Nehemiah 6 • April 12, 2023 • g1264
Pastor Lee Coe from Calvary Chapel San Bernardino teaches an expository message through Nehemiah 6 titled, “Dealing with Distractions.”
6:1 Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), 2 that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, "Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono." But they thought to do me harm. 3 So I sent messengers to them, saying, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?" 4 But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner. 5 Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand. 6 In it was written: It is reported among the nations, and Geshem says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king. 7 And you have also appointed prophets to proclaim concerning you at Jerusalem, saying, "There is a king in Judah!" Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together. 8 Then I sent to him, saying, "No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart." 9 For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, "Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done."Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands. 10 Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and 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; indeed, at night they will come to kill you." 11 And I said, "Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!" 12 Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me. 14 My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to these their works, and the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid. 15 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. 16 And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God. 17 Also in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came to them. 18 For many in Judah were pledged to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shechaniah the son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah. 19 Also they reported his good deeds before me, and reported my words to him. Tobiah sent letters to frighten me.
Nehemiah 6, because I want to talk to you about how we as Christians are to live in the world surrounded by distractions and insanity. Have you ever paused to think about what is going on around you and how radical it is? I mean, we’re living in these insane times. I finally realized after years and years of reading Romans 1, and Paul describes what’s known as the reprobate mind, the mind that doesn’t work anymore, and I finally identified it. I’ve always deciphered it and expounded on it, but I finally figured it out. It’s the time in which we live, these people that we’re living around in the world that we live today. We live with people that are reprobate. They need Christ, and it’s only Jesus Christ that can bring them completion. It’s only the Lord that can renew their minds because their minds are just radical. Romans 1:24, “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,” that clearly defines the present days in which we live, this trans culture.
When it comes to “trans” anything, all I know as a Christian is that I’m a transgressor. You and I are transgressors of the law of God; but listen, Jesus Christ made a transaction with God the Father, didn’t He? And He paid for my sin. He paid my sin debt so I can have a relationship with the Lord, and it’s called transformation. I’ve been transformed. Have you? And, guess what? Here’s the best part of it all—I’m going to heaven! I have a ticket or a transit to heaven. So, that’s all I know about the “trans” thing. I know that there’s a lot of people with broken minds and broken hearts that need the Lord, but I also know that I’ve been saved by the grace of God.
It’s here in Nehemiah 6 that we get some instruction about how to deal with the people that are all around us, the world that surrounds us, the distractions; and so I’ve titled this chapter “Dealing With Distractions” because that’s exactly what Nehemiah does. How does the believer navigate this world that God has placed us in? So, here’s really how we learn to navigate the difficult times: it’s by reading, understanding, and then practicing the Word of God. This is the only way that we as Christians will succeed in this world. We must read the Word, we must understand the Word, and then we must apply the Word of God because there are lots of distractions out there; and it’s Satan who’s the biggest distraction of all, right? He’s always trying to lure us into some kind of sin; and so for you and me as believers, we need to deal with those kinds of distractions. It’s here in Nehemiah that we get this really wonderful text of Scripture.
Let me just give you a little bit of background. I’m sure that you know the story behind Nehemiah. In 2 Kings 24-25, the very last two chapters, it’s the nation of Israel or Judah who has finally transgressed against the Lord. They’ve turned to idolatry, something you would never believe in the nation of Israel. Israel in the north, a divided kingdom, has already been taken by the Assyrians, and years later, because of Judah’s great sin, they’re finally taken away. You know the story. It was Nebuchadnezzar who came in and destroyed the city of Jerusalem. He tore down the temple and stole all the instruments and implements inside the temple that were used for worship. Then he took everybody away for 70 years, remember Daniel being one of the most important persons that we read about. It’s Nehemiah 1 that we get the story of how God brings His people back.
First, it’s Zerubbabel, reading the book of Ezra, who God commissions through the Persian king, Cyrus, and he gives him all the things he’ll need to rebuild the temple. He goes back, rebuilds the temple, and they start to worship God. They do that for many, many years—almost a hundred years. Then, it’s Nehemiah. Nehemiah’s responsibility is to rebuild the walls. You see, they’d been worshiping the Lord with broken-down walls. The walls had been demolished, and so they are prey or vulnerable to attack by the surrounding nations. Now, God is going to bring them back to their nation. They’ve re-established the worship of God. They are now in the process of trying to worship God, but it’s very difficult because they’ve got enemies all around them that come in and steal from them, marauders that would come in the night time. It’s Nehemiah who sends his brother, in Nehemiah 1, to the ancient city over a hundred miles away to inspect it to see.
