Nehemiah 6:1-14 believe in the greatness of God's work, to know one's motives are pure,  and to utilize the weapon of a consistent past character.
Published March 14th, 2022; Updated March 14th, 2022
Share / Groups / About Author
Phrase Neh 6
When Nehemiah is drawn to the place of "neutral ground" with the enemy, he resists predicated on this -- that the work of God is just too great. Every day the world seeks to draw us to neutral ground, but whether it be philosophically or practically, there can be no neutral ground. Philosophically we must hold fast to our presuppositions, and practically, we must remain unstained. If we believe the work of God is just that great, then our head will be down and our heart running in the will of God, and we will evade this lie of a so-called neutral ground between the world and our Lord's will. When Nehemiah is threatened with defamation of character, he does not seek justification before men, but before God. And since his heart is pure and his motives are true, he doesn't waste many words on this lie. Consider how often you have been misrepresented, misunderstood, or defamed. Were you tempted to spend any amount of time necessary to make your case before men? How much time might Nehemiah have wasted seeking to prove the purity of his heart? He didn't waste even a second. His response was terse: to speak the truth and move on. Jesus answered very similarly before his accusers in Mark 15:2-4 " Then Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” He answered and said to him, “It is as you say.” And the chief priests accused Him of many things, but He answered nothing." When a man has a pure heart before God and knows it, he is not overly concerned with wasting too many words convincing men of anything. When Nehemiah is seduced into a place of fear, his response is immediate and in the moment. What does he reach for to keep himself stable? "Should such a many as I flee?" Albeit in the big picture of our lives, if gospel motivations don't grip our hearts, then our consistent past character will not be a sustainable foundation to lean on. However, in the moment, when he is caught off guard in the middle of a deceitful conversation, he leans back on this argument, "I'm just not that kind of guy!" Since he's not used to running away, he is kept from reacting long enough for clarity to begin to enter. Our past character is a weapon for us in present battles. And when the temptation is fierce and the Word seems distant from our minds, being able to say "I just don't do that kind of thing" will carry you long enough to get your head on straight. Gospel - Let us not forget that Nehemiah was in a high position close to the King when he took off his palace robes and substituted them for those of a laborer. Though he was high, he became low; though he was a friend of the greatest in the land, he identified with the reproached and ashamed, rallying them to build the city of God. Do we have a Nehemiah? Surely Jesus the Highest is the fulfillment of all that Nehemiah foreshadows. And if we can carry the parallel a bit further, might Nehemiah's heart, expressed in the words, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down," be the heart of our savior as well? Does he consider my salvation a great work? And what of building the church of God brick by brick, is that a great work as well? Isaiah 54:9-10 gives us an answer, " For as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, s o have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you. For the mountains shall depart a nd the hills be removed, b ut My kindness shall not depart from you, n or shall My covenant of peace be removed,”s ays the LORD, who has mercy on you." Praise the Lord our Nehemiah has esteemed our salvation a great work, from which nothing will distract Him, and which He is determined to accomplish at all costs.
Phrase Neh 6
Nehemiah 6:1-14
Attempt to Stop the Work #1 - Unassuming Allurement to Neutral Ground
and the rest of our enemies
when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, ... heard
that I had rebuilt the wall,
Content #1
and that there were no breaks left
Content #2
in it
(though ... I had not hung the doors
at that time
in the gates),
Now it happened ...
that Sanballat and Geshem sent
to me,
let us meet together
among the villages
in the plain
of Ono.”
But they thought
to do me harm.
Response to Attempt #1 - Nope, the work is too Great
So I sent messengers
to them,
“I am doing a great work,
so that I cannot come down.
Why should the work cease
while I leave it
and go down
to you?”
But they sent me this message four times,
and I answered them
in the same manner.
Attempt to Stop the Work #2 - Threat of Public Defamation
Then Sanballat sent his servant
to me
as before,
the fifth time,
with an open letter
in his hand.
In it
[It] was written:
It is reported
among the nations,
and Geshem says,
that you ... plan to rebel;
and the Jews
according to these rumors,
therefore, ... you are rebuilding the wall,
Explanation #1
that you may be their king.
And you have also appointed prophets
Explanation #2
to proclaim
concerning you
at Jerusalem,
“There is a king
in Judah!”
Now these matters will be reported
to the king.
