Nehemiah 6

Nehemiah 6: A Place Called ONO.

As we study the historical account of the reconstruction of the war-ravished Jerusalem, we see similarities to where we are in our Christian journey 2500 years later.  God’s people, the Jews had been taken captive during Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed Solomon’s temple and left Jerusalem in a state of ruin, with walls broken down and gates burned.

Then came the Persian empire that defeated the Babylonian empire and under King Cyrus, the exiled Jews were permitted to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. Ezra and Zerrubbabel had rebuilt the temple- but the walls were still in disrepair and the gates burned.

When this condition was brought to Nehemiah’s attention, he became concerned and was willing to volunteer to lead the reconstruction and restoration project to restore what the enemy had ruined. Thus we are reading about an actual historical event that also serves as lesson to help us today in knowing how to solve the problems in our lives, our families, our church, community and nation. For surely, we have been taken captive and are under the yoke of slavery that the Lord Jesus has redeemed us from at Calvary.

However, a study of this time in the history of Israel reveals many when they had the chance to return from exile chose to stay in Babylon. They were comfortable. They did not want to endure the hardships of rebuilding what appeared to be an overwhelming job, not to mention potentially dangerous.  Do you have a ‘Babylon’ in your life- that you do not want to leave? When you look at certain areas of your life – do you view the ruin that needs to be restored as an impossible task?  Have you forgotten that with the Lord- nothing is impossible? Has the enemy discouraged you? Has your old nature, the flesh, convinced you out of selfishness that you would be wise to stay out of this work?

Here is the question we must each answer for ourselves:  am I doing my part? Am I working on the section of the wall, rebuilding a gate that the Lord has for me to do?

So we have seen so far, to do this work, one must : first- be concerned, second pray, fast and weep out of our concern, and then volunteer. Here I am Lord, send me. Then comes the construction that means we must  be prepared.  Then you can be sure there will be conflict, so we must be on guard.  And now we see the enemy is persistent, does not give up easily and continues to come at us from different angles with different strategies.  So we must – be determined and discerning.

Here is what this story reveals we can expect when we step up to plate to volunteer to do the work of the Lord:

We can expect :

To be laughed at by many, made fun of by the scoffers who think themselves wise and sophisticated.

Incur the anger of others.

See our enemies multiply.

Experience dissension among team members.

Experience distractions and troubling circumstances.

Have our motives questioned.

Be gossiped about and slandered and misunderstood.

The Bible tells us our enemy comes at us like: a roaring lion, a deceptive serpent, a friend who betrays you with a kiss, or even one who appears as an angel of light. The enemy comes with the weapon of fear to intimidate, and when that does not work- he resorts to flattery, pretended friendship. In this way the enemy uses a strategy and weapon that can be even more dangerous.  The strategy of compromise.  This calls for a counter attack on our side of determination and discernment. How does one go about developing these weapons?

Compromise  is defined as settling differences by mutual concessions.  Compromise among like-minded Christians can be a good thing. As Paul writes in  Philippians 2: “…then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interest, but also to the interest of others.” Notice this compromise is among people who are like-minded, have the same love, the same spirit and the same purpose.  A careful reading of these verses tells us who we can compromise with and for what purpose we compromise. It makes clear compromise with an enemy is never right.

Today there is a word used to described our determination to be true to God’s Word . The word is  intolerant. We are called intolerant because we refuse to tolerate certain things according to God’s word. Tolerance is defined as: ‘ lack of opposition for beliefs and practices different from one’s own.’ Therefore intolerance would be opposing beliefs and practices different from our own. We have been told ‘ we are no longer just a Christian nation.’ We are a pluralistic society and culture who must be accepting and tolerant of others beliefs- not intolerant.  Intolerance has come to have a negative connotation; because tolerance is a politically correct word, intolerance is not. If God’s Word says something is wrong and a sin, am I not to oppose it?  Jesus said we either are gathering with Him or we are scattering. In certain areas, there is no concession, there is no compromise and this is always true when we are dealing with the enemy. However, remember we are to speak the truth in love.

So we must ask God to give us spiritual discernment. We must be familiar with Gods’ Word, for it is absolute truth. We should engraft it in our hearts and minds. Remember the Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit.’ It is alive and powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes(intentions) of the heart.’(Hebrews 4:12) Knowledge of the Word of God increases our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and gives us spiritual discernment. It allows us as Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 10 to: ‘demolish arguments and pretensions that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.’

These verses bring up an image in my thoughts of the Holy Spirit standing at the entrance of my mind inspecting every thought that comes into it- dividing it for motive and intention to see if there is any wicked way or dangerous deception in it. It is like the security at the airport, I must pass through a detection device that screens me and my baggage for anything I am forbidden to take aboard a plane.  So does the Spirit of God use the Word of God to detect any forbidden thought to be brought into my mind. This provides the believer with discernment.

Do you know that you can know what God’s will is in any given situation?  How?  Let the Word of God tell you exactly what you need to do:  “ Therefore, I urge you ( put your name in here), brothers ( and sisters) in view of God’s mercy, to present (offer) your bodies as living sacrifices (volunteer for duty), holy and pleasing to God- this is your act of spiritual worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world ( get out of Babylon), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve (discern) what God’s will is- his good, pleasing and perfect will.” ( Romans 12:1-2)   Here is the formula: Presentation+ Transformation= Revelation of God’s Will.

