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This section of Nehemiah is devoted to detailing the schemes hatched against Nehemiah as the wall was nearing completion.  In this section, Nehemiah describes the personal attacks he faced as he attempted to do God’s work.  This sets chapter 6 apart from the intimidation of chapter 2, which was broadly directed against all of the people working on the wall.  This is a very personal chapter, and it reminds me of something that I read in the book “The christian in Full Armour” by the Puritan William Gurnell.  That is, Christianity is not for cowards.  Some people view Christianity or the religious impulse as a crutch – something for the weak or the cowardly who can’t cut it in life without the belief in a safety net God.  Let this chapter remind us that it takes courage to be a Christian.  It takes courage to pray, to say, “Lord, have your will.”  Who is braver, the person who thinks they are so in control of their own life that they never leave their comfort zone, or the person who comes to God and prays, “Lord, have your way” no matter where that takes me or what it causes me to do?  Who is braver, the person who lives at the level of the world with its comforts and sins, or the person who through the power of the Spirit and the leading of the word does battle against the flesh?  Who is braver, the person who never stands up for Jesus, the person who looks wise in the eyes of this world, or the person whose faith in Christ leads them to live differently and to look like fools in the eyes of this world.  You can be safe and cowardly, or you can live for Christ.  Nehemiah lived for God’s glory, and this was no safe thing. 
Gurnell’s observation about the courage necessary to be a Christian stems from his reflection on Ephesians 6:14: “Put on the full armor of God that you may stand against the schemes of the devil.”  That’s a good verse to frame our study of Nehemiah with this morning, for inasmuch as, yes, those scheming against Nehemiah were mere men, Sanballat, Tobaih, Shechem, Shemaiah, and the prophetess Noadiah, make no mistake that the devil was in the scheming and that this was indeed spiritual warfare.  Nehemiah says as much in verse 12: And I understood and saw that God had not sent him (Nehemiah’s opposition): Literally the Hebrew is even stronger and points toward the spiritual reality behind the opposition: I understood and saw that “not-God” had sent him.  It’s a very different thing to say, “God had not sent him” and “not-God had sent him”.  You see that? He was a hired gun prophet and prophesied by a different spirit that Nehemiah could discern.  But we’ll get to all that.  I want to look at three schemes of the evil one and six keys of discernment. 
Scheme #1: Distract to Destroy 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.
This is the first scheme: Distract to Destroy. Distract Nehemiah to leave the work on the wall, entice him to some neutral ground, and destroy him.  Notice a few things.
1. The work was nearly done.  It was built and all the remained was to set the doors in place. Nehemiah had hit the home stretch and this is the time when human nature would say, take it easy, lay off the gas, you’re almost there.  Notice that we are most vulnerable and our enemy is most desperate when our spiritual goals are closest to being met. When we think we stand, then we must take heed lest we fall.
2. The offer was reasonable. They come with a gesture of good will, a gesture of friendship: let’s just meet together.  Let’s talk.  What is more reasonable, what is more Canadian than dialoging with our enemies? Nehemiah, the work is almost done: you win. Why don’t we just get together for coffee and and work things out. The reasonableness of their request makes Nehemiah’s response sound almost arrogant: 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. Notice their persistence: 4 And they sent to me four times in this way.  
Keys to discernment:
1. Be on guard and take captive every thought.  Nehemiah understood that – even though he was close to realizing his spiritual goals – he was still engaged in the spiritual war.  So when these men call for him with what on the surface seemed to be a reasonable request, he looked below the surface.  Who are these guys – they are my avowed spiritual enemies.  Where do they want to meet me?  19 miles outside of the city – taking me a day away from the work and to a remote place in which I won’t have the protection I would have in the city.  Something is not right here. The Christian life is not about turning off your brain; in fact, to live the victorious spiritual life requires full engagement of mind and intellect. Why am I thinking the things I am thinking? Where did this value come from? What lies do I believe? Know your spiritual purpose. 
2. Be vigilant. 4 And they sent to me four times in this way. We live in an age of spiritual distraction. Everything in our life and culture calls us away from our spiritual tasks.  We are called to a higher purpose and though we haven’t attained it, yet this one thing we do, press on toward the goal of the high calling in Christ Jesus.  We must be vigilant in this for we all know our besetting sins: be they lust, pride, laziness, gossip, anger. Some of us may need to express like Nehemiah 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“. At first glance this almost looks like arrogance.  I’ll use a different word.  Stubbornness.  There is a certain stubbornness to the Christian life. As Paul says: set your mind on things above. Know your spiritual purpose.  This may be, like Nehemiah, a task to which God calls you.  It may be stubbornness in holiness – saying like Job I will set before my eyes no unclean thing.  It may be stubbornness in dating: No, I won’t go out with you – you’re not a Christian. Parents, if your kid is stubborn, praise God!  Only train them to be stubborn about what matters.
Scheme #2: Disseminate Lies to Discourage 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.” 

