Introduction 1-2 A New Trick 3 The Answer of Nehemiah 4 The Enemy Perseveres, Nehemiah Also 5-7 A New Trick of the Enemy 8-9 Answer of Nehemiah 10 Another Trick 11-13 Nehemiah Sees Through the Trick 14 Prayer of Nehemiah 15-16 The Wall Completed 17-19 Exchange of Letters

Nehemiah 5 is a kind of interlude. In it we see Nehemiah busy with the turmoil among the people. At that time we hear nothing from the enemy. If there is unrest among God’s people, the enemy does not have to make an effort. But Nehemiah has taken away the unrest and is now continuing with the building. Then the enemy will be heard from again. Nehemiah himself is now the target of their enmity. They know: if he is eliminated, the work is over.

A New Trick

1Now when it was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall, and [that] no breach remained in it, although at that time I had not set up the doors in the gates, 2then Sanballat and Geshem sent [a message] to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they were planning to harm me.

The open resistance has been overcome (Nehemiah 4). Also the internal riots have been overcome (Nehemiah 5). Now the devil tries it by trickery. The resistance increases as the wall nears its completion. The enemy combines all his strength and trickery to prevent the completion. The same goes for us. We live in the end time. The battle is almost over. Satan knows that too. That’s why he’s doing everything he can to overturn us and thwart God’s plan.

Several attempts are being made to stop the rebuilding of the wall. The enemy is using various tricks to do so. But all the tricks are seen through because the builders simply attach themselves to the Word of God. The building of the wall is completed (verse 1515So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of [the month] Elul, in fifty-two days.). There is no breach left, there is no hidden way to sneak into the city.

The first trick is to arrange a conference, call it a peace conference. The discussion with each other must result in a compromise. But Nehemiah doesn’t walk into that trap. Wouldn’t it at least have been polite of Nehemiah to listen to what they have to say? No, it wouldn’t. He has nothing to do with the enemies. What they have to say can never be a contribution to the work. The enemy understands nothing of the motives by which a man of faith is led, and is himself led by completely opposite motives.

After ridiculing the work at first, the enemy changes his tactics and tries to make Nehemiah descend into the valley. It’s what we can hear today when people say, “Don’t be so fanatical; join us.’ The enemy pretends there is a common interest. If Nehemiah were to accept the proposal, he would show that he agrees with the enemy.

If Satan fails to tempt us into a moral trap, he sometimes succeeds in having us open up to his advice. Then we look at things with his eyes. When he gets us to that point, we will see God’s work as a useless work, at least not as an exclusive work. There are so many other interesting things. Above all, don’t say goodbye to your worldly friends. Go with them to the cinema and the pub. Do not exaggerate the work of God, otherwise you will go mad and end up in religious madness. The trap is to measure our lives against the world. By friendship with the world, we walk into that trap.

The Answer of Nehemiah

3So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”

Nehemiah’s answer is clear. He let it be known that he “cannot come down”. Therein lies the meaning that by going to them, he would go down a path. This is not a picture of self-abasement here, but of leaving the way the Lord wants us to go (cf. Jona 1:33But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.; Lk 10:3030Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead.).

The plain of Ono is also called “the valley of craftsmen” (Neh 11:3535Lod and Ono, the valley of craftsmen.). The place where God dwells and where He wants to be worshipped cannot be exchanged without harm for any kind of crafty works of man. God wants us to serve Him at His level and not at the level of a man-made religion.

Nehemiah does not say that he is rebuilding the wall, but that he is “doing a great work”. In doing so, he indicates that it is an important work. Those who have been given a great work by God should not allow themselves to be pulled down to the level of worldly thinking and acting. Focusing on what unbelievers have to say about what we are doing for the Lord would mean delay and damage to God’s work.