His brother comes back and tells him that the walls have been broken down, and Nehemiah begins to weep. God puts it on his heart to rebuild the walls around the city of Jerusalem, and so Nehemiah 2-5 are all about how Nehemiah, this leader, goes back and organizes the people, the remnant of people that are there, and he gets them all involved in the building project to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem because the people were vulnerable again to attack by their enemies all around. Nehemiah, this great leader, gets the priests and the jewelers, he gets all the people that are doing all these other skills, and brings them together to stack up rocks. If you’ve been to Israel, you may have been to that one part near the City of David where they show very crude rocks being piled back upon one of the other trying to rebuild the wall, and it was sons and daughters, it was men and women, it was priests and jewelers, Nehemiah and his great building project. The wonderful thing is they got it done, as we’ll discover in this chapter, in 52 days.
Now we come to Nehemiah 6. Nehemiah 6 and 7 are kind of like the pivotal chapters. The first six chapters are about rebuilding the wall; the next portion of Nehemiah is about rebuilding the people. The people need to be rebuilt. It’s during this rebuilding process that they’re being attacked by their enemies, their enemies that hate them. The illustration is obvious for you and me, living in such a time that we’re living in now—Christians being attacked right now, Jews even being attacked for their religion, those of us that stand for truth and righteousness being shut up and imprisoned. That’s happening in America. I think it’s going to escalate as the days get shorter and shorter and as the Lord is coming soon. I totally believe that. The more I study the Word, the more I read Matthew 24, the words of Jesus just echo in my mind. The days in which we are living are short. Christians, we need to understand what’s coming. It’s Nehemiah 6, again, that helps us to understand that these things are going to happen all around us.
How did Nehemiah deal with all this stuff that was happening—the enemies of Israel that had come to assault them as they worshiped God, as they carried out daily commerce? They were vulnerable because the walls had been torn down. With these relentless attacks that came, all the things happening there in ancient Israel, those kinds of things happen, I believe, in our lives today. We have distractions, we have people, God wants to rebuild the walls of our lives. God wants to make us stronger and stronger, but the distractions come. It’s hard to live the victorious Christian life at times. Paul called it spiritual warfare. In Ephesians 6:11 (notice behind me on the screen), “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” We are living in a time between Christ’s first coming and Christ’s Second Coming, this time that’s very evil. It’s ruled by the prince and the power of the air. Who’s that? We know who that is, right? Satan, the devil. And so we’re constantly being attacked. Just as the people in ancient Jerusalem were being attacked by their enemies, we are being attacked as well.
What can we learn from Nehemiah’s life? Well, the first thing is that we are to keep our focus, so “keep your focus” is my first point. Let’s begin reading in Nehemiah 6:1. “Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), 2 that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, ‘Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.’ But they thought to do me harm. 3 So I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?’ 4 But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner.”
In verse 1, it tells us clearly that Nehemiah had finished rebuilding the walls, “…there were no breaks left in it,” so the wall is finished but the doors and the gates had not been hung yet, so they’re still vulnerable—people can still go in and out of the city, there is still danger happening. It was these three enemies that show up now. They’ve been involved. If you know anything about Nehemiah, you know that these guys, Sanballat and Tobiah, the enemies of Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem, they have been their constant enemy. They’ve been trying to get the work to cease. Why? Because they want to be able to maraud and steal and pillage from these poor people that are living in a city without walls—Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem.
Now they try a new tactic. Right before the doors go up in the walls, they try a brand new tactic, that is, to stop the work. So, they come again. They invite Nehemiah to meet them away from the building project. They invite the leader, the construction manager, the leader of this project, away to distract him to get him away. They want a meeting with Nehemiah. They invite him to come away and take a break from his hard work, “Oh, you’ve worked so hard, Nehemiah. You just need to take a break,” you know, “You’re the only servant in that church. You’re the best Christian in your job, your position. You need a break. You need to come away for a short time,” and so they say, “Come and hang out with us on the plain of Ono,” which I think is probably a bad idea. Don’t go to the place called “Ono,” I mean, that’s obviously the first clue there.
