Resisting the schemes of the enemy (Neh 6:10-14), by Rev Dr. John Kwasi Fosu

Introduction

At this point in our studies on the book of Nehemiah, it has become clear that Nehemiah has faced number of oppositions in his task of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. Yet with a sense of focus, prayer, discipline, hard work and teamwork, Nehemiah has continued to build the wall to near completion. This study on Nehemiah 6:10-14 seeks to paint the picture of the schemes that the opponents to the project used and how Nehemiah dealt with them. The enemies used the schemes of enticing Nehemiah to sin, becoming cowardly and so to discredit him.

Nehemiah overcame the temptation to hide in the temple to save his life (Neh 6:10-11)

Neh 6:10-11 identifies a man named Shemaiah who seems to be a “secrete informer.” His effort was to hinder and discredit Nehemiah’s work. It is most probable that Shemaiah had to some extent barricaded himself as a way of showing fear and thereby motivating Nehemiah to do likewise. As a “secret informer,” Shemaiah attempted to give Nehemiah a piece of secret advice that the enemies had plotted to kill him. They would come at night to kill him, so the thing to do was to hide for protection in the temple. To Nehemiah, however, he was not to show such fear. He would not run away and would not go into the temple to save his own life. Thus, Nehemiah refused to take Shemaiah’s advice.  What makes this advice a temptation to sin was that, as pointed out in Neh 6:13, such an act would be a perversion of the purpose of the temple and a violation of its sanctity. For only priests should enter there and so to use it for personal protection would be disrespectful to its purpose. Moreover, demonstrating cowardice to flee and hide would be a hindrance to the work. In this case, Nehemiah could not effectively work from a place of hiding. If the people saw him being so cowardly, they too might become afraid and hide to protect themselves, instead of working.

Worth emphasising here is that we need to remember that sin is wrong in and of itself, even when done for personal protection from persecution. We are not to allow people to intimidate us to sin or to be disrespectful or cowardly. When we do that, then we allow them to discredit our work and defeat our efforts for good. It could be observed that merely fleeing in and hiding itself is not sinful. Some New Testament apostles, preachers, and Christians often fled for safety. They did not, however, stop their work of preaching the gospel.

Nehemiah discerned that the enemies had hired a false teacher to put fear into him (Neh 6:12-14)

Nehemiah discerned that Shemaiah’s advice was not from God or in harmony with God’s will. Shemaiah had been hired by Tobiah and Sanballat who were the enemies of God’s work. Shemaiah had presented this advice as something God would have Nehemiah do, or perhaps even something that God had revealed by prophecy (compare verse 14). It is dangerous to follow messages that claim to be from God, especially if those messages contradict God’s will.

This story implies that many false prophets are teaching for hire. They appear to have been paid by people to teach as they do. Do we have such prophets in contemporary times?

Nehemiah refused to compromise so he would not subject himself and his work to reproach. It has been already noted that Nehemiah realised that Shemaiah had been hired to tempt him to be afraid, hide in the temple and consequently sin. The overall intention was to discredit Nehemiah for his sin and cowardice. Had Nehemiah listened to this advice, he would have shown cowardice, neglected the work, and abused the purpose of the temple. It is clear from this passage that when people cannot intimidate God’s people to stop working for God, they often try to discredit them so other people will not listen to them or follow their teaching. They may try to do this through false accusations. If that plan does not work, then they try to get us to sin, so they can have grounds to accuse and discredit us. A similar issue is reflected in the story of Balaam and Balak (Revelation 2:14).

The implication from this matter is that leaders need to live courageously and in purity. At all costs, we need to avoid sin in the context of false teaching, temptation, threats, and intimidation. Failure to live pure lives will discredit our work and hinder God’s purpose.

Nehemiah again prayed to God to deal with his enemies (Neh 6:14)

Reading the book of Nehemiah indicates that Nehemiah was a man of prayer and so recognized the value of prayer in times of temptation and opposition. Nehemiah repeatedly turned to God in prayer for strength to deal with the enemies. The content of the prayer was that he asked God to remember the sinful acts of Tobiah and Sanballat. Nehemiah then mentioned prophetess Noadiah and other prophets who were involved in the attempt to make him afraid. This indicates that many were involved in the temptation of Nehemiah and that their attempt did involve the use of prophecy to try to frighten him.

The example of Nehemiah’s prayer shows that it is not wrong to call upon God to bring justice and punishment to evildoers. We are not called upon to take personal vengeance. Instead, we should leave vengeance to God. Reminding God that such people do deserve God’s punishment is appropriate.

Questions

  1. To what extent can a ‘prophetic message’ be a scheme of the enemy against our lives?
  2. In which forms do some people discredit Ministers of the gospel in contemporary times?
  3. Is it sometimes appropriate to pray to God to deal with our enemy?

About revfosu

Rev. Dr. John Kwasi Fosu is an ordained Baptist Pastor of both Der Bund Evangelisch-Freikirchlicher Gemeinden (BEFG) in Germany and Ghana Baptist Convention. He is also Theologian and a Lecturer at the Ghana Baptist University College
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