The enemy sees in the service of God an enormous threat to his self-formed religion that gives him prosperity. Introducing true service to God poses a threat to that prosperity. Spiritually, the Pharisees see that threat in the Lord Jesus. They see how their authority over the people is crumbling (Jn 11:4848If we let Him [go on] like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”; 12:1919So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.”). Materially, the creators of idols in Ephesus see that threat in the preaching of the apostle Paul (Acts 19:23-4123About that time there occurred no small disturbance concerning the Way.24For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, was bringing no little business to the craftsmen;25these he gathered together with the workmen of similar [trades], and said, “Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business.26You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods [at all].27Not only is there danger that this trade of ours fall into disrepute, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis be regarded as worthless and that she whom all of Asia and the world worship will even be dethroned from her magnificence.”28When they heard [this] and were filled with rage, they [began] crying out, saying, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”29The city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia.30And when Paul wanted to go into the assembly, the disciples would not let him.31Also some of the Asiarchs who were friends of his sent to him and repeatedly urged him not to venture into the theater.32So then, some were shouting one thing and some another, for the assembly was in confusion and the majority did not know for what reason they had come together.33Some of the crowd concluded [it was] Alexander, since the Jews had put him forward; and having motioned with his hand, Alexander was intending to make a defense to the assembly.34But when they recognized that he was a Jew, a [single] outcry arose from them all as they shouted for about two hours, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!”35After quieting the crowd, the town clerk *said, “Men of Ephesus, what man is there after all who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is guardian of the temple of the great Artemis and of the [image] which fell down from heaven?36So, since these are undeniable facts, you ought to keep calm and to do nothing rash.37For you have brought these men [here] who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of our goddess.38So then, if Demetrius and the craftsmen who are with him have a complaint against any man, the courts are in session and proconsuls are [available]; let them bring charges against one another.39But if you want anything beyond this, it shall be settled in the lawful assembly.40For indeed we are in danger of being accused of a riot in connection with today’s events, since there is no [real] cause [for it], and in this connection we will be unable to account for this disorderly gathering.”41After saying this he dismissed the assembly.).

Those who are aware of the importance of God’s commission should not allow themselves to be delayed (cf. Lk 10:3-43Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.4Carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way.). Even the Lord Jesus did not allow Himself to be delayed by false claims of His family (Mk 3:31-3531Then His mother and His brothers *arrived, and standing outside they sent [word] to Him and called Him.32A crowd was sitting around Him, and they *said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.”33Answering them, He *said, “Who are My mother and My brothers?”34Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He *said, “Behold My mother and My brothers!35For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.”).

Any work that has to do with defending the truth of God’s Word and testifying for Him is a great work. Under no circumstances should we allow ourselves to be distracted from the defense of that truth. The enemy has countless means and makes countless attempts to keep us away from the work the Lord has entrusted to us. We must be careful to do that work (cf. Col 4:1717Say to Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it.”).

The Enemy Perseveres, Nehemiah Also

4They sent [messages] to me four times in this manner, and I answered them in the same way.

The enemy shows intrusiveness. He does not give up this tactic either. The pressure to consult is increased. Convinced as he is of his right approach, he keeps inviting Nehemiah to an interview. This should make it clear to Nehemiah that this is the only chance to complete the work. They know that repetition of the message can erode Nehemiah’s resistance, that he will give in to the pressure, and that he will accept their proposal for consultation.

Many have succumbed as a result of incessant pressure. Children who are constantly nagging, can put so much pressure on their parents that they eventually give in. In faith communities, changes are made after constantly putting the same topics on the agenda. It is the tactics that govern diplomacy in the world, lobbying to achieve a certain result or to get a certain order or job.

Pressuring is a tried and tested method of Satan. He has been successful before. Thus Samson has succumbed to the pressure exerted on him to reveal the secret of his power (Jdg 16:15-2115Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have deceived me these three times and have not told me where your great strength is.”16It came about when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death.17So he told her all [that was] in his heart and said to her, “A razor has never come on my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I will become weak and be like any [other] man.”18When Delilah saw that he had told her all [that was] in his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up once more, for he has told me all [that is] in his heart.” Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hands.19She made him sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his hair. Then she began to afflict him, and his strength left him.20She said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.21Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison.). But what has proved successful in the world and with the unfaithful believer has been tried in vain with the man of faith. Nehemiah is consistent in his answer. He sticks to his point of view. Without losing his patience, he always reacts in the same way.

A New Trick of the Enemy

5Then Sanballat sent his servant to me in the same manner a fifth time with an open letter in his hand. 6In 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. 7You 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.”

In close connection with the previous method, the enemy uses a new means: an open letter. This means is an attempt to intimidate. According to the enemy’s view, it is now necessary to consult, because accusations have been made against Nehemiah. They present themselves as his protectors, as people who want to help him refute the accusations. Surely they need to talk to each other about that. If this is no reason to talk, what else could then be a reason!?

If the world cannot persuade the devoted Christian to compromise, it will spread an evil rumor about him and attribute false motives to him. The letter expresses the suspicion that Nehemiah is only building the wall in order to rebel against the ruling authority and then become king himself. If this becomes known, so the undertone is, all confidence in him will be lost. And let Nehemiah remember that this rumor is widespread: “It is reported among the nations”, and that there are also witnesses: “Gashmu”. He must now feel compelled to contact his enemies to discuss how to stop this evil.