Discernment means to discover with your eyes or your mind. That is why Paul prayed for the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of our heart that we might see the truth.

So Nehemiah has resisted and persisted through the scoffing, the threats of intimidation and the discouragement of his team members and the selfishness and stayed strong and unmoved. Now the enemy comes with an olive branch of proposed peace. Of compromise that works for both of them.

The enemy sent a message to Nehemiah and said: “ come, let us meet together in the villages on the plain of Ono.” Meet us halfway, Nehemiah, and let’s work together. Let’s compromise and make some mutual concessions.

Nehemiah has spiritual discernment. He knew they were scheming to harm him. So his reply: “ I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” We also see Nehemiah’s commitment to the Lord’s work provides the needed determination to finish the task. Having put his hand to the plow, Nehemiah is not looking back.

( I personally like the name of the plain- O No!  Which we should always remember is wherever  the enemy wants us to meet him- our reply should always be  O No!)

Here are some things we need to notice about Nehemiah’s reply.

  • It was immediate. He did not entertain the thought. He recognized immediately there was no concession he was willing to make with the enemy.
  • He had already determined what he would say beforehand. In Nehemiah 2:20- “ I answered them(Sanballat and Tobiah) by saying, “ The God of Heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” Have you decided and determined  beforehand what your response will be when the enemy attempts to lure you into compromise?
  • He was determined, which made him consistent. They would send him the same message four times and four times he sent back the same reply.
  • He was determined because he viewed what he was doing was a great work God had called him to do. This is where our determination comes from- doing the will of God is our priority.

Now you might be thinking, I am not sure I am doing a great work for the Lord. Not long ago, a writer for a Christian magazine interviewed  James Dobson and Chuck Swindoll for an article and during the interviews asked them about who had influenced their lives.  Both men in answering mentioned a professor in seminary by the name of Dr. Howard Hendricks.  Intrigued that two men whose ministry had impacted millions of people would both mention this same man as having an influence on their lives, the writer sought out this professor and interviewed Dr. Howard Hendricks and asked him the same question as to who had most influenced his life. Without hesitation, the renowned professor gave the name of his sixth grade Sunday School teacher, a man with an eighth grade education who worked with his hands but so loved those boys that when Dr. Hendricks was asked to preach his eulogy he discovered at the funeral that 8 of the 12 boys in class with him had become preachers.

In Matthew 25, we are told when the Lord comes in all His glory to establish his kingdom on earth, all the nations will be gathered before Him. He will set the goats on His left and His sheep on His right. The sheep will enter into His Kingdom prepared for them and receive their inheritance. He says to them: “ I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and your clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”  Their response was when did we do this for you Lord?  And the Lord said, when you did it to the least of these my brothers,you did it unto Me.

These people were not aware of a great work they were doing. But they were doing a great work in the eyes of the Lord. They did it out of their love for the Lord showing love for their neighbors by giving to them what they needed when they needed it.  They were not teachers or preachers or evangelists- but in their own way, they were like missionaries providing needs and thus showing and sharing the love of God which was shed abroad in their hearts. They shared what they had with others who needed it. They shared God’s love in a real, tangible physical way by providing real, tangible physical needs. They were literally ‘good Samaritans.’

Our story also reveals in this chapter, the enemy does not give up. He continues to attack coming from a different angle with a different strategy.

Notice the next letter they send is unsealed. Why is it unsealed?  Because the enemy knows those carrying the message will open it and read it and tell others of its contents. The enemy knows this about human nature, it loves to know secrets and considers information a source of power, making gossip and rumors a national past time.   So they make a false accusation that accuses Nehemiah of wanting to become their king.

When you step up to the plate to do God’s word and restore what has fallen into ruin-your motives will be questioned. Rumors will be spread that you have selfish motives, that your service is not to the Lord but to empower you and put you in a favorable position for your own personal gain and glory and recognition.  ( In the business world this is called-‘resume building’, or climbing the corporate ladder.)

Again, a determined Nehemiah will not be distracted. He replies this is not true- you are lying and making this up.

No sooner had Nehemiah denied this accusation that the enemy strikes again from another area. Nehemiah tells us of a visit one day to the house of Shemaiah, who tells Nehemiah to meet him in the temple and close the doors for men are coming to kill him.

Again, Nehemiah is prepared, on guard and determined. He realizes God had not sent this man, but he was hired by Tobiah and Sanballat to intimidate him.

When your mind has been programmed with the Word of God it has the ability to operate like a lie detector. Nehemiah discerns this man is a traitor who works for the enemy.

Nehemiah always remembered who He was- a servant called by God to do a work. We must remember we are also.

If you remember who you are –  a child of God, a joint heir with Jesus, blessed with every spiritual blessing, and indwelt, empowered and sealed with the Holy Spirit and remember also who  our God is- Almighty God, a mighty bulwark who never fails- then we can have discernment and determination to stay on task. To press toward the mark.

Be aware. Be prepared. Be on guard. Be determined and discerning.

And when the enemy beguiles us to meet them halfway- we will reply  OH NO!

Copyright © 2010 Linda Benthal
Last modified: 08/12/14