Nehemiah knows these guys. He knows perfectly what they are up to. They are up to no good. In verse 2 it says, “But they thought to do me harm.” Nehemiah was discerning. Nehemiah knew and understood the world around him. He was walking, as Paul says, circumspectly. He knew what was happening in the culture around him. He knew these guys were up to no good, their flattering words, “Come away. Take a vacation. Just take a break. Let your hair down,” you know, “Get involved in the local sin scene.” Nehemiah says, “I’m not doing that.” He’s discerning and he knows what’s going on. He knew that these guys were trying to draw him away, that it was really a ruse, so he didn’t want to stop making progress. He had a job to do, and he wanted to finish that job.
Here’s the application for you and me: Keep your focus, Christians. We all have work to do in the Kingdom of God. All of it is different. My job at the YMCA, way back in 1979 when I first came to that church, was just to set up things, you know, set up chairs. I’d set ‘em up, you know, and I’d set ‘em up too close to the chair in front or the chairs behind. You know, I was just learning how to serve God. It’s so important. The person that sets up chairs, the person that keeps the building clean, are as important as anyone else. We all have a place in the body of Christ. We need to keep our focus. We need to continue on. Nehemiah’s a great example of that.
It’s the Christian leader—the leader of the home, the leader in the church, the leader in the Sunday school, vacation Bible school, whatever it is, the leader. When you’re leading for the Lord in any way, shape, or form, you’re the person with a target on your back. Christians, when you stand up for Jesus Christ, you immediately will be attacked—it could be in your home, it could be in your workplace, it could be at your school. Living for Jesus is not a vacation, and we need to keep our focus at all times. Every Christian leader has a target of some kind on their chest. I watched my leader for many years, and I watched people attack in different ways, subtle ways, “Oh, just come away. Just do what the other churches are doing. You don’t need to teach from the Bible,” you know, “let’s get Bobo the clown in here to entertain.”
Pastor John would always open up the Word and always teach us, and as a hungry student of the Word as a young man, I just couldn’t get enough. I was at every service. I kept my focus. I wanted to learn. I wanted to grow. I wanted to be more like Christ. You can’t learn to be more like Jesus in the world. You learn to be more like Jesus being around other Christians, reading the Word of God, being exposed to elders and those that know the Word of God. It’s so, so important for us to understand that. Listen, Satan is always out to bring down the leader, to take out the leader. It happens all around us. But whether you’re a leader or not, Satan uses the same schemes against the rest of us, and that’s to sabotage, to tear down, to distract the work that God wants to do.
We must keep our focus like Nehemiah. Nehemiah was just like a laser beam—focused on what God had called him to do. What has God called you to do? What has God called you to do? And, are you doing it? Are you keeping your focus? Don’t let the world distract you. There’s a lot of noise out there. Are you studying the Word? Are you growing in Christ? Are you applying the Word of God into your life? So, same schemes, different time.
I want you to notice something from our text here, two schemes of the devil, something Satan uses against us all the time: 1) Innocent-sounding appeals. Verse 2, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” They were saying, “Nehemiah, don’t you want to have good relationships with your neighbors? Just be like them,” you know, “so you can talk with them. Do the same things they’re doing,” but Nehemiah was discerning. He knows they’re trying to ambush him. In the same way, Satan is out to ambush you. He’s out to lure you away. He’s out to do whatever he can to draw you into sin. But he doesn’t play games. He’s real, and his appeal sounds so alluring.
Peter said in 1 Peter 5 (notice behind me on the screen), “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour,” and then notice, here’s our defense, Christian. The Scripture always warns us but gives us a defense, “Resist him, steadfast in the faith.” I want you to know, Christian, you have everything that you need to resist Satan. God has given you His Word, God has given you His Holy Spirit, and all you need to do is resist the devil. Anthistēmi is the Greek word that means to set oneself against, to withstand, to oppose, to resist. James says it this way (notice behind me on the screen), “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Resistance is our defensive posture as Christians. You resist the temptation to sin. It can also be something that you use not only to defend but to take action against Satan with an offensive weapon.