This trick of the enemy contains the fabricated accusation that Nehemiah would act proudly and for his own benefit. He would like to present himself as king. People like Abimelech and Absalom have done this (Jdg 9:1-61And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother’s relatives, and spoke to them and to the whole clan of the household of his mother’s father, saying,2“Speak, now, in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that seventy men, all the sons of Jerubbaal, rule over you, or that one man rule over you?’ Also, remember that I am your bone and your flesh.”3And his mother’s relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem; and they were inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our relative.”4They gave him seventy [pieces] of silver from the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, and they followed him.5Then he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself.6All the men of Shechem and all Beth-millo assembled together, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar which was in Shechem.; 2Sam 15:1010But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’”). These sons of God-fearing fathers have claimed kingship and brought destruction upon the people.

The letter speaks of a certain tactic Nehemiah would follow to present himself as king to the people. He would have appointed prophets for this purpose. This would give the coveted kingship the appearance that it was a matter of God’s will. The imagination of the enemy goes far. He knows how to respond to people’s feelings in order to get them to do what he wants. These enemies themselves appear to be familiar with the use of (false) prophets to serve their cause (verse 1414Remember, 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.).

Answer of Nehemiah

8Then I sent [a message] to him saying, “Such things as you are saying have not been done, but you are inventing them in your own mind.” 9For all of them were [trying] to frighten us, thinking, “They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.” But now, [O God], strengthen my hands.

But the open letter has no effect either. Without discussing it, Nehemiah rejects the accusations alluded to in the letter and resorts to God. Domineering attitude is strange to the true leader among God’s people. That the true servant of the Lord is accused of being domineering only says something of the accusers.

From Nehemiah’s reaction we see a confirmation of what we already know about him: that such behavior is far from him. He does not fight the accusation, does not defend himself, but resolutely denies it. His conscience is free. His answer is as simple as it is radical. There is no hesitation. Such clarity is what the people of God need today. With proposals from an enemy you must not continue to search for something in which you are in agreement with each other. Clear and powerful, the distance between the opposing interests is maintained.

Nehemiah reacts here according to the example of the Lord Jesus. What false rumors have been spread about Him. But He kept entrusting everything “to Him who judges righteously” (1Pet 2:23b23and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting [Himself] to Him who judges righteously;).

Nehemiah knows that the enemy is out to frighten them. The enemy knows well that fear of people paralyzes action. If there is fear, the work will stop and not be finished. But Nehemiah understands the intention of the enemy and does not walk into that trap. Instead of defending himself, he resorts to prayer to God. The enemy is out to make the hands powerless, so that they would forsake the work, but Nehemiah prays whether the LORD will strengthen his hands. He speaks boldly, with confidence, to Him whom he knows as the One to Whom he can turn. He prays straight from his heart, without detours and fuss of words, short and therefore telling: “But now, [O God], strengthen my hands.”

It is the prayer of the dependent servant who knows that he himself has no strength. He knows that his hands are powerful only when they are strengthened “from the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob” (Gen 49:2424But his bow remained firm,
And his arms were agile,
From the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob
(From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
). No matter how much his hands have accomplished, no matter how much they must accomplish, nothing will ever be attributed to his own strength. All honor for any work of faith belongs to God.

Another Trick

10When I entered the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined at home, 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, and they are coming to kill you at night.”

Tricks from outside the people are suspicious in advance, so the enemy must have thought after all the unsuccessful attempts. Then we must try it at the next trick by a member of Nehemiah’s people pretending to be a friend. He must get Nehemiah to do something that goes against the law of God: enter the temple.

But how could they get Nehemiah to do that? They will lure him there on the pretext of wanting to protect him from the evil plans of the enemy. Who would lend themselves to sell this story to Nehemiah with a reasonable chance of success? They’ll find someone in Shemaiah who fits their profile.

Shemaiah seems to live in Jerusalem. His father and grandfather are also mentioned. He seems to have locked himself in his house, which prevents him from going to Nehemiah himself. Would he have wanted to reinforce the impression that he himself is afraid of the enemy in order to make his story more believable? In any case Nehemiah will come to him, possibly because Shemaiah called him.

In his story Shemaiah connects his own destiny to Nehemiah’s. Everything has the appearance that there is real concern for Nehemiah. Shemaiah is a compatriot from a known family. He seems to suffer from the enemy as well. He also seems to care about the fate of Nehemiah and is someone who is apparently trusted by Nehemiah. Such a person makes a proposal that seems fair and acceptable. This is a trick that is very difficult to see through.

