Nehemiah: Standing Against Subtlety
In everything we do we must line it up with what we know from God's Word and go to Him for guidance. It could be little things like, which route to take home from work during a snowstorm to switching jobs or marrying someone. We have already seen Nehemiah go to God from when he first learned of the state of Jerusalem to handling the four oppositions that he has faced so far. He still cannot slack off no matter the circumstances surrounding him.
Before we see the last two oppositions God gives us a glimpse of home life in chapter 5.
:1 And there was a great cry of the people
and of their wives
against their brethren the Jews.
:2 For there were that said,
and our daughters,
are many: [they have great familial responsibility]
therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live.
:3 Some also there were that said,
We have mortgaged our lands,
that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.
:4 There were also that said,
We have borrowed money for the king?s tribute,
and that upon our lands
:5 Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren,
our children as their children: and,
lo, we bring into bondage our sons
and our daughters
to be servants,
and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already:
neither is it in our power to redeem them;
for other men have our lands and vineyards.
There was a great dearth or famine in the land, people couldn't grow enough crops to sustain their large families and so they start borrowed from the nobles and rulers who were exacting usury (interest) from their brethren, their fellow Israelites. Instead of taking care of each other they started preying on each other like the gentiles did. Nehemiah confronts them:
:6 And I [Nehemiah] was very angry when I heard their
cry and these words.
:7 Then I consulted with myself,
and I rebuked the nobles,
and the rulers,
and said unto them,
Ye exact usury,
every one of his brother.
And I set a great assembly against them.
:8 And I said unto them,
We after our ability have redeemed our brethren the Jews,
which were sold unto the heathen;
and will ye even sell your brethren?
or shall they be sold unto us?
Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer.
:9 Also I said,
It is not good that ye do:
ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God
because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?
:10 I likewise,
and my brethren,
and my servants,
might exact of them money and corn:
I pray you, let us leave off this usury.
:11 Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day,
and their houses,
also the hundredth part of the money, [one percent per month, 12 percent per year]
and of the corn,
and the oil,
that ye exact of them.
:12 Then said they,
We will restore them,
and will require nothing of them;
so will we do as thou sayest.
Then I called the priests,
and took an oath of them,
that they should do according to this promise.
:13 Also I shook my lap, and said,
So God shake out every man from his house,
and from his labour,
that performeth not this promise,
even thus be he shaken out, and emptied.
And all the congregation said,
and praised the LORD.
And the people did according to this promise.
What the rulers and nobles were doing to the people was impoverishing them. Instead of taking care of each other during this crisis situation so that they may stay strong as a people they were taking advantage of the situation.
I am in awe of the people who rebuilt the walls Jerusalem and the temple. Not only were they grieved, ridiculed, suffered wrath and indignation and threatened with war because of their work, this was also taking place during one of the thirteen great famines recorded in God's Word.*
Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arabian were thwarted in all their attempts to stop God's people from rebuilding Jerusalem. Next they turn to subtlety to draw Nehemiah away from his task. But Jeremiah is wise.
:1 Now it came to pass, when Sanballat,
and Geshem the Arabian,
and the rest of our enemies,
heard that I had builded the wall,
and that there was no breach left therein;
(though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;)
:2 That Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying,
let us meet together in some one of the villages in the plain of Ono.
But they thought to do me mischief.
:3 And I sent messengers unto them, saying,
I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down:
why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?
:4 Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort;
and I answered them after the same manner.
Since they couldn't destroy them by propaganda and force they were working under the guise of a mutual treaty, an united nations if you will. Jeremiah refused to be tricked. They had no interest in coexisting with the Israelites. They wanted to bring them down.
Next they try slander and compromise. They are trying to get the people riled up against Nehemiah again.
:5 Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time
with an open letter in his hand; [proclaimed to all that would hear]
:6 Wherein was written,
It is reported among the heathen,
and Gashmu saith it,
that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall,
that thou mayest be their king, according to these words.
:7 And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying,
There is a king in Judah:
and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words.
Come now therefore,
and let us take counsel together. [the compromise]
:8 Then I sent unto him, saying,
There are no such things done as thou sayest,
but thou feignest them out of thine own heart.
:9 For they all made us afraid, saying,
Their hands shall be weakened from the work,
that it be not done.
Now therefore, O God,
strengthen my hands.
Nehemiah's response was to always go to God and not be tricked by their subtlety and compromise. The pressure is mounting daily and Nehemiah is presented with another compromise to hide within the temple to save his life.
:10 Afterward I came unto the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son
who was shut up; [hidden/concealed]
and he said,
Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple,
and let us shut the doors of the temple:
for they will come to slay thee;
yea, in the night will they come to slay thee.
:11 And I said,
Should such a man as I flee?
and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life?
I will not go in.
:12 And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him;
but that he pronounced this prophecy against me:
for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.
:13 Therefore was he hired,
that I should be afraid,
and do so,
and that they might have matter for an evil report,
that they might reproach me.
:14 My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works,
and on the prophetess Noadiah,
and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear.
:15 So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul,
in fifty and two days.
With all of this happening they still finished the wall in 52 days. That is a lot of work to accomplish in 52 days during a famine with half of the people standing watch and the other half working. The people definitely had a mind to work. Because of their commitment to God's work and them not straying from the Word they were able to accomplish great things even in the face of opposition mentally and physically.
God has not changed.
:10 Finally, my brethren,
be strong in the Lord,
and in the power of his might.
:11 Put on the whole armour of God,
that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood,
but against principalities,
against the rulers of the darkness of this world,
against spiritual wickedness in high places.
:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God,
that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day,
and having done all, to stand.
:14 Stand therefore,
having your loins girt about with truth,
and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
:15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
:16 Above all,
taking the shield of faith,
wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.
:17 And take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit,
which is the word of God:
:18 Praying always
with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit,
and watching thereunto
with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;
Nehemiah could stay focused on his task at hand because he kept the Word of God in his mind. He wasn't tricked by the various attacks from the unbelievers. Let us keep the Word in our minds and practice the presence of God so that we may walk victoriously with Him.
* Famines in the Old Testament were Satan's attempt to destroy the Christline. The thirteen famines recorded in the Word are (dates are according to E.W. Bullinger):
Genesis 12:10 - after 1921 B.C., Abram and Sarai forced into Egypt, Sarai
almost taken as a concubine to Pharaoh
Genesis 26:1 - after 1812 B.C., Isaac tempted to go to Egypt yet God said to go to Gerar. Isaac calls Rebekah his sister and Abimelech the king of the Philistines wanted to take her.
Genesis 41:54 - 1707 B.C., seven years of famine that God told Joseph to tell Pharaoh in Egypt
Ruth 1:1 - 1336 B.C., Ruth?s husband?s parents forced to live in Moab, Naomi returns to Judah with Ruth afterwards
II Samuel 21:1 - 932 B.C. during the reign of David
I Kings 18:2 - 800 B.C. three year famine during the time of Elijah
II Kings 4:38 - 788-801 B.C. during the time of Elisha
II Kings 7:4 - 788-801 B.C. during the siege of Syria against Samaria in Elisha's time
II Kings 25:3 - 479B.C. during the siege of Nebuchadnezzar against Jerusalem
Nehemiah 5:3 - 454 B.C. during the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem
Jeremiah 14:1 - 497 or 480 B.C. during the reign of Josiah
Luke 15:14 - Parable of the Prodigal Son or should we say the Forgiving Father
Acts 11:28 - during the days of Claudius Caesar who reigned from 41-54 A.D.