I love what Paul says in Ephesians 6, “Put on the whole armor of God,” and then describes the different parts of the armor to us. The first one is the helmet of salvation. Do you know, Christian, that you’re saved, that you’re secure in that salvation? And, once you’ve been saved and born again, there is nothing that can separate you from that position, nothing. Now, you can be a dumbo and do stupid things and sin. You can choose to disobey God like the Corinthians did, all the sin that’s listed that they were doing, but they were brothers. Or, you can live the victorious Christian life. You can resist sin. You can keep your focus and resist.
What does it say in James? Again, in James 4:7, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will”—what? What will he do?—“flee from you.” That’s a promise. I love that promise. When we resist temptation and sin…resist. Now, think about that. That’s the beginning, right? You resist the thought. You resist the allurement. When we resist, what does the devil do? He runs. He’s outta there. Why does he run? Because he’s powerless against the armor of God. The Christian who has God’s armor, has God’s Word, the sword of the Spirit. The Christian that’s prepared, the Christian that’s growing…no matter what age you are, you can grow in Christ and you’ll have just what you need—that offensive weapon—that will help you defeat Satan and his temptation. You’re secure in your salvation. The Word of God protects you from the evil one and you can actively resist Satan. You resist, and the devil runs. That’s exactly what the Scripture tells us.
Now, as a side note, and I remind my church and I would remind you the same thing, the Bible never gives you as a Christian, never gives you the authority to rebuke the devil. I hear that a lot in prayer meetings or I’ll hear that in some circles. To rebuke the devil is something that we do not have the authority to do. In fact, did you know that Michael, the most powerful archangel, would never think to say, “Rebuke you, Satan.” Did you know that? And, if Michael, the archangel, wouldn’t do it, you shouldn’t either. Let me show you. This is Jude 9, “But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’” Christian, the next time you’re tempted, don’t stand up and use your voice really loud and start to rebuke things. What does James say? Resist the devil. And what does the devil do when you resist? What does he do? He’s outta there! Gone. Isn’t that glorious? These are truths from the Word of God. We learn these truths and then we apply these truths to our lives.
These tricks that Satan uses against us: 1) an innocent-sounding appeal, 2) (we get from this text from Nehemiah) Satan’s persistent temptations. Notice verse 4, “But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner.” So, the guys come back over and over and over again because it’s not working. They send him another message. They send him another message, four times, with the same invitation—out to the vacation spot, the plains of Ono, “Come on out and hang out with us.” Nehemiah, verse 3, his answer is the same, “I am doing a great work, so I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” Nehemiah’s like, “What part of no don’t you understand?” Nehemiah is focused.
Christian, it’s so important for you to understand that you must be focused in your walk, in your daily life, in your devotion, in your prayer life. It’s so important to have all of those things, to have the armor on before you step outside your front door, because Satan, he’s persistent. He continues over and over and over again. Just because you resist one time, don’t think that Satan is going to go away. Remember Samson. Delilah, she did all these things to allure him, and he wouldn’t tell her, he wouldn’t tell her. Over and over she made this request, “Where do you get your strength?” As he lay his head in her lap, he finally told her, “Well, if you cut my hair off,” BAM! It was all over after that. It just happened. She cut his hair off and it was over.
Nehemiah resists. Listen, Christian, you need to resist those things just as Nehemiah did, over and over and over again. Nehemiah had the right priorities, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down,” I’m focused on what God has called me to do. He knew the job, he was going to get it done. I love that. It’s so important, Christian, to stick with it. “Ah, but it’s hard.” Last weekend was hard. For Christians, if you were involved in Good Friday and set up and all the different events that you had here in your church. If you were involved in all those things, come Monday you’re just worn out. I’m thinking that’s why Pastor John asked me to come. He said, “Man,” you know, he’s working hard and all these things are happening, “would you come down?” I said, “Sure, John, I’ll come over.” Plus his family is growing, expanding, John with his new little girl. What a blessing.
Nehemiah kept his focus. He would not relent. He resisted again and again, just as we’re to resist again and again, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.” Broken walls would never keep the city safe. Nehemiah got it done. Gates that were not hung would not keep the city safe, and Nehemiah would not stop. He would not allow any distraction from getting the job done.