Under a pious cover, the enemy tries to bring Nehemiah to an act that is contrary to God’s Word. The wolf comes in sheep’s clothing, Satan comes as an angel of light. The man who comes to Nehemiah pretends to be a prophet. He foretells what Nehemiah is about to face. He also offers him a way out, so that he can avoid the danger. He anticipates the fear Nehemiah might have for his life.

Nehemiah Sees Through the Trick

11But I said, “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.” 12Then I perceived that surely God had not sent him, but he uttered [his] prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13He was hired for this reason, that I might become frightened and act accordingly and sin, so that they might have an evil report in order that they could reproach me.

Everything Shemaiah says and does is like friendship, but it is treason. Nehemiah recognizes that Shemaiah is not used by the LORD, but by the adversary, that he even let himself be bribed to do this. Nehemiah’s answer is clear again. When he speaks about “ a man like me”, he expresses the awareness of his responsible position. He simply cannot abandon the work he is doing. He knows that God has called him to this work.

He gives two reasons for his refusal to come. First, he does not allow himself to be frightened. Never will he leave his post for fear and flee (Psa 11:11For the choir director. [A Psalm] of David.
In the LORD I take refuge;
How can you say to my soul, “Flee [as] a bird to your mountain;
). If he did, he would set a very bad example. With the courage of faith and trust in God, he resists the enemy. Secondly, he knows that the place he is offered as a refuge is forbidden territory for him. Entering the temple is only allowed to the priests (Num 3:1010So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons that they may keep their priesthood, but the layman who comes near shall be put to death.”; 18:77But you and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for everything concerning the altar and inside the veil, and you are to perform service. I am giving you the priesthood as a bestowed service, but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”). Going there would be the end of his life and therefore of his work.

It is always important to understand the motives behind any proposal to keep us away from the Lord’s work, even if only for a moment. If we are asked to flee, we must consider from whom this request comes. If it comes from the enemy, we will find that he is appealing to our fear for our own skin. The decision must then be that we stay. It may also be that the Lord Jesus says this to us. We will notice this in the thought that comes to mind that a flight will promote the work of God (Mt 10:2323“But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish [going through] the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.).

The enemy will always reveal himself through the safety he offers. That safety will always be associated with a place that harms God’s interests and plays into the hands of the enemy.

Nehemiah does not believe Shemaiah just like that. He “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1Jn 4:11Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.). God has ordered him to rebuild the wall. Would God now command him to flee? The only test is what God says. The test of God’s Word makes it clear that he is not dealing with a prophet speaking for God.

He is asked to perform an act contrary to God’s Word. By this Shemaiah is unmasked as a false prophet (Deu 13:55But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the LORD your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.). Shemaiah is hired like a Bileam to hurt one of God’s people by tempting him to commit a sinful act. Shemaiah is a corrupt and therefore false prophet. Money determines the message he brings. Money makes him blind to the right of God. The history of King Uzziah shows how God thinks about the unauthorized entering of the temple (2Chr 26:16-2016But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God, for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.17Then Azariah the priest entered after him and with him eighty priests of the LORD, valiant men.18They opposed Uzziah the king and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful and will have no honor from the LORD God.”19But Uzziah, with a censer in his hand for burning incense, was enraged; and while he was enraged with the priests, the leprosy broke out on his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the altar of incense.20Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he [was] leprous on his forehead; and they hurried him out of there, and he himself also hastened to get out because the LORD had smitten him.).

Fear is never a good counselor. “The fear of man [m]brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD shall be put in a safe fortress” (Pro 29:2525Fear of man [someone] lays a trap,
But those who rely on the LORD are put in a safe fortress.
). The Lord Jesus does not allow Himself to be frightened and to be led into a wrong action (Lk 13:31-3231Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, “Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill You.”32And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third [day] I reach My goal.’; cf. Jn 11:9-119Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.10But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”11This He said, and after that He *said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.”). No man can do God’s work if he allows himself to be led by what others say.

Avoiding persecution, a refusal to endure the cross, often stems from the fear of what ‘others will say’ if we want to do a certain work. Fear or anxiety is mentioned as the first characteristic of people who will be eternally in hell (Rev 21:88But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part [will be] in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”). Fear keeps people from making the right decision.

Prayer of Nehemiah

14Remember, 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.

Opposition of those who confess to act in the name of God is far worse than that of declared opponents of God. It is an additional temptation to notice that those who claim to speak in the Name of God are in league with the opponents of the truth.