On their fifth attempt, Nehemiah’s enemies step up their game.  Distraction hasn’t worked. Scheme #2 is Disseminate Lies to Discourage.  Basically, they try to blackmail and slander Nehemiah.  Notice that they write an open letter. Yes, this message is for Nehemiah, but they intend for the contents of it to become public so that they can begin to sow seeds of discord among Nehemiah’s own supporters.  “He’s trying to become king.  This is for his glory, not for God’s.  He’s going to bring destruction upon you when the kings hears about it.” Notice how the letter begins: “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it,” O, well that settles it!  People are talking, Nehemiah. Aren’t you worried about what people are saying? It’s all gossip. 9 For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” Nehemiah discerns that they are trying to disseminate lies, slander him, in order to frighten all the people and discourage them from finishing the task.  
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 But now, O God, strengthen my hands.

Keys to discernment:
3. Know yourself and know the truth. Criticism and gossip are schemes of the enemy to discourage you in your walk, particularly if you are in ministry or in leadership. Now, there is valid criticism and there are times that the gossip (even though it is still sin by definition) contains valid concerns. Do not ignore criticism or the murmurings around you. God may use it to chasten you and teach you.  Yet, in this case, we’ve already seen in chapter 5 that Nehemiah inspected his motives and mortified his flesh so that he knew in his heart that he wasn’t doing this for fame or wealth or his own glory. Therefore he could renounce the lies as lies – you’re inventing them out of your own mind.  
4. Pray for strength. 9 But now, O God, strengthen my hands. Even though the criticism and gossip was false, you can see that it did get to Nehemiah a little.  This could be the whole sermon: We are not strong enough for the spiritual war.  We will get scared and we will get scarred. Even when we know the accusations are false, they still sting.  Psalm 5:12, surround me with your favour as with a shield. 
Scheme #3: Deceive to Disqualify Neh. 6:10  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.” 

Let’s stop right there.  So Nehemiah goes to go visit his friend, a shut-in, and the guy gives Nehemiah a warning that people are coming for him to kill him in the night. Let’s exercise our discernment muscles here: What’s wrong with this picture? What pricks your ears?
1. How did Shemiah know about this plot – he’s a shut in!  Obviously he’s had other visitors. 
2. The suggestion is that they meet in the temple – outside of Shemiah’s home.  Did we forget to mention that he is a shut-in?
Those two things themselves should be enough to tip off Nehemiah since he is taking every thought captive. Yet Nehemiah’s answer reveals a final two principles of discernment. 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.

Keys to discernment:
5. Do nothing out of fear. Nehemiah first refuses to let fear guide him.  Should a man such as I run away? If fear is a motive, know its is not from God. Again, always remember that we fight our spiritual battles from a position of victory.
6. Test everything to God’s word.  And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in.” The temple offered a place of refuge for people seeking safety.  Yet Shemiah was suggesting something further, that Nehemiah go inside the Temple walls and shut the door, to a place that only priests were allowed access to. Nehemiah understood Shemiah’s words to be false because they would instruct him to violate God’s word – to sin and thus be disqualified from leading the people.  I don’t care if someone approaches you as a friend.  I don’t care if they litter their language with spiritual words, if what they tell you leads you away from the Word of God do not listen to them.
In summary:
1. Deception is every part of the enemy’s schemes.  Yes the schemes were varied, but notice that every single one hinged on deception.  Jesus said that our enemy is the father of lies and when he lies he speaks his native tongue.  
2. Discernment is God’s gift to the Christian to keep us safe within the walls of His protection.  
3. We are the enemy: the first deception would be to always see ourselves in this chapter as Nehemiah, but I think we must also discern that we are just as likely to be the enemy. We are just as likely to spread gossip about others. We are just as likely to counsel others according to the world’s values rather than God’s word. The Gospel informs us that we all were enemies of God’s purposes walking in the pattern of this world, that our hearts are bent toward evil and our will toward our own purposes.  We were ignorant of God’s will and his way, yet he enlightened our eyes, died for our sin, and taught us in his ways so that we could discern right from wrong and good from evil.
4. Strengthen your discernment muscles.  Why do you study the Bible? So you can check of your 15 minute devotional for the day? So that you can develop a detailed and orthodox systematic theology?  I have hidden your word in my heart so that I might not sin against God. Why do you pray? So you can check of a list of requests? Or so that God may produce in you a stubborn and steadfast Spirit, strengthened through your relationship with the Father.

Listen Now!