Nehemiah's Response to Personal Attacks - Nehemiah 6:1-14
Nehemiah’s Response to Personal Attacks
Nehemiah 6:1- 9
Now when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. 3 And 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?” 4 And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner. 5 In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand. 6 In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. 7 And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah.’ And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.” 8 Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.” 9 For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands.
“The average person doesn’t realize the tremendous pressures and testing’s that people experience day after day in places of leadership. Leaders are often blamed for things they didn’t do and criticized for things they tried to do. They are misquoted and misunderstood and rarely given the opportunity to set the record straight. If they act quickly, they are reckless; if they bide their time, they are cowardly or unconcerned. Referring to the pressures of leadership, President Harry Truman wrote in Mr. Citizen, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!” - Wiersbe, W. W.
- Leaders have to first take care of the walk with Christ and maintain character and integrity.
- Deal with his flesh and the temptations that are out there to trip him or her up.
- Pastor’s deal with struggles
- January 19th, 2019 - A California megachurch pastor was found in his home on Wednesday, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. According to the Christian Post, Jim Howard of the 6,000-member Real Life Church took his life on Wednesday, ending his long-time battle with mental illness.
- Rick Warren – Saddleback Community Church son committed suicide
- James McDonald – Harvest Bible Chapel, Bill Hybels – Willow Creek Bible Church
- Andy Savage of High Point Church in Memphis had to resign due to a sexual assault of a teenager 20 years ago,
- Southern Baptist Church
- On Sunday- February 10th, 2019 the Houston Chronicle published the first in a three-part series on sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches in the United States.
- According to the investigation, at least 35 people who exhibited predatory behavior were still able to find jobs at other churches. In some cases, church leaders failed to alert law enforcement about complaints or to warn other congregations about allegations of misconduct, and some registered sex offenders were even allowed to return to the pulpit.
- What was the scope of the abuse?
- Regional area: The report is based on data collected throughout the United States, though convictions for abuse were limited to 29 states.
- Time frame: The investigative reporting looked at instances of abuse from 1997 to 2018.
- Alleged perpetrators: Credible accusations were made against 380 people associated with Southern Baptist churches (i.e., pastors, deacons, Sunday school teachers, and volunteers).
- Convicted abusers: Of the 380, more than 220 had been convicted of sex crimes or received deferred prosecutions in plea deals. Of the 220, more than 90 remain in prison and another 100 are still registered sex offenders.
- Number of victims: Approximately 700 victims.
- Catholic Church
- If that is not hard enough, leaders have to care for their families to make sure they are growing in Christ and sometimes leaders have to deal with difficult issues in their own families
- Then the leader has to care for the church family, to know the strategies of Satan and how he is trying to divide and conquer and pick people off in the church. The leader has to protect the flock from:
- False teaching
- Cynical and challenging to the leadership
- Pray for me as Pastor, for Austin, for the elders and other leaders of our church. Satan has a bull’s eye target on the leadership just like he did in Nehemiah’s time.
Purpose: Every Christ follower must pray for and encourage those who are in spiritual and any kind of leadership over them.
Background to Nehemiah 6
- The walls are pretty much rebuilt at this point
- The gates and doors need to be installed
- Nehemiah needed to develop deep communal relationships with the citizens of Jerusalem and restore the feasts, rituals and worship at the temple
- The focus of the enemy’s attacks is now personally on Nehemiah
- He has endured several rounds of attacks outside his people and inside with his people
- The enemies of the Jews and Nehemiah thought they could bring fear and demoralize the people into discouragement and lack of support for Nehemiah.
- Nehemiah has confronted all the attacks on him and his people with prayer, with the Lord’s help and kept the morale and faith high in his own people.
- He has set an example of being a servant leader with his integrity and character and that has caused his people to support him
- The thought by Satan and his earthly cohorts is that if you take out the leader you can overcome the people. In this case the enemies wanted to stop the work so they could take over the city for themselves.
- If the people are consumed by fear and chaos, they are vulnerable
Quote: “Adolph Hitler wrote, “Mental confusion, contradiction of feeling, indecisiveness, panic; these are our weapons.”