The first way to deal with distraction is to keep your focus. Secondly, don’t listen to rumors. This one’s really interesting. Join me in verse 5 here, “Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand. 6 In it was written: It is reported among the nations, and Geshem says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king. 7 And you have also appointed prophets to proclaim concerning you at Jerusalem, saying, ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now these matters will be reported to the king,” we’re going to go tell on you. “So come, therefore, and let us consult together.” Again, they’re trying to lure him away. These four attempts to lure Nehemiah into the fields of Ono to ambush him, and now the guys have changed their tactics. It isn’t working anymore, so now they have to do a new tactic. It’s an open letter to Nehemiah. There’s a rumor, an accusation, a false accusation, “You’re going to plot against the king. You’re trying to build a kingdom and try an insurrection against the king of Persia, Artaxerxes.” That was the implication in their letter. Sanballat lied, “You’ve hired prophets to proclaim you are the new king,” and the threats that were in the letter as well. All these rumors and the threats against Nehemiah, and look at the middle of verse 7, “Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together.”
Listen, this is another ploy of our enemy, the enemy of our soul, Satan the devil. He brings lies and rumors because it works. He’s been studying human nature for six thousand years. I don’t believe that Satan can get in your mind. I don’t think he can confuse your mind, but boy those fiery darts, they hurt. Confusion comes from all around us. Distractions are all around us, and he knows how to distract us and rile us up. It comes through slander and rumors that hurt us emotionally, if you let them. If you allow that to happen. If you get your focus off the Lord, off the Word, those rumors can really do a lot of damage.
Nehemiah responds, three different ways, notice verse 8. “Then I sent to him, saying, ‘No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.’ For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, ‘Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.’” Three things that he does here: 1) He denies the rumor. As a Christian you stand on a firm foundation of God’s Word. Your character means everything to your wife, to your husband, to your children, to your church. You stand firmly in that place where you’re the person that God wants you to be—you’re walking in His Word, you’ve confessed your sin, you’re living a holy life—because God has called you to holiness, not to happiness.
Did you know that happiness is not the goal of the Christian life? Holiness, that’s the goal. “Well, I want to have joy, and I want to always be happy. Me, me, and I, I.” Yes, God wants to give you joy. Joy is different than happiness. Happiness depends on happenings. Joy is something that comes, a fulfillment, from the inside, from your heart. It’s a work of the Holy Spirit. It’s assurance and comfort and strength in time of trial and temptations. Nehemiah just denied the rumor. He called Sanballat the liar that he really was.
Then, Nehemiah does something. One of the wonderful things about studying the Old Testament is you really learn who these people are. Nehemiah was really a man of prayer. If you look at this book and you read this book, Nehemiah, you find that he’ll stop at an instant and pray. I call ‘em popcorn prayers. Do you ever do that? You’re going along and something happens, “Lord!” Kind of like Peter on the water, “Save me!” Notice verse 9. It’s at the end, “Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.” There it is. “God, help me. Give me the strength that I need,” just this quick prayer. Do you call out to the Lord throughout your day, Christian? Are you willing to say, “Lord, I’m not sure about this decision. Lord, help me. I really need Your help in this decision.” I find that I have these conversations all the time. I look at my wife and sometimes her lips are moving, “What are you talking…” “I’m just talking to the Lord.” It’s so important, and we see Nehemiah doing the same thing. He denies the rumor, and then he prays. I love what he does, and I so want to be more like him as we pray for God’s strength, and we pray for God’s power in the world in which we live.
Warren Wiersbe, and I’m sure you’ve heard Pastor John quote from Dr. Warren Wiersbe, who we had at the Red Barn years and years ago. He said in concerning the Christian, “Concerning the Christian worker, concerning the believer that wants to serve the Lord and has a calling to do so,” and it doesn’t matter, again, where that calling may be, in any function of God’s church, he said, “It’s always too soon to quit.” It’s always too soon to quit, and we need to understand that in those times when we are weak and we’re tired and we want to give up, and Sunday’s coming and Wednesday again, we need to say, “Lord, how I need Your strength. Father, strengthen me physically and mentally and emotionally so that I can do the work You’ve called me to do.” It’s through prayer that we gain strength. It’s through prayer that we gain the right perspective about the people around us in the world around us. It’s through prayer that we yield to the Lord and His work in our lives.
