When we do the work God has called us to do, we will have people opposed to us.
Serving God is rarely easy. It is sometimes dangerous. Our faith shines when times are bad, not when the times are good. You see it is easy to be brave when the weapons are in the armory. But when the weapons of our enemy are pointed at us, well, things change. Fear creeps in. Questions like “Did God really, REALLY, call me to do this” rise up. We wonder. We think. Sometimes we pray. Most often we plan. Most of the time we try to get out of the sticky situation. But we’ll see here in Nehemiah that there really is only one thing to do when we are opposed because we are doing God’s will. Let’s see what God has for us today.
When I entered the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined at home, 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, and they are coming to kill you at night.” But I said, “Should a man like me flee? And could one such as I go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.” Then I perceived that surely God had not sent him, but he uttered his prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He was hired for this reason, that I might become frightened and act accordingly and sin, so that they might have an evil report in order that they could reproach me. Remember, O my God, Tobiah and Sanballat according to these works of theirs, and also Noadiah the prophetess and the rest of the prophets who were trying to frighten me. Nehemiah 6:10-14 NASB
The Intimidator Begins
Shemaiah claimed to have received a prophecy from God (v. 10). This false prophet claims to have hidden knowledge. Some suggest that the phrase “who waas confined at home” suggests this man thought himself as prophet. Others suggest it means that he was somehow crippled and could not leave his home, or he had imprisoned himself to demonstrate his (Shemaiah’s) life and Nehemiah’s life was in danger. This last view makes the most sense to me. This Shemaiah character had access to the Temple which makes some to infer that he was a priest, perhaps on good terms with Tobiah. Whatever his connection, the text demonstrates that this guy is just bad news.
So what does Shemaiah suggest? Well he simply states it here (my paraphrase): “Nehemiah, we are in trouble with a capital T. We need to take cover ’cause there are folks wanting to kill us” This seems like a good plan considering the threats and taunts Nehemiah has received in the near past. But Shemaiah goes even further and suggests that they take refuge in the Temple. Hmmm. I’m not so sure about this.
Nehemiah, after hearing the invitation to the Temple evidently detected something wrong. But why? Well the Temple could be a place of asylum where the one hiding in it would be protected from those desiring to hurt him. That makes good sense to me. But not to Nehemiah. Why? Well Nehemiah smelled a rat. And he was no coward or one unwilling to face down those who opposed God’s work.
We must stand God’s ground in God’s strength.
The Man of God Stands
Nehemiah asks a rhetorical question “Should a man like me flees” Of course he was looking for the answer to be “No!” He went on to say he would not take refuge in the Temple. Nehemiah resisted the urge to leave the work God had called him to complete. And that is difficult to resist. Seeking self preservation is a strong urge in us humans. But Nehemiah didn’t seem too affected by it. Why is that so?
Look folks, when we do the work God has called us to do, we will have people opposed to us. We will live with threats and intimidation. We will be encouraged to hunker down and seek cover. But that is precisely the wrong attitude! When we are faced with these difficulties, we should – no, we MUST – stand our ground. It is not us the enemies of God are opposing. They are opposing God HImself. And if we identify with God, how can we ever seek protection from the threats of mere men? Nehemiah stood with God. We need to stand with Him too. Even when the threat is great.
Nehemiah saw through this false prophecy. Nehemiah knew – perhaps supernaturally – that Tobiah and Sanballat had hired Shemaiah for this dirty deed. Nehemiah knew this was intimidation pure and simple. They wanted desperately for Nehemiah to flee. They wanted to give a poor report on Nehemiah presumably to the king and I think the workers. If Tobiah and Sanballat could get Nehemiah to cower in fear in the Temple, he would look both guilty and afraid. Neither of which are good things to demonstrate to those you lead. This was probably their last best hope of defeating the rebuilding effort. And. They. Failed.
It is not us the enemies of God are opposing. They are opposing God Himself.
The Man of God Prays
Instead of being cowered by fear, Nehemiah towered in prayer. He went to God in prayer in the midst of this frightening discourse and stood firm on God’s integrity. Nehemiah didn’t look to natural resources to get him out of this jam. He didn’t try to reason with this man. He simply said “I ain’t gonna run”. Nehemiah stood firm because he knew that God had brought him to this point. It was God’s ground on which Nehemiah stood. It was God’s will that Nehemiah remained. Nehemiah simply asked God to remember what these oafs had tried to do. I’m thinking it didn’t work out to well for Tobia, Sanballat, Shemaiah and their allies. Nope, I’m sure it didn’t work out too well for them.
This is a wonderful lesson for us. When the enemies of God try to get the Church to cower in fear, we should tower in prayer. We must stand the ground God has given us. Not in our strength. Oh no, may that never be. But we must stand God’s ground in His strength, totally convinced that He will have His will done.
So how are you doing? I have no doubt you have been intimidated in the past. Perhaps it is happening now. Maybe your government is telling you to shut up. Maybe your co-workers are telling you to cool the “religious talk”. Maybe your society – like mine here in the United States – is saying that Christianity is old fashioned and useless. Maybe they are trying or have already criminalized your convictions. Don’t give in.
Stand firm on God’s ground. Don’t hide, cower, or flee. Stand firm my brother. Stand firm my sister. I am praying for you though I do not know your name. Please pray for me. Tough times are here. Its going to get worse. But together – as the family God wants us to be – we must stand God’s ground in God’s strength.