When Sanballat and Co. see that Nehemiah won’t negotiate, they go to plan B: fear and intimidation. He sends a letter to Nehemiah, accusing him and his workers of rebelling against the king, and promising that if Nehemiah doesn’t meet with him, he will report this rebellion to the king.
- Say No to Intimidation
5 Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter
6 in which was written: “It is reported among the nations–and Geshem says it is true–that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king
7 and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us confer together.” Vs 5-7
This was a serious threat. Only a few years earlier, the Persian king had stopped reconstruction on the walls of Jerusalem for this very same reason. Sanballat’s letter could not only hinder the work of God, but could stop the work completely. How can Nehemiah respond to this hindrance of intimidation? He sends back a response: Dear Sanballat- your losing your marbles! Everybody knows what’s going on here in Jerusalem! The king knows we’re not trying to start a rebellion! He’s the one who sent me here! Put a sock in it! You can’t scare me into quitting my work for the Lord! I like Nehemiah’s courage and boldness. He refuses to be intimidated these threats. How about you? Can you be hindered with intimidation?
If someone says, “You can’t do this for the Lord! You’re not smart enough/talented enough/strong enough/good enough! If you try to serve the Lord, you’re just going to fall flat on your face and make a fool of yourself! Do you really want to risk losing your friends by doing what God says to do? You’ll never be able to do what God is asking you to do—it’s too hard for someone as weak as you are.”
How do you keep from being intimidated? Quote the words of Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?
Don’t ever let the enemy hinder you with intimidation. 1 John 4:4 (He) who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
- Say No to Fear
10 …Shemaiah…said, “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you…13 He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me. Vs 10-13
Notice how the conspiracy to hinder Nehemiah begins to widen, now including Shemaiah, who was probably a priest. He pretends to be on Nehemiah’s side, and tell him he is marked out for assassination. A fear tactic! Also he was hired!
Be careful of people who are getting money to get you to go against your convictions. Shemaiah suggests Nehemiah hide in the Temple to escape this plot. There is only one problem with this plan: by God’s law, only the priests are allowed in the Temple, and Nehemiah is not a priest. Once again Nehemiah realizes their plan is to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me. (v. 13.) They want to discredit Nehemiah before his own people, and before God by tripping him up in sin, and eliminating him from the scene.
How the enemy would like to eliminate you and I using fear. I have had people tell me, “I have to take my clients to this strip club.” “I have to cook the books to make my boss happy.” “I have to lie to my wife or she’ll get really upset.” All these statements are motivated by fear and greed.
If the enemy can get us to get involved in some questionable business or personal matter, into pornography or substance abuse or into gambling addiction or into major debt, he can cast doubt in our own minds and in the minds of others.
He will try to disqualify you and leave you discouraged and defeated. This is why Nehemiah was very careful in his choices. We must be too.
How do we overcome Fear and Intimidation?
- I Need Consistent Prayer
9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” [But I prayed,] “Now strengthen my hands.” Nehemiah 6:9 (NIV)
The entire book of Nehemiah demonstrates that Nehemiah is a praying man. Whenever he needs guidance, he prays; when he is grieving, he prays; when he is facing doubt he prays; when facing distractions he prays and keeps on praying. Nehemiah 6:9 [But I prayed,] “Now strengthen my hands.” In v. 14 he prays God would deal with the hindrances of his enemies, and frustrate their plans. Nehemiah realizes that he cannot stay focused by his own power he needs God’s help to help him stay focused and on task.
You and I need God’s help to stay focused in our lives, too. We need to consistently pray. That means setting aside times to pray, but it also means shooting up those prayers when we are busy doing something else. Without prayer, you cannot hope to stay focused in your work for the Lord.
- I Need Courageous Persistence
15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. 16 When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God. Vs 15-16
Look at this. He finished the wall! People had been saying it couldn’t be done. For ninety years it lay as an unfinished project. How was he able to build the wall in 52 days?
Don’t quit! He kept at it until he finished. I am sure that Nehemiah was tempted to quit at every step along the wall building project, but he didn’t. He kept going regardless of what opposition came at him. This is a great picture of courageous persistence.
How many diplomas have been earned because of persistence? How many court battles won, because of persistence? How many addictions conquered because of persistence? How many musical pieces written, how many cures for diseases found, how many marriages built strong because persistence? How many faithful Christians keep growing and serving because of persistence?
Persistence is not very common for most. Many give up and quit. Pollster George Barna says that most New year’s resolutions last only 17 days. We just don’t stick to things very well these days. There is a lack of persistence.
Another reason we often want to give up is when our efforts do not produce the desired effects we were expecting. Too often we are looking for the perfect body, the perfect marriage, the perfect church, the perfect ministry.
God is not seeking perfection in our efforts, for He knows that is impossible as we have what is called a sin nature. What God is looking for, however, is progress. Progress not perfection.
There is no perfect marriage, for we all struggle! There is no perfect person, no perfect churches, these just do not exist. But what God desires for us all is that we make progress. There is no perfect faith in God, we all struggle and stumble and stammer, but we are hopefully learning more each day, growing more each day and progressing more each day in our pursuit of growing to be like Christ. Progress not perfection!
If you are hoping to find the perfect church, you are going to be disappointed because there is no perfect church. Progress not perfection!
When we find the ministry that God desires for us to be a part of then that ministry or that church is worthy of our best effort and of our best support. Support through attendance and support through giving our resources including time, money and prayer. It is worthy of us discovering our gifts and abilities so that we can be a blessing to others in the church, those in the community, the world and ultimately to God himself. Progress not perfection!
I still remember when our children were learning to walk, they are grown now, but When they were just learning how to walk and they struggled to climb hand over hand up the coffee table and then take a wobbly step or two and then tumble to the ground, Niki and I didn’t rush up and yell at them or spank them, why? Because we were so tickled and pleased that the attempt is being made. We knew that someday they would walk, that they would run. Sometimes we wish they could only crawl!! And not talk would be nice at times too!
Why do I say this? God does not condemn us when we try, when we make an effort for him and then stumble. He is not looking for perfection in your life. What He is looking for is the will to walk with Him. He is looking for the will to walk towards Him. He is longing to see you walking for Him!
So what’s the point? Are you going to be persistent even though you may be fearful and stumble from time to time? Are you determined to hang on despite setbacks and attempts that will intimidate us to quit? Nehemiah prayed and kept at it and we can too!
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