I’ve always loved this verse, Zechariah 4:6 (notice behind me on the screen), “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, Says the LORD.” Are you walking by the Spirit of God? Are you drawing from the Word of God, Christians? I believe Nehemiah did the same. He first denies the rumor; then he prays; thirdly, he goes right back to work. Look at verse 9, “For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, ‘Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.’ Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.” He ignores the lies. He asks God for strength. He goes right back to work. He resisted the temptation to stop. He resisted the temptation to go out in the field with a neighbor and just do what they do. He continued to stand firm, and he continued and completed the job.
Again, the question is, How do we deal with distractions? 1) Keep your focus. 2) Don’t listen to rumors, and 3) Beware of false religious claims, verse 10. This one is very important. I want you to pay attention. Notice with me in verse 10, “Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer,” notice that little detail, “and he said, ‘Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple,” secretly, “for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you.’” Shemaiah is a false prophet. He’s not religious. He could care less about God. He just acts religious. There are people around us that act religious as well. “Nehemiah,” he comes and says, “hey, let’s go in the temple. Let’s go to the church where it’s real religious there, and let’s devise a plan.”
Beware of people that come to you and say, “The Lord told me this about your life.” I’ve always been, you know, skeptical once a Christian. Back in the ‘70s and 80s that was something that was pretty common. I’m one of those Jesus Revolution people saved at 13 years of age, went to Greg Laurie’s Bible studies at the Raincross Square in Riverside on those Sunday nights. I told the fellowship just recently, I got a 12-string guitar when I was 15 years old and started playing Love Song songs. I was kind of doing the Chuck Girard thing in the church that I was in. The church that I was in was a denominational church, and it was an evangelical church. I remember they asked me to do one of these songs. I said, “Sure.” So, I chose “Front Seat, Back Seat.” I went barrelin’ out full speed ahead, Tryin’ really hard to be the driver, Thinkin’, I was makin’ real good time, but finding out that I’m a late arriver. Now I’m ridin’ in the back seat, does anybody remember that song? Am I the only one in here? And when I sang that song with my 12-string guitar, the gray-haired men, like me, my age when I was 14 playing this on Sunday night, they just looked at me like (gives a look). I knew the Lord wanted me to use that guitar, and I began to worship the Lord, and I began to bring that worship into that church.
Then, in 1979, I went to Calvary Chapel in San Bernardino and heard the Word of God taught in a way I’d never heard it before—verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book by book. Oh, it just fed me, and I was so thankful, and I was so grateful. There was a time when people would come in the church and claim things, and they would see auras, and it was really a strange time along with the move of the Holy Spirit, so we had to be discerning. We needed pastors that taught us the Word so that we would not be deceived religiously, like in this case.
This guy pretends like he’s a Christian in a sense and says, “Hey, come in the temple. Let’s do this. Close the doors, for they are coming to kill you.” Shemaiah is a liar. He’s a prophet for hire. Again, just be careful, Christian. Be discerning. Know the Word of God. Some Christian comes to you and says, “Hey, I’ve got the liberty to just drink myself silly. I can do whatever I want to do. Let’s do it with all the other Christians. Let’s smoke a little dope on the side. It’s okay. Christians can do that.” Listen, when someone comes to you with that kind of nonsense—and it’s nonsense—and you’re lured, just gently, to the fields of Ono, “Come on, let’s do this one little thing,” listen, you’re going to fall hard, Christian. God wants you to walk holy. He wants you to walk righteously. He wants you to be obedient to His Word, so when you’re tempted, don’t do it. Obey the Scriptures. Don’t yield. Do what Nehemiah does. Look at verse 11, “And I said, ‘Should such a man as I flee?,” or hide, “And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!’” Nehemiah is not a priest. Only the priests could go in there. “I know the Word. I’m not going in there.”
