-We see the controversy and the plotting of the enemies of Nehemiah in this chapter as the walls are rebuilt. Despite the fact that the doors in the gates had not been set up quite yet, there was now no breach remaining in the walls of Jerusalem. This was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, and the rest of the enemies that came against God’s people. Sanballat and Geshem in particular wanted to get together with Nehemiah at Chephirim in the plain of Ono (some ancient manuscripts render this place “one of the villages”). However, Nehemiah, in his heightened discernment, perceived that they were planning to harm him. Therefore, he sent messengers to them relaying that he was doing a great work and could not come down to meet with them as they wanted. He rightly saw no purpose in conspiring with the naysayers and enemies of God’s plans and purposes. Four times messages were sent in this manner trying to lure him away from the work he was doing in the leading of the rebuilding project. Each time Nehemiah answered them in the exact same manner, no, not coming because I’m busy with a God-given assignment. This was at the very least a spiritual distraction from the work, what we might call “spiritual warfare” by the enemy. Sanballat sent a messenger a fifth time with an open letter of allegation in his hand. In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Gashmu says, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel; therefore you are rebuilding the wall. And you are to be their king, according to these reports. You have also appointed prophets to proclaim in Jerusalem concerning you, ‘A king is in Judah!’ And now it will be reported to the king according to these reports. So come now, let us take counsel together.” Nehemiah vehemently denied these false accusations sending a message back, which stated, “Such things as you are saying have not been done, but you are inventing them in your own mind.” Verse nine sums up the whole episode succinctly, “For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.’” Then Nehemiah faithfully turned to his God and asked that He strengthen his hands for the task (Nehemiah 6:1-9). What wisdom, what fortitude, what discernment, what character, what faithfulness we see in this man during a time of temptation.
-Then, Nehemiah enters into the house of Shemaiah as the narrative continues. This man was confined to his house for some unknown reason, but Shemaiah wanted to meet together with Nehemiah in the House of God, in other words the Temple, with closed doors. He told Nehemiah that they, his enemies, were coming to kill him that night, and he needed to go there for safety. However, Nehemiah saw through his deceptive plan, which would have broken the laws of the LORD for His House. He stated, “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.” It was then that Nehemiah fully perceived that surely God had not sent this Shemaiah. In time he would discover his false prophecy against him was the result of Tobiah and Sanballat hiring him to bring bad news. They had, again, devised schemes to frighten God’s man in order to make him act indecisively and sin, so that they could give an evil report and bring criticism on him. Nehemiah once more prayed an imprecatory prayer, “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).”
-Through all the attempted distractions and controversy the wall was completed in record time, in 52 days, on the twenty-fifth of the month of Elul (late summer near the end of August or early September in our calendar, for interesting insight on this date see: http://hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Fall_Holidays/Elul/Creation/creation.html). “When the enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.” Also, in those days there were many letters that went back and forth between some of the nobles of Judah and Tobiah. Many in Judah were bound by an oath to Tobiah because he was a son-in-law of Schecaniah the son of Arah, and his son had married the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah (Nehemiah 3:30). They were trying to convince Nehemiah of Tobiah’s good deeds in his presence, and behind his back they would tell Tobiah everything Nehemiah was saying. Then Tobiah would keep sending these letters designed to frighten God’s chosen leader to rebuild the walls (Nehemiah 6:15-19). This indeed was a display of intrigue, suspicion, and deception, but God was on the move to do something special in His land of promise.
*Application* What a convoluted situation, right? There are times in our lives when we don’t really know who to trust and which direction to turn. It is imperative in those instances that we rely on the Voice of God and His Word in Scripture to discern, avoid, and act correctly in these types of situations. When God has us on a mission, there will be opposition. But, the fight is worth it, and our great God and King can surely give us complete victory.
Verses to Memorize: Nehemiah 6:9, 16