Today: [Nehemiah Six] Never Negotiate with Your Critics. In this chapter Sanballat again attempts to distract Nehemiah from the rebuilding of the walls of the city. Nehemiah refuses and Sanballat uses many tactics to persuade him. This episode in Nehemiah’s life is a powerful instruction to us as we purpose to seek first the kingdom and are resisted by others who are in disagreement with the work of God.
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[Neh 6:1-19 KJV] 1 Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, 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, Come, 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.
5 Then sent Sanballat his servant unto me in like manner the fifth time with an open letter in his hand; 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.
In this chapter we see that the work of rebuilding the walls resumes. There had been a lull in the project because of a famine. As a result of the famine the poor of the land had cried out to Nehemiah because the princes of the land were confiscating their lands and selling their children into slavery. Nehemiah corrects the problem and enacts reforms and now attention is turned again to the completion of the walls and gates of the city. As a result Sanballat rises up once again to impede Nehemiah but this time with a different tactic.
At first Sanballat attempted an all out military intervention against Jerusalem but it failed. Now he sends messengers to Nehemiah saying “let’s negotiate – or else”. Nehemiah’s reply is “I am doing a great work and I am not coming down…” In other words he was seeking first the kingdom and was not going to listen to others who wanted to oppose the work of God.
In your lifetime you will have people who don’t agree with what you believe or what you are doing in pursuit of the kingdom. If they cannot outright intimidate you they will use subtle tactics to draw you away from the things of God. They will send word that they want to sit down with you and have a word about what you are doing. They will ask you to explain yourself – feigning the need to clear up some misunderstanding. You need to learn from the experience of Nehemiah that when this happens you are not just dealing with sinful flesh you are dealing with the spirit of mockery. They may say they respect you, they love you, they are concerned about you but in truth they are mocking you and intending to stop what God is doing in your life.
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. 10 Afterward I came unto the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabeel, who [was] shut up; 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.
Nehemiah rebuffs Sanballat and has no intention of going to meet with him. Apparently some of this was written as the situation was going on because Nehemiah inserts a prayer to God. He is afraid and asks God to give him strength to keep on working. What happens next? Sanballat is not through. It is obvious that Sanballat is not one of the insiders close to Nehemiah but he does have someone who may be able to influence Nehemiah. He has hired Shemaiah to tempt Nehemiah to fear for himself so much that he will leave the walls and hide in the temple.
Here is another important lesson. Never listen to your critics. Further than that never listen to your so-called friends who are listening to your critics. When your friends come to you asking you to answer the accusations of your critics it locates your friends in terms of where they stand in regard to what God is doing in your life. Jesus Himself dealt with this in his closest disciples:
[Mat 15:12-14 KJV] 12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? 13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. 14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
When you are supporting a ministry and someone begins to criticize let the scripture discern the situation. Leave them alone. They are blinded people who want to be leaders themselves and if you listen to them you will both wind up in a ditch. They are blind to what God is truly doing in whatever ministry you are following because they can only believe in and get excited about what they themselves have control over. Their control is manifested when they want you to make a decision or be an extension into a ministry or group that they know they can’t manipulate on their own. Learn not to engage with critical, gossip prone people.
13 Therefore [was] he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, 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. 16 And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard [thereof], and all the heathen that [were] about us saw [these things], they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God. 17 Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and [the letters] of Tobiah came unto them. 18 For [there were] many in Judah sworn unto him, because he [was] the son in law of Shechaniah the son of Arah; and his son Johanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah. 19 Also they reported his good deeds before me, and uttered my words to him. [And] Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear.
The intent of the spirit of mockery against you is to cause you to be afraid. When courage finds you and faith is flowing in your life others will be intimidated. They are intimidated but their ego is still intact – therefore they are not going to draw the conclusion that they are uncomfortable because you have more faith than you do. Therefore their assumption will be if what you presume to do for God makes them pensive then you must be moving in error and deception because they know they are more spiritual than you and they don’t have faith to do what you are doing. The spirit of mockery is rooted in pride and unbelief.
Depending on their level of sophistication they will use any number of tactics against you to bring you down to their level. Sanballat tried many tactics and finally when the wall was completed in spite of all his efforts he fell into a depression along with all of his confederates including a prophetess named Noadiah.
When the work was complete there were still as many enemies INSIDE the walls as there were outside the walls. The nobles (whom Nehemiah had made enemies of when he forbade them to enslave their brethren) they sent many letters to Tobiah – the ally of Sanballat to inform on Nehemiah. Tobiah responds with letters of his own back to Nehemiah reporting to Nehemiah what is being said against him – all to make him fear.
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