Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and 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; indeed, at night they will come to kill you.” And I said, “Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!” Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me. My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to these their works, and the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid. Nehemiah 6:10-14 (NKJV)
What we see here might be the most hurtful attack of all. Nehemiah goes to visit what appears to be a friend of his named Shemaiah. When he came to Shemaiah’s house Shemaiah has a suggestion for Nehemiah. Given what Nehemiah says in verse 14 it almost seems as though Shemaiah was seeking to put himself off as a prophet of God. He seems to be trying to say to Nehemiah, “Thus says the Lord, let’s go hide in the temple so they don’t kill you.” The problem with this is that Shemaiah wasn’t a prophet and he was also a secret informer who had been hired by Sanballat and Tobiah. I call this the most hurtful attack of all because now a fellow Jew and a friend of Nehemiah’s gets caught up in the opposition.
I love Nehemiah’s courageous response. Nehemiah understood that in his position as leader, cowardice would be deadly for the work of God. There is no way the Nehemiah could have called on the people to complete the work of God while he was cowering in fear. He could not let fear keep him from doing the work of God. Nehemiah wisely recognized that this “prophecy” didn’t come from God but from his enemies.
Nehemiah makes an interesting observation. What sin was he talking about? According to the Law of Moses no one but the priests was to be allowed to go within the temple to the sanctuary. Shemaiah was enticing Nehemiah to sin by going into a portion of the temple he wasn’t allowed to enter. This would accomplish a couple of things for the enemies. First it would stop the work of God. Nehemiah was the driving force behind the work being accomplished. Without him there many wouldn’t keep working and so it would stop. Secondly it would discredit Nehemiah as a leader. How could he call on them to persevere in the work when he quit when things became hard and scary. Thirdly it would cast doubt on Nehemiah’s devotion to God. How could he claim to be devoted to God when he was willing to disobey God in order to save his own skin?
Those who oppose the work of God don’t like to go it alone. The more people they can get on their side the better they like it and the better they feel about their ungodly behavior. Very often we won’t know who all is involved in the opposition. Sadly, like Nehemiah, we may be shocked to find who has joined the opposition. I feel pretty confident to say that we’ve all either seen one friend turn on another friend during time of opposition or we’ve been the friend that was turned on during the time of opposition. Hopefully none of us have been the friend that turned on the other during a time of opposition.
We need wisdom and perseverance in order to complete the work of God. Those who oppose us will not always come and openly oppose us. Instead many times they will try to infiltrate our circle of friends and deceive us in ways that will result in us stopping the work. Sadly we need wisdom to discern when our “friends” are giving us good, Bible based, Spirit filled advice and when this advice comes from the opposition. If the advice will require us to disobey God we can be sure that this isn’t Bible based, Spirit filled advice and it must be rejected.
At the same time we need to persevere and keep on going with the word despite the constant opposition. One of the main lessons we learn from the book of Nehemiah is that the enemy doesn’t give up easily. Sanballat and Tobiah have gone from murmuring against Nehemiah, to ridiculing and scheming against the work Nehemiah was trying to do, to trying to discourage Nehemiah and the workers to conspiring against and attacking Nehemiah personally. Through it all Nehemiah persevered and kept going in the work. If you look at verses 15-19 you see that Nehemiah’s perseverance resulted in the work of God being completed.
We absolutely must persevere if we want to finish the work of God. If Nehemiah had quit at any point along the way the work would not have been completed. It will be the exact same way for us. We must persevere if we want to finish the work of God.
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Galatians 6:9 NKJV)
We will reap from our labor for God, but only if we don’t lose heart and quit. I wonder how many times we’ve quit just shy of the finish line. The work of God will always be opposed and it will always be hard. If we quit when we face opposition and it gets hard we will NEVER see it through to completion. The enemy will persevere and so we must as well.