So come, therefore,
and let us consult together.
Response to Attempt #2 - Nope, Truth of Pure Motivation
Then I sent
to him,
“No such things ... are being done,
as you say invent them
in your own heart.”
For they all were trying
Ground (Bilateral)
to make us afraid,
“Their hands will be weakened
in the work,
and it will not be done.”
Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.
Attempt to Stop the Work #3 - Hide Behind the Walls of the Church
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, ... they will come
at night
to kill you.”
Response to attempt #3 - Nope, that's not the kind of thing that I do.
And I said,
“Should such a man ... flee?
Ground #1
as I
And who is there
Ground #2
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 ... had hired him.
and Sanballat
[ex. Purpose of 4b]
[H]e was hired,
[f]or this reason ...
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.
according to these their works,
My God, remember Tobiah
and Sanballat, ...
and the prophetess Noadiah
and the rest of the prophets
who would have made me afraid.
There is a degree of panic in this verse, but it is based on supposition. They heard something, and weren't sure of the specifics, though they were right in general.
The phrase seems to highlight the false motives of the inward heart. They are saying one thing and thinking another. Interesting that James chapter 1 specifically says that God never does this, there is no shadow of turning.
This would not convince me at all! What is the appeal? 'Come let is meeting together at some villages in some place.' Persuade me man, you've been working against me for days, convince me you actually want to do something good for me!
How often motives of a godly man are judged to be selfish when they are not. How common is this?
What does he mean by this? It seems that he bases his decision not to listen simply on himself! "Am I that kind of man?" What about himself is he referring to? Is it his role as leader of the work that he is referring to? Or is it more like his character? Or is it his calling? He doesn't specify any of it, but just simply says, I cannot, because it's not me.
Fascinating that between 11b-c and 11d-h there is only one difference, the addition of the fact that it is in the temple that he would be hiding. Therefore the repulsion of the idea of him running to save his life in the second clause is exacerbated by the fact that it is suggested that his refuge be the temple itself. There is an incremental repulsion that the temple be defiled by such a selfish act, and that its purposes be abandoned for the sake of it being the only building around.
There seems to be some rich insight into the attitude a Christian should have in doing realizing that he is doing a great work of God. Certain things must come into priority with other things. One must realize that he cannot be taken away, and he cannot let the work cease. There is a focus in it. And Nehemiah is not afraid to let people know that their priorities for him are not his priorities before God :) That is bold. But it is not because of him, he is bold because of the perceived greatness of the work.
The Manner in which he sent messengers (3a) is continuously, or insistently. He didn't just send a messenger one time, but in this way he sent messenger, over and over again.
On the level of just appreciating Nehemiah's character and seeking to imitate his leadership, it is wonderful to be so persistent. He is rock solid. It's very easy to bend when people of importance request your attention. Not only is there the potential for gain or benefit, but there is also the fear of missing some opportunity or even causing their ill favor to be upon you. But Nehemiah didn't care. Therefore he persistently denied them without being concerned to let them down.
Why was the letter open?
This is a way to pray! A direct prayer that the Lord would do the opposite of the plots and attempts of those who would come against his work. Make our hands even stronger BECAUSE they are trying to weaken them. Is it possible that they intentions of the enemy can become more reason to believe the Lord to do the opposite, which is his will? And believing that, we should see the schemes of the enemy and pray all the more that the Lord would do the opposite. Is it possible that the Lord intends to do his will all the more due to the enemy coming against it, in order to show the world his strength. Is it possible that the enemies attacks become grounds for believing God will answer a prayer like this all the more? Because, if so, then the enemy's itself becomes the means for God to inspire us to prayer, which becomes a means of him accomplishing his will. Thus the enemy becomes the basis for the will of God being done.
Does this refer to the scope of the work (a lot going on), or does it refer to the spiritual importance of the work before the throne of heaven?
In phrasing often both inferences and results are results, because they are often grammatically subordinate phrases. But in this case, this is a new sentence, and therefore I'm going with the logical subordination.
I think I might call this one Spiritual Psychological Warfare The encouragement is that we can walk in victory over psychological warfare without panic. This passage shows us how to pray and how to respond to people's words. This is almost more applicable than direct threat is to our lives (which is what we see in chapter 4.) We see this kind of warfare more often I think. The reason it is psychological is that the whole thing is playing off of potential fears and insecurities, false rumors, what people think, even false favor and external shows of genuineness.