Transition: Let’s look specifically this morning at three attacks on Nehemiah personally.
Attack # 1 – Distraction by Opportunities
- The Threat – Stop the progress on the wall
Now when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm.
- Ono is twenty – five miles southwest of Jerusalem
- It is on the border of Samaria and half way between Jerusalem and Sanballat
- The idea is let’s meet and negotiate half way between us and the purpose is for peace according to Sanballat and the other enemies. Nehemiah had to discern if they were truthful.
- To be a good leader you must be a student of people and their hidden motives and agendas. That is key.
- One, a leader has to be confident and secure in who he is.
- Two, he must know his strengths and weaknesses so that he can surround himself in leadership with people who can complement his weaknesses.
- Strength finder’s principle
- A leader must know how to put the right people in the right seats on the bus. – Good to Great – Jim Collins
- Nehemiah saw that he was going to have to travel away from his work and that the work would most likely stop without his leadership. He had to weigh that possibility. He was convinced God wanted him to stay and finish the wall.
- He knew if he went, he would be outnumbered by the enemy and risk being harmed or killed – Nehemiah 6:1
- The Jews had nothing in common with Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem so there would be no way to compromise and make a deal.
- As he took all of this in, notice how he responded.
- The Response – I am doing a great work
Nehemiah 6:3 – 4
3 And 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?” 4 And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner.
- Nehemiah sends a messenger with this message. “I am doing a great work and cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you.?”
- The question he was testing them about was “Did they really want to make peace?”
- Notice that Sanballat, Geshem and Tobiah did not give Nehemiah a counter offer. They repeated their request the same way four different times.
- By the fourth time, the enemies had tipped their hand. They were not serious about making peace
- Nehemiah could have challenged their motives but he wanted them to reveal what they were thinking and this led to the enemies fifth response.
- Nehemiah knew when to say “no” and avoid the distractions
Illustration: “According to a recent study by Microsoft, the average attention span of human has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8.25 seconds in 2012. The average attention span of goldfish is 9 seconds. The author reports concluded that heavy multi-screeners are more easily distracted by multiple streams of media. While the study observed that the mobile age has led to shorter attention span, it has drastically improved our ability to multitask. According to Microsoft, these changes were a consequence of the brain’s ability to change and adapt itself over time.
As cited by Statistic Brain Research Institute,
1) 25% of teens forget major details of relatives and close friends
2) 7% people forget their own birthdays from time to time
3) 17% of page views last less than 14 seconds
4) Only 4% of page views last more than 10 minutes
5) Only 28% of words are read by users on an average 593 words web page
This is the reason why top Internet marketers focus on creating short and crisp content; because the major part of a long write-up goes unnoticed. The news summary is shortened to 140 characters and conversations are condensed to smileys and emojis!
Application: One must have healthy boundaries to avoid the pitfalls of distraction
Transition: Let’s look now at attack #2
Attack # 2 – Distraction by Slander
- The Threat: Spread rumors of rebellion
Nehemiah 6:5- 7
5 In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand. 6 In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. 7 And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah.’ And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.”
- Now the enemies are trying to force a meeting at Ono
- They send an unsealed letter. What is the significance of an unsealed letter?
- An “open letter” to a royal governor would be both intimidating and insulting. Letters to officials were rolled up and secured with seals so that only those with authority could open and read them. Sanballat wanted the public to know the contents of the letter because he hoped to undermine Nehemiah’s reputation and authority. If some of the Jewish workers believed what was in the letter, Sanballat could organize them and create division within the ranks. It was a splendid opportunity for the enemy to divide and conquer.
- Notice what they said “It is reported and Geshem says
- Who is “they who reported” – circular file – anonymous?
- Did Geshem really say or are they putting words in his mouth to support their cause?
- They seemed at first to be caring the Nehemiah’s welfare. Come, let’s deal with these rumors??
- They are saying that Nehemiah is rebelling against the king
- Nehemiah is going to set himself up as king over Jerusalem
- Nehemiah had prophets assigned already to pronounce his coronation as king
7 And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah.’ And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.”
- The enemies were baiting Nehemiah to respond out of fear.