Verse 12, “Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.” Nehemiah knows what he’s doing, he’s doing the work of God; and a true prophet would never counsel someone to do something against the Word of God. The temple was only for the priest, so he was discerning again. He stood against religious deception, and God revealed to him that Shemaiah was a deceiver. In fact, Shemaiah was on the payroll of Sanballat. Look at verse 13, “For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me.” And again, Nehemiah meets this attack of the enemy. He’s going to go to prayer. I love his prayers.
Verse 14, “My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to these their works, and the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid.” Nehemiah, he kept his focus. Nehemiah rejected the rumors. He discerned the false religious prophets, and the result in Nehemiah’s life, he stayed the course or, notice in verse 15, the completion of the wall. “So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days.” This is pretty remarkable.
I know that some of you have been to Israel. I just got back a couple of weeks ago. It was a blessing. You know, God is such a blessing God. I live in Crestline. I drove down the hill on a Friday and I couldn’t get back up, which was a good thing because my tour left on Monday, and that’s when the big storm hit. You all heard the news, four feet of snow up there in Crestline, so we couldn’t get out of our house. My son was stuck for seven days, and the neighbors really had a great time. The Christians had a great time. They were helping each other dig out, and it was hard, but I was in Israel. There was a heat wave. It was 80 degrees over there, and my kids are suffering, you know, with this pile of snow and digging. They kept sending me pictures of digging. I still have like piles of snow around my house.
The completion of the wall. Nehemiah kept his focus, and he got it done. And, it happened in just fifty-two days. These walls…remember, they’d been in ruins for over a hundred years by this time. There’s weeds growing up in the rocks. It wasn’t an easy task to rebuild the walls, but Nehemiah prayed. In chapter 1, he prays for four months, the Scriptures tell us, before he goes, and then the work only took a couple of months, which is really interesting. The work that he did was shorter than his prayer. He spent more time praying than he did working. That should teach us a lot, teach us a lot about the trials, about the difficulties, about the hardship in your life—some pain or some situation in your life that’s a true spiritual battle. Listen, it takes time. You need to pray, and you need to ask your brothers and sisters to pray and your elders to pray with you sharing with them. It’s a spiritual battle.
In verses 9 and 14, again we hear Nehemiah’s short prayers. Like I said, there are nine of them in this whole book, but behind his prayer was a prayer life. I love what he says in verse 16 because notice who gets the glory from all of this work, “And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God.” Why? Because it only took fifty-two days and everyone helped, Nehemiah’s leadership. Nehemiah gives glory to God, this incredible work. Someone said, “God works through faithful people, but it is God who works.”
Is God working in your life? Is there some rebuilding going on around you? Not material but spiritual. Does God have a work for you to do but you’re tired and you’re distracted. You need the words of Nehemiah. You need to spend time in prayer. God will complete the work.
So the work on the wall was finished in spite of Nehemiah’s enemies here. Notice verse 17, “Also in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came to them. 18 For many in Judah were pledged to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shechaniah the son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah. 19 Also they reported his good deeds before me, and reported my words to him. Tobiah sent letters to frighten me.” Tobiah continued to threaten Nehemiah, but Nehemiah just ignores him. Nehemiah keeps his eyes on the Lord. Nehemiah was a man of prayer. He wouldn’t be distracted. He wouldn’t let the rumors come into his heart and life, and Nehemiah completed the work.
I love the truths that come from this chapter of the Bible. First, the devil never quits. He’s relentless. He will not stop with his temptations and his allurements. But listen, Christian, we have the promise that all we need to do is resist him. Resist that temptation. Resist that sin, and the devil leaves, and you’re left with God. You’re left with God’s Word. You’re left with the Holy Spirit. Oh, what a sweet place to be! To be guided, to be directed. So, Christian, stay in the battle. Don’t give up. Don’t give in because God leads us through hard things just like Nehemiah; but Nehemiah was centered, he was focused, he continued, he kept working. He was persistent in what he did. He rejected the rumors. He discerned the false religious prophets, and the result was the wall was built in record time, fifty-two days.
I don’t know what God is doing in your life tonight. I don’t know what work God wants you to continue in, but I can be sure to tell you tonight, Christians, that there’s something. And so, Christians, keep your focus. This is how we deal with distractions. Let’s pray.
Pastor Lee Coe from Calvary Chapel San Bernardino teaches an expository message through Nehemiah 6 titled, “Dealing with Distractions.”