Nehemiah 6: Cunning Enemies
August 12, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Despite their ongoing success, the enemies continue their attack. Now it is a policy of fear mongering. They wish to make Nehemiah afraid, to make him look bad, to sully his name, and therefore cause his leadership to fail.
They begin by inviting him to meet. Nehemiah wisely refuses, understanding that there could be no middle ground between them, and any perception of compromise would only weaken his case and his argument and therefore the project itself. His reply is classic: “I am doing a great work and cannot come down” (6:3).
Next, they send an open letter (6:5). That is, it is a letter that anyone who passed the message on to Nehemiah would be able to read. It was a form of public letter, in a sense, designed to spread rumors about Nehemiah that were scurrilous and a downright fabrication. Nehemiah refutes their libel (6:8). And he prays: “But now, O God, strengthen my hands” (6:9). While he is being brave, he is conscious of his need for God’s help.
Finally, they become yet more cunning. They hire someone to advise Nehemiah to hide in the temple for safety (6:10). In effect, this would be a public admission that the safety he was claiming to guarantee his people was meaningless. Nehemiah perceives the trap and does not fall into it. “Should such a man as I run away?” (6:11).
The whole situation was fraught with dangers and difficulties, but Nehemiah proved himself equal to the task. How?
First, he was not naive about the evil and cunning that can reside within humans. We should not be cynics, but neither should we be simpletons. And part of wisdom is knowing that people who oppose the work of God in this kind of public, deliberate, vicious, clever way are really not on the side of wanting what is best for you or the people of God. “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” as it is said.
Second, he was aware of the impact of his behavior upon others and the signals he would be sending by acting in certain ways. Leaders are not merely acting for themselves, but their deeds send messages of hope—or the reverse. A wise leader carries him or herself in a way that indicates the real nature of reality around them.
Third, he relied on God personally in prayer. His sudden interjected prayer to God indicates his dire need of help. And he looked to the One who would provide him with help. This last is most important of all.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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