- The Response – You are inventing them out of your own mind
8 Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.” 9 For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands.
- Nehemiah boldly responds showing his deep faith and confidence in God.
- He denied the allegations
- He knew the allegations were designed to cause the people to fear King Artaxerxes wrath
- He prayed for strength
28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
I Thessalonians 2:4
4 But just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts
Application: One must not be threatened by what man can do to you.
Transition: Let’s look at another attack, attack # 3
Attack # 3 – Distraction by Discrediting his character
- The Threat – Scar his reputation
Nehemiah 6:10 – 11
10 Now when I went into the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home, he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple. Let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you. They are coming to kill you by night.”
- Shemaiah was an insider that was hired to bait Nehemiah. He was a turncoat, a traitor
- It is inferred he was a prophet.
- He locked himself in his house – maybe lying about having a contagious disease or ritual defilement???
- He asked Nehemiah to visit him in this “crisis situation.”
- Shemaiah must have been someone Nehemiah had trusted in the past.
- Nehemiah arrives and Shemaiah suggests they go to the temple and meet behind closed doors to avoid the apparent night time assassins.
- There were two glaring flaws in Shemaiah’s proposal
- God would hardly ask Nehemiah to run from the wall was about to be completed
- No true prophet would ask someone to violate God’s law. Only priests were allowed in the sanctuary
“And you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall guard their priesthood. But if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death.”
Deuteronomy 13:1 – 5
“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
- It would be wrong for Nehemiah to justify the ends with the means. He is not to violate God’s law to protect himself
- Someone has aptly said that in our society the ends now justify the means and the means become the end!!
- Nehemiah knew that Shemaiah was lying and his enemies were using him to trick him.
- Nehemiah’s reputation, character, and integrity would be destroyed if he went into the temple area with Shemaiah and if the people knew about it and he lived, they would know he disregarded God’s law
Quote: “Moral authority is a fragile thing. It takes a lifetime to earn it and a moment to lose it.” – Andy Stanley
- The goal was to destroy his character by disobeying God’s law by going into the temple for protection which was forbidden by God’s law
- The Response – Should such a man as I run away?
11 But I said, “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in.” 12 And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me. 14 Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid.
- Nehemiah said “I will not come down from the wall.”
- Now he is saying, I will not go into the temple
- I hope you notice Nehemiah’s strong convictions and how he went to those convictions right away when he is tempted.
- Nehemiah 6:1 indicates that there was a conspiracy against Nehemiah among the prophets, including a prophetess named Noadiah. This created a great deal of pressure for Nehemiah, for the Jews had great respect for their prophets. Nehemiah was outnumbered, yet he stood his ground. He was a layman opposed by a body of “professionals,” yet he refused to give in. He prayed about them and left the matter with the Lord. In verses 9 and 14, we have the fifth and sixth of Nehemiah’s “telegraph prayers” that he sent to the Lord in times of crisis. Of course, behind these brief intermittent prayers was a life of prayer that gave them strength.
Illustration of Daniel in Daniel 1:8
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king's food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.
- The last thing Nehemiah prays to God about in this section of scripture is for God to judge his enemies evil and deceitful scheming. He included a woman prophet and then a general statement about other prophets to be judged for trying to cause the Israelites to fear and turn away from building the wall which was the vision God had for Nehemiah to fulfill.
- Nehemiah, as a servant leader relied on his faith in God, his strong convictions and his commitment to God’s vision to overcome the personal attacks.
Application: One must always protect your character and integrity because they take a lifetime to establish but a moment to lose.
Key Thought: Truth and character win in the long run if we stay faithful to maintain your integrity.
How to Respond to Personal Attacks
- Listen to the issue
- Pray and process what is being said
- Repeat the issue back to the person for clarification
- Respond calmly – Proverbs 15:1
- Ask the other person’s opinion on how to resolve the issue
- Share your thoughts on how to resolve the issue
- Come to a negotiated way to resolve the issue
- Pray together if possible, about resolving the issue
Questions to Ponder this Week
- Identify what you are easily distracted by and ask yourself how you can avoid these distractions
- How can I this week let God answer my critics?
3. How can I respond to those who attack my character in a God pleasing way?