5 The fifth time, Sanballat’s servant came with an open letter in his hand, 6 and this is what it said: “There is a rumor among the surrounding nations, and Geshem tells me it is true, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel and that is why you are building the wall. According to his reports, you plan to be their king. 7 He also reports that you have appointed prophets in Jerusalem to proclaim about you, ‘Look! There is a king in Judah!’ “You can be very sure that this report will get back to the king, so I suggest that you come and talk it over with me.” 8 I replied, “There is no truth in any part of your story. You are making up the whole thing.” 9 They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination. 10 Later I went to visit Shemaiah son of Delaiah and grandson of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home. He said, “Let us meet together inside the Temple of God and bolt the doors shut. Your enemies are coming to kill you tonight.” 11 But I replied, “Should someone in my position run from danger? Should someone in my position enter the Temple to save his life? No, I won’t do it!” 12 I realized that God had not spoken to him, but that he had uttered this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 They were hoping to intimidate me and make me sin. Then they would be able to accuse and discredit me. 14 Remember, O my God, all the evil things that Tobiah and Sanballat have done. And remember Noadiah the prophet and all the prophets like her who have tried to intimidate me. 15 So on October 2the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun.16 When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God. 17 During those fifty-two days, many letters went back and forth between Tobiah and the nobles of Judah. 18 For many in Judah had sworn allegiance to him because his father-in-law was Shecaniah son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan was married to the daughter of Meshullam son of Berekiah. 19 They kept telling me about Tobiah’s good deeds, and then they told him everything I said. And Tobiah kept sending threatening letters to intimidate me.
When the enemy couldn’t distract Nehemiah through flattery he turned to fear, you see after the invitation comes:
- INTIMADATION – VS 5-9
This arm-twisting tactic is designed to pressure Nehemiah to give in to their demands and thus fall into their trap. But he resists because he sees it for what it really is, an enticement based upon lies. There is one thing that both the flattery and the fear here have in common they both use deceit to distract. I want you to note two things: First this was an “open letter, meaning an unsealed letter. In other words, it was designed for everyone to read, so that the lie would be spread around that Nehemiah was trying to make himself king. Second Geshem is sited as a source. Have you ever noticed that rumors regularly cite people of distinction as sources in an attempt to give credibility to a lie? That’s what happened here they were spreading a rumor to ruin Nehemiah’s reputation. That instead of having pure motives he was self-seeking and in it for self not for service. How did Nehemiah handle it when people tried to ruin his reputation, he prayed, he relied on God to defend his reputation? There is a powerful truth here, Nehemiah took care of his character and trusted God to take care of his reputation. Many of us are wasting our time trying to defend self instead of trusting the Savior. We need to remember that our reputation is who people say we are, while our character is who we really are. We need to spend more time on our character and less time worrying about our reputation. Nehemiah responded three ways he confronted the lie with truth and denied the rumor, he prayed to God for strength, and he went back to work. Don’t waste time worrying about lies they will only keep you from God’s work. Once again, the enemy switches his game plan from intimidation to:
- INCRIMINATION – Vs 10-19
Tobiah and Sanballat hired a man to make a false prophesy intended to trick and trap Nehemiah in sin. What he says sounded logical: “Some people are out to get you. They are going to kill you.”But his solution wasn’t scriptural, because what he suggested that Nehemiah should do to save his life was sin. Nehemiah was not permitted to go into the temple, only the priests could enter the holy place. How do you know if what someone is saying is true, sift it through scripture. Nehemiah didn’t lean on logic he leaned on the Lord. Nehemiah cared more about the Lord and living right than saving his life. This brings us to the end of this first phase of Nehemiah’s work. The wall was completed in 52 days and the enemy recognized the hand of God. What a picture of the power that a Christian witness can have to a watching world. If we want to defeat the distractions, we need to first:
- Practice saying, “yes” to God’s priorities.
The best way to not be distracted is by being attracted to those things that are on the heart of God. It’s not just a matter of saying ‘no’ to distractions, we have to first say ‘yes’ to the right things, so that our priorities match up with God’s priorities. In her book, “A Practical Guide to Prayer,” Dorothy Haskins tells about a noted concert violinist who was asked the secret of her mastery of the instrument. This is what she said, “There are many things that used to demand my time. When I went to my room after breakfast, I made my bed, straightened the room, dusted, and did whatever seemed necessary. When I finished my work, I turned to my violin practice. That system prevented me from accomplishing what I should on the violin. So, I reversed things. I deliberately planned to neglect everything else until my practice period was complete. And that program of planned neglect is the secret to my success.” We’ve been called to a great task, one that we have to prioritize, or we’ll be distracted from it. If we don’t practice some “planned neglect” of other things, even good things, we’ll be distracted from God’s best. Second, we need to:
- Practice saying, “no” to the devil’s distractions.
So, let me ask you, what areas of your life do you need to guard the gate and stop being distracted by the devil?