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FURTHER SUBTLE OPPOSITION
Chapter 5 has been practically a parenthesis in this book, for Nehemiah had to delay the building of the wall in order to deal with serious problems inside. However, this did not take a protracted period of time, for Nehemiah was firm and decisive in acting promptly for the Lord.
Since the enemy had been repulsed in their efforts to stop the work of the Lord, they resorted to a more deceitful way of accomplishing their ends. They were alarmed by the fact of the wall having been rebuilt, though at that time the doors in the gates had not been hung (v. 1). Sanballat and Gesham sent a message (purporting to be friendly) to Nehemiah asking him to meet with them outside the city in one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But Nehemiah was discerning enough to realize they wanted to draw him away from his own territory to do him harm. He replied, "O, no!" --sending messengers back to them to tell them he had important work to do and would not leave that work to have a useless interview with God's enemies (v. 3).
But the enemies of God were persistent: they sent the same message four times, and four times Nehemiah answered them in the same way. The fifth time they sent an open letter (open because they wanted this to become a public issue), saying "It is reported among the nations, and Gesham 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. 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" (vv. 6-7).
Nehemiah was certainly not deceived by this. In fact, if such charges were true, what reason would there be for consulting together? Sanballat in this case should report the matter to the king, presenting a clear witness to the truth of his charge, but he had no such witness. The answer from Nehemiah was therefore precise and clear, "No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart" (v. 8). Thus Nehemiah refused to be enticed by these men. Satan's method is always to draw us off the basis of faith in the living God. In this case Nehemiah realized their object was to make the people of God afraid of possible recriminations by the authorities, but fear is not faith. If Sanballat could entice Nehemiah to consult with him, even the Jews would conclude that Nehemiah was afraid, and their confidence in a man of faith would be shaken. Let us not fear any kind of threat if we are doing what the Lord has sent us to do. In contrast to having their hands weakened in the work, Nehemiah made another short, involuntary prayer, "Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands" (v. 9). Thus, the opposition served to drive Nehemiah into the presence of the Lord to find additional strength.
Now another subtle snare was laid for Nehemiah, though it was not apparent as such at first, as of course no snare is. He went to visit Shemiah, who was "shut up," evidently confined for some reason (NASB). Speaking to Nehemiah as though in friendship, he urged him to go with him to the house of God and close the doors, warning him that "they" were coming to kill Nehemiah. Whom did he mean by "they"?
However, faith is the victory that overcomes the world" (1 John 5:4), and faith is foremost in Nehemiah's reply, "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!" (v. 11). David shows the same faith inPsalms 11:1; Psalms 11:1, "In the Lord I put my trust; how can you say to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?"
Immediately, when Nehemiah expressed this firmness of faith, the Lord gave him discernment to perceive that Shemiah's message was not from God, but rather that Tobiah and Sanballat had hired Shemiah to seek to frighten Nehemiah (vv. 12-13). Such was their wickedness that they wanted to be able to report to the people that Nehemiah was fearful of imagined danger, and therefore was unfit to be a leader. But Nehemiah had "the shield of faith" which always quenches the fiery darts of the wicked one (Ephesians 6:16).
Another brief prayer of Nehemiah is recorded in verse 14, "My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to their works, and the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid." Tobiah and Sanballat had evidently employed Noahdiah a prophetess and other prophets to help in their evil work, by giving advice that was satanic. How terrible is the deceit that claims to be speaking for God while giving messages from Satan! Are there such prophets today? Sad to say, Yes! They can speak in the most subtle way, though not realizing how deceitful they are, for Satan deludes them into thinking they are wise.
THE WALL COMPLETED
The faith of Nehemiah was wonderfully rewarded in the fact that the building of the wall was completed in 52 days. The determined opposition of the enemies was totally defeated, so that they could not but realize that this work was done by God (v. 16). Why were they disheartened then? Because they were enemies of God, though they would not have said they were. If God does a work, every creature of God ought to be thankful for it: if not, they declare themselves as His enemies.
At the same time, however, Nehemiah had cause for deep distress because the nobles of Judah wanted to maintain friendly relations with Tobiah in frequent correspondence. Why did they do this? Evidently Tobiah had a strong, persuasive character, and by marriage had identified himself with some in Jerusalem who therefore felt favorable toward him. He was an Ammonite, so that the Word of God allowed him no part in Israel whatever, but he apparently wanted to worm his way into the politics of Judah, and the nobles were far too compromising in the matter. They also reported Tobiah's good deeds to Nehemiah and reported Nehemiah's words to Tobiah. How sad it is that they were so deceived as to not recognize Tobiah as the enemy that he was! But similar things happen among the saints of God today. How important it is that we take to heart the words of Ephesians 6:11, "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." Tobiah continued to send letters to Nehemiah with the object of putting him in fear. Did the nobles think these were good deeds?
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Nehemiah 6". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14