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We have revived here the persecution of Sanballat against the church. The work, however, is completed. A secret correspondence is carried on between Tobiah and some of the nobles of Judah.
(1) ¶ Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;) (2) That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono. But they thought to do me mischief. (3) And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you? (4) Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.
It is worthy observation what a obstructions the people of God meet with in every age to hinder their progress in the Lord's service. Sanballat and Tobiah first began to show their ill designs against Nehemiah and his cause with ridicule and laughter. A fox would be enough they said, to make breaches in the wall. When this failed, they now adopt another plan. Under pretence of much kindness, they invite Nehemiah to a conference, with a view to do him some mischief. So, Reader, are the devices of Satan against the spiritual building of the Lord's household. Satan is a subtle foe. By private fraud, and by open stratagem, as best suits his hellish policy, he attacks God's people.
(5) Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand; (6) Wherein was written, It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words. (7) And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together. (8) Then I sent unto him, saying, There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart. (9) For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.
Here is a yet deeper-laid plot of Nehemiah's foes, out of which the Lord brought him. Reader! it is sweet and profitable to watch our deliverances. Some, indeed, nay multitudes, no doubt, of Jesus's gracious interpositions, we are unconscious of. But some are revealed to us. And oh! how precious they are. When a soul can look back and say, Here my God interposed; and there he rescued me from the temptation of the devil. It realizes that blessed promise. 1 Corinthians 10:13 .
(10) ¶ Afterward I came unto the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabeel, who was shut up; and he said, Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us shut the doors of the temple: for they will come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee. (11) And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in. (12) And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. (13) Therefore was he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, and that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me.
It is more than probable that this Shemaiah acted as a prophet. But he could not have received his commission from the Lord. Nehemiah visited him, it seems, for he came into his house. But though set on by Sanballat and Tobiah, yet the Lord gave Nehemiah to discover that his advice was not from the Lord. Reader! what an awful thing is it when men assume the ministerial office, run unsent, and speak unauthorized; and yet worse, if possible, utter lies in the name of the Lord. From all such, of whatever name, or by whatever denomination distinguished among men, I would say for myself and all poor sinners, good Lord deliver us.
(14) My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear.
Observe how the open or secret plots of the enemy drive Nehemiah to his knees. Reader! think only how a gracious God in Christ overrules even the malice of the devil to his people's good and his own glory. For if the devices of Satan compel me to go to a throne of grace for strength to resist his temptation, when without this attack of the foul fiend I should not have gone there; and if God my Saviour converts his very ill design into the means of producing greater good, so that thereby my own poverty and weakness is more discovered, and the Redeemer's strength made more precious and interesting: surely even our temptations are blessings in disguise, and are among the all things which work together for good to them that love God. Romans 8:28 ; James 1:2-4 .
(15) ¶ So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.
See what a short work was made of it when the hand of the Lord was upon them, and with them. So is it in divine things. Oh! how often do we find a few days, nay sometimes a few hours, sufficient in the Lord's hand for awakening, convincing, converting, and establishing a poor sinner in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, and redemption by him. When God works he works as God.
(16) And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.
So in the last day will all the enemies of God and of his Christ be confounded, when the Lord shall bring home the top-stone of the spiritual building with shoutings, crying grace, grace unto it. Zechariah 4:7 .
(17) Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came unto them. (18) For there were many in Judah sworn unto him, because he was the son in law of Shechaniah the son of Arah; and his son Johanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah. (19) Also they reported his good deeds before me, and uttered my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear.
That the nobles of Judah should have been in this base conduct against Nehemiah, must have occasioned many painful feelings in his mind. We wrestle not only against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers. Ephesians 6:12 .
IT is hardly possible to read this Chapter, and behold the various methods which the enemies of Nehemiah made use of to draw him from the work he had engaged in for God's glory, without immediately having our minds led forth to contemplate the still more plausible and subtle devices which Satan and his agents are unweariedly engaged in to harass and afflict the people of God. What fiery darts of temptation do they throw forth from the quiver of their hellish malice? And if at anytime they are successful, which the Lord sometimes graciously may permit, for our greater advantage and his glory in the end; oh! how do they triumph in our fall. But Reader! there is a way, and it is indeed the only way of counteracting all the subtlety and malice of Satan; namely, as the redeemed now in heaven are said to have done; they overcame by the blood of the Lamb. Yes! blessed Jesus! thy name, thy cross, thy precious blood and righteousness; these are the ensigns of victory, by which alone we can resist the devil, and cause him to flee from us. And like Nehemiah we shall finish the wall, subdue all oppositions and be more than conquerors through thy grace helping us, when by thy blessed Spirit we are made strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Nehemiah 6". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18