A town in Benjamin. Outside of Current Tel aviv 11 km east. By the coast. Border of Samaria and Judah. Neutral ground as it were.
How should I think differently about God/myself/others because of what I’ve just phrased? In this portion I see the application to the question of thinking differently about others. I'm a bit naive concerning the ways of the world, but I see here the hypocrisy that a simple man could fall prey to if not aware of other's true intentions. Sanballat and Geshem said one thing but thought another. If I were in Nehemiah's shoes, I could easily have been psychologically affected by what might seem like an offer of peace, and think that I ought to accept it. There would be a pressure not to miss the opportunity or even make them angrier by ignoring it. Fear of making them angry and feeling the sense of accusation of injustice by them could really trip me up. But Nehemiah didn't even give them a wink. He was strong, and that was the right and godly decision. It was not proud or unjust. What doctrines are taught in this passage? Doctrine of sin - hypocrisy. Doctrine of Christian life - the gift of discernment, the doctrine of Christian work. What specific contribution to those doctrines does this passage make? The dynamic of the circumstance presented is a pretty strong indicator or what a godly leader looks like in the midst of hypocritical cries for peace. What other Scripture texts add to the truths taught in this passage? At the end of Luke 4 Jesus goes to other villages and does not let people's desire to have him, or their praise, affect him. Specifically he does this in Nazareth where he shuts down the very people praising him, and causes their anger to be even more outright. I think Paul did something like this too in Lystra, when they wanted to worship him and he shut them down and then they stoned him. That might actually be a good one because of the flip flop nature of man. (no but there their intentions were not to do paul harm, they just flip flopped. Here the actual intention was to do harm).
The enemy doesn't need to convince, he just needs to distract. Screw tape letters quote. (Although this distraction is a bit more along the lines of the "false peace" kind, and is not so muchalong the lines of "hey get on the internet" kind. I don't think the below quotes apply). You will say that these are very small sins; and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy. It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts, Your affectionate uncle SCREWTAPE Satan called a worldwide convention. In his opening address to his evil angels, he said, "We can't keep the Christians from going to church. We can't keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. We can't even keep them from forming an intimate, abiding relationship experience in Christ. If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken. So let them go to church, let them have their conservative lifestyles, but steal their time, so they can't gain that experience in Jesus Christ. This is what I want you to do, angels. Distract them from gaining hold of their Savior and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day!" "How shall we do this?" shouted his angels. "Keep them busy in the nonessentials of life and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds, "he answered. "Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow. Persuade them to work for long hours, to work 6 - 7 days a week, 10 - 12 hours a day, so they can afford their lifestyles. Keep them from spending time with their children. As their family fragments, soon, their home will offer no escape from the pressures of work." "Over stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still small voice. Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive. To keep the TV, VCR CDs and their PCs going constantly in their homes. And see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays non-biblical music constantly. This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ." ADVERTISEMENT "Fill the coffee table with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day. Invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, sweepstakes, mail order catalogues, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services, and false hopes." "Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from their recreation exhausted, disquieted, and unprepared for the coming week. Don't let them go out in nature to reflect on God's wonders. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts and movies instead." And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotion." "Let them be involved in soul-winning. But crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from Christ. Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family for the good of the cause." It was quite a convention in the end. And the evil angels went eagerly to their assignments causing Christians everywhere to get busy, busy, busy and rush here and there. Has the devil been successful at his scheme? You be the JUDGE. Rich DeRuiter “Remember, he is not, like you, a pure spirit. Never having been a human (Oh that abominable advantage of the Enemy's!) you don't realise how enslaved they are to the pressure of the ordinary. I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years' work beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defence by argument I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool. I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch. The Enemy presumably made the counter-suggestion (you know how one can never quite overhear What He says to them?) that this was more important than lunch. At least I think that must have been His line for when I said "Quite. In fact much too important to tackle it the end of a morning", the patient brightened up considerably; and by the time I had added "Much better come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind", he was already half way to the door. Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man's head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of "real life" (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all "that sort of thing" just couldn't be true. He knew he'd had a narrow escape and in later years was fond of talking about "that inarticulate sense for actuality which is our ultimate safeguard against the aberrations of mere logic". He is now safe in Our Father's house. ” Excerpt From The Screwtape Letters C.S. Lewis This material may be protected by copyright.