Again, Nehemiah does not take action, but again resorts to God in this matter (cf. 2Tim 4:1414Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.; Jude 1:99But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!”). There are many forms of evil that cannot be fought openly without harming oneself or others. Many evil workers in the church of God must be left alone. Fighting them would serve more the case of the enemy than the case of God. But our resource is always to call on God about them.

Again we get a glimpse into the prayer life of this man of God. Just like after the defeat of the enemy’s attack from outside (verse 99For all of them were [trying] to frighten us, thinking, “They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.” But now, [O God], strengthen my hands.), Nehemiah also prays here after the defeat of the attack by false prophets. He calls the enemies before God by name. He also brings to God’s attention the evil they want to do to him.

The prophetess Noadiah is only mentioned here. In the Old Testament four more women are called ‘prophetess’: Miriam (Exo 15:2020Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing.), Deborah (Jdg 4:44Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time.), Huldah (2Kgs 22:1414So Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Achbor, Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter); and they spoke to her.) and the wife of Isaiah (Isa 8:33So I approached the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. Then the LORD said to me, “Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz;). These four are real prophetesses. They have spoken God’s words.

The Wall Completed

15So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of [the month] Elul, in fifty-two days. 16When all our 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.

In spite of all opposition and that in many forms the wall is completed. This is a victory over the enemy, achieved by the help of God. The enemy has written off Jerusalem and Judah. But God has not. And when He begins something, He completes it. But we also see in the preceding verses the vigilance of Nehemiah and his devotion to the work.

The fact that the wall has been completed by such a weak people in the face of such a powerful enemy is a testimony to the nations. They fear it and acknowledge in the work the help of God, through Whom the work has come to a successful conclusion. If a work does not have its origin in God’s heart, it will not come to a good end. Then all efforts are of no avail.

We are not here to carry out our church building programs. It is about God’s program. We see the burden of God’s heart in the Lord Jesus, Who sees the crowds “like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt 9:3636Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.). If that burden also comes on our hearts, we can start a work, because then it flows out from the heart of God.

God has no interest in our efforts to create a socially livable environment. Nor does He have any interest in our efforts to establish a new order with world peace. His program follows on from what He started on the day of Pentecost. There, a new order in the power of the Holy Spirit has begun, with which He has set to work and to which anyone who wants to be guided by His Spirit can be put to work. The only hope against all evil is a fighting church that has completely dedicated itself to the will of God.

Exchange of Letters

17Also in those days many letters went from the nobles of Judah to Tobiah, and Tobiah’s [letters] came to them. 18For many in Judah were bound by oath to him because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah the son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah. 19Moreover, they were speaking about his good deeds in my presence and reported my words to him. Then Tobiah sent letters to frighten me.

Among the associates of Nehemiah are those who correspond with the enemy in the person of Tobiah. In this way they exchange thoughts with the enemy. Tobiah is connected with God’s people in two ways, in both cases by marriage. He himself is married to a daughter of Shecaniah; so his father-in-law is a Jew. And his son is married to the daughter of Meshullam; so his daughter-in-law is a Jew. We met Meshullam during the rebuilding of the wall (Neh 3:4,304Next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah the son of Hakkoz made repairs. And next to him Meshullam the son of Berechiah the son of Meshezabel made repairs. And next to him Zadok the son of Baana [also] made repairs.30After him Hananiah the son of Shelemiah, and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section. After him Meshullam the son of Berechiah carried out repairs in front of his own quarters.). Through these connections he has many relatives in God’s people and through them he can exert his influence on the people.

Mixed marriages, i.e. a marriage of a member of God’s people to someone who does not belong to God’s people, are against God’s will (2Cor 6:14-1814Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?15Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?16Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.17“Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you.18“And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty.). Where these are found, the believer is almost always dragged into the world.

Another trick is to speak well of the enemy by Nehemiah’s own people. Tobiah may be an opponent of the building of the wall, but otherwise he is very nice. They also convey the words of Nehemiah to him, putting Nehemiah in a bad light with the enemy. While they praise the enemy to Nehemiah, they speak to the enemy about Nehemiah as a man of words only. However, the letters Tobiah sends to Nehemiah are something. They are real threatening letters.

Through connection with the enemy the discernment disappears. The enemy is then presented as friendly and compassionate. Such views have the purpose of adjusting the conception of people who always see the enemy as the enemy. After all, the enemy has so many good things. Surely we must also have an eye for that.

Yet the enemy does not get anywhere with all his attempts to prevent the work. Herein lies an encouragement for everyone who is working for the Lord. If the Lord is trusted in the work, any attack by the enemy will come to nothing. Nehemiah triumphs because he knows God and involves Him in everything.

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