 Also in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came to them.18 For many in Judah were pledged to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shechaniah the son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah.19 Also they reported his good deeds before me, and reported my words to him. Tobiah sent letters to frighten me.

 

These last few verses explain why some of these priests were against Nehemiah. They had allowed their daughters to marry Tobiah and his son Jehohanan. Because of this they were willing to report all the good things about Tobiah and stand against Nehemiah. This is reason the reason God had forbidden the Jews from marrying foreigners because this exactly the kind of problems that would happen. These priestsí personal connection with the enemy had clotted their judgment and caused them to be compromise Godís truth and side with the enemy.

 

This is why our young people must be careful on who the choose to marry because if they marry someone that does not have the same beliefs as they do, many times this can lead them to compromise Godís word for the sake of unity in their marriage. If they spouse is a atheist they may become an atheist. If they spouse belongs to a denomination, there a chance they may give up on the truth and start attending that denomination and this in turn could even cause their parents and their grandparents to soften up and accept their new belief all because of this marriage.

 

So my plea to the young people, if it at all possible before you marry someone, make sure you and your mate are in agreement in serving God according to His Word. Now this does not mean that wonít have problems with your marriage down the line, but it will increase your chances of having a happy marriage and one that will be centered around the Word of God. Whenever we are on the same page as our mate, then we are going to have a mate that is going to help us to get to heaven instead of hindering us.

 

Nehemiah 7:1 Then it was, when the wall was built and I had hung the doors, when the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed,2 that I gave the charge of Jerusalem to my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the leader of the citadel, for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many.3 And I said to them, "Do not let the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot; and while they stand guard, let them shut and bar the doors; and appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, one at his watch station and another in front of his own house."

 

Nehemiah wanted the gates to be protected by men that he could trust and these gatekeepers, singers and Levites were the ones that he chose. He also set his brother Hanani over Jerusalem, which is the same man that brought him the news about Jews condition when he still serving as cupbearer for the king and he also put Hananiah in charge as well. It is believed that he was putting these men into place to oversee things when he went back to Persia.

 

Normally the gates would be open from sunrise to sunset, but Nehemiah only wanted them open for part of the day and he wanted the people to be watching at the gate and from their homes, so none of their enemies could pull a surprise attack on them.

 

Nehemiah 7:4 Now the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few, and the houses were not rebuilt. 5 Then my God put it into my heart to gather the nobles, the rulers, and the people, that they might be registered by genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of those who had come up in the first return, and found written in it:6 These are the people of the province who came back from the captivity, of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, everyone to his city.

 

Nehemiah had found the list of men that came back with Zerubbabel, which you can read in the remaining verses of this chapter. This is the same list is found Ezra 2 with just a few differences. While it was important for them to fill up the city, he wanted to make sure that only the pure Jews were added. This list would help him do that. When it says that the houses were not rebuilt it was n ot talking about all them because even verse 3 indicates that they had some houses.

 

In verse 61 Ė 65 some that had been serving as priest were not on this list and they were dismissed from there work until their lineage could be proven because Nehemiah only wanted those that were qualified to serve. This shows us how much Nehemiah desired to live by the Law of Moses, so that they would be pleasing to God. We would all do good to follow Nehemiahís example and be people who are more concerned about doing things according to God will instead of our own.