1 I think the spiritual nature of the work is in view. Nehemiah knows history. He knows the significance of the jewish return from babylon prophetically (with which he is now participating). Therefore, the "greatness" of the work is not putting emphasis on scope as much as it is on significance. (This is a key) - So the lesson is "to keep alive in your conscience the incredible significance of God's work you are involved in is itself a defense against the enemy when he puts pressure on you to think of other things as more significant." I think it is a healthy thing spiritual to sit back in amazement every once in a while and say "wow, what am I a part of." Do I do it right now? Or do I despise the work?
2 Understanding the significance of his own role in the work is true too. "If I get make the wrong decision I could have a bigger impact than I think."
A grammatically result, though it is an inference of the previous piece. "Because I am doing a great work, the work shouldn't have to cease while I leave.."
3 Cross reference Now when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them; but He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” And He was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee. Luke 4:42 Jesus response in luke 4 seems very similar to Nehemiah's in Neh 6, because of the similarity of the motivating principle! This is a GREAT WORK, because it's GODS WORK. Therefore I can't let even the desire of men for my attention keep me from it. To keep in perspective just how great the work that God is doing is, just how valuable, just how important, will be your defense in choosing what you end up doing. It is your filter that will defend you from wasting time. Filtering through the principles of God's word to make sure we are not distracted from the GREAT WORK of God!
This would mean a great betrayal of confidence, since the king put so much confidence in his servant. The city of Jerusalem was on sketchy ground politically due to its history. And
Interesting to consider how far they would have gone with this. Nehemiah does know the king personally, and can probably gain access much better than Geshem and Sanballat can. So would they have sent the letter. It is worth noting in passing, that it is nice to know the King. I think the concerns for my reputation would be a lot less worrisome if I had a greater confidence that I knew the King, and that the King knew me.
One thing I observe about Nehemiah's response is that he doesn't see fit to justify himself or start trying to gather evidence concerning his point of view. He just flat denies it, and Grounds his denial on the truth of Sanballat's twistied motive (v.9). It is a discouraging thing for somebody to think you are a certain way. It makes you want to spend your life explaining, and justifying, and proving to no end that your point of view is right. We could waste so much time doing that and miss the great work that God has for us. This is me. Lord help me not to waste one more second trying to justify myself before men, whether Brad or anybody else. I have wasted so much time and thought and mental energy. Help just to land on the truth, and to know the truth, and to let the rest go. Is it even worth the battle? No, so often it is not. It's just not true, now excuse me I have work to do. "Lord I pray that their intentions might be frustrated and us refreshed in the work through your Spirit.
These attacks are much more personal. They are not attacks on the city, nor the people in general, as in chapter 4, but rather are directed at Nehemiah himself. All three of them in this chapter have this characteristic. It's different when the attack is directed at you the person. Harder to deal with. Application, anybody after me?
I think Nehemiah would have been tipped off at this point. This would have meant to break the law correct? 2 Chronicles 23:6 This is the law Uzziah broke when he became uplifted at the end of his life. In fact, if Nehemiah had entered the house of God, that would give fire to other rumors that he might have been declaring himself King. It would have had the appearance of evil and the back story would not have been the front story.
Nehemiah came to him, I wonder why?
It was a moment of Spiritual discernment. It was a word of knowledge/wisdom.
I don't think I'm running to church to hide myself from enemies that are not chasing me yet. What would would some application or implication to this then? One thought, utilizing of spiritual resources for self preservation? What do we do when afraid? Run inside the church? The walls of the church becoming a means of self preservation, keeping you from the true work of God out in the world. Interesting that the first temptation was intended to draw Nehemiah away from the mission to a place of compromise with worldly people. And this one is the very opposite, to draw Nehemiah into self preservation mode inside the temple. What's interesting is that this fits the categories that Tim Keller gave years ago concerning the two types of Christians that seek to protect themselves. They say "we need to reach out' but they rech out so far that they compromise, they become the world. Or the say "holiness" but really they are afraid of having to confront the world and so they are really just hiding in the church. I have drifted back and forth between these, but I think generally I have tended to hide within the church, one of the reasons I have attempted to keep going on Friday afternoons.
He's against the idea from the outset before he realizes he's being deceived. Which means he was against the idea on different grounds--what were they? He says here twice, "such a man as I" should not flee, or go into the temple. Why does he say that? Is he really just saying, I'm just not that kind of guy? Acts 25:29 And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day {t} might become such as I am— except for {u} these chains.” Is Paul saying something similar? There is a sense in which he is standing on who he is and boasting in it (?). There is a degree to which he has lived life with a certain degree of character, is now able to stand on that character. There is just no way he would act like that. Consider the context, he is in a moment of temptation, in the middle of a conversation, he doesn't have time for a well thought out theological statement concerning the proper use of the temple or the resource for fear. He is sort of going with his gut here, and I think, in his guy, he just feels wrong about it, it's just not something he can do. Why doesn't it totally settle well with me? Well I think I wish he would have said "No I won't be afraid, what can man do to me, I stand for the Lord!" or quoted Is 41:10 or something. Or referred to the Lord in some way. The way he said this here almost sounds self righteous. Should my own character or role be the basis of my fighting sin? Should I lean on my self. I remember that one bill O-reilly on the view show, "I'm just not that kind of guy." So I'm wondering, "is that really your argument, your going to boast about yourself and that's why you don't see it that way?" It don't think it would be a godly thing to say if Nehemiah said, "You kidding, I'm a cupbearer, a servant of the king!" or "Hey man I'm governor of this place, I'm not running afraid." People can brag pretty hard about how not afraid they are when reasons to fear come knocking at their door, and that is how they deal with their fear.
He could have been made afraid by all these things. Fear would have caused him to be overly sensitive to the outreach of God's enemies, overly concerned for the rumors of God's enemies, and ready to run into the church to hide from God's enemies. They would have, but they didn't.
What is passive aggressive? I think this is it. You are acting very passive, but underneath is aggression that all of sudden comes out in unexpected ways because that person was passive before. Mayo Clinic definition: Passive-aggressive behavior is a pattern of indirectly expressing negative feelings instead of openly addressing them .
How should I feel differently about God/myself/etc. because of what I’ve just phrased? In particular in this passage I am seeing how steadfast Nehemiah's heart is. Though he was approached with compromise 4 times, he would not give in. The Lord had given him a Grounding in his heart that acted as a defense against the distractions of the world, and it caused him to be persistent in it. Why was he able to be so grounded? Because of the greatness of the work. I think this word greatness refers to the importance of the work. He saw through God's lense rather than man's that this little city on the corner of the world, though small in man's eyes, and despised, was in fact the center of God's attention. The true weight of the importance of a work comes from God's evaluation of it. Therefore how should I feel about the work that I am doing? I despise it easily. Small church, corner of the world, I preach on Wednesday night to 20 or 30 people. We are building some ministries. I got 25 kids or so to pour into in kids ministry. Small stuff. YET IT IS GREAT! It is a great work. Do I believe in my heart that it is great? Do I feel the urgency that would cause a steadfastness and cause him to be not at all distracted in the midst of it? I ought to feel the weight of the greatness of the work. Sir Knight of the splendid way - the well was important. What emotions are expressed in this passage? I actually see Sanballat and Tobiah being pretty passive/aggressive in the first two attempts. That are acting like they want peace, but then all of a sudden the aggression comes out when they are not responded to. I see Nehemiah being not moved at all by anything in this chapter, very steadfast and determined, and this means for him that he doesn't express very much emotion. The place I see the most emotion is in the bottom story, with Shemaiah. It seems that shemaiah is acting panicky, trying to cause fear. Very emotional and over-dramatized. Nehemiah is angry at the thought and then suspicious of Shmaiah as he perceives the truth behind his mission. The sarcastic bite of the questions, "Should such a man as I flee?" Suggest that Nehemiah feels pricked with anger as if they are coming close to the special place of the conscience and trying to mess with his own character and reputation. What emotions does this passage exhort me to feel? It exhorts me to feel confident in being able to step out at as a leader, knowing that the same God that upheld Nehemiah will uphold me, and I will also not be moved. It gives me confidence that, staying close to the Lord, nothing can stop me from doing his will. It helps me to believe that the truth perceptions necessary will be present by the Spirit. It calms me as I am caused to let go of my reputation and focus on the work as God moves me forward.
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.