I have the honor of preaching this weekend from Nehemiah 6:1-14, and I’ve gotta say, I have a really odd sense of apprehension about it. As I get more confident in my own preaching style and method, whole new directions and lines of thought and teaching are opening up to me, and I can’t be too sure which ones to take. This post is something of a primer and practice round for me, so pardon my mental hailstorm.

So far in the story of Nehemiah, we’ve got a guy who was the cup bearer for the King of Persia (pretty powerful dude) and has been turned into the King’s personal go-to guy for a specific project; he gets to direct the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Historically there is a ton of stuff in that alone, but just know this: it was mega-controversial, and there were a lot of people who didn’t like it one bit. Two of those guys (and their cronies, no doubt) come up an awful lot in the story, and they are Sanballat and Tobiah. So far, they have suggested that Nehemiah was rebelling against the king (which is ludicrous since our hero gets permission and then some from said king), mocked the Jews for their work, ridiculed the structural integrity of the wall, and plotted to kill the workers. Classy.

At this point, we hear from the dynamic duo once again. They say “Come and let us meet together in one of the villages in the plain of Ono”, which is obviously away from Nehemiah’s protection. Nehemiah perceives that they intend to do him harm…and rightly so, given their track record so far. So Nehemiah informs them that he isn’t coming. His work is too important and they are too UNimportant for it to be worth his time. You’d think that they’d get the point, but they obviously missed it because they sent the same request four more times. Being turned down the same way each time, the fifth was actually a little different. This time, they tell him that there is a rumor floating around that the Jews intend to rebel, and that Nehemiah intends to become their king. They ask him to meet with them, so they can sort the rumor out. Here is his response in the JPV (Justin’s Paraphrased Version):

“You are a bad liar, and a freakin’ lunatic to boot!”

Seriously, he says “You are MAKING THIS UP in your own mind!” And here is where I think the pivotal moment is. Sanballat And Tobiah Co. are now actively assaulting Nehemiah himself, in terms of his purpose and intentions as they pertain to the rebuilding of the wall. His enemies are bluffing…hoping that he’ll fall for it, show up unprotected and be captured or killed so that the pesky Jews will just go somewhere else.

In poker, one of the most painful things you can do to someone is call their bluff. They just threw a bunch of money on the table hoping that somebody would match it with a lesser hand or fold. But Nehemiah had a better hand…and he knew it. He had direct confirmation from God that his purpose was to lead the rebuilding process. He had a personal guard along with the right to pass throughout the land unharmed/unhindered given to him by the king. He held the trump hand in every possible way…and he called their bluff and stayed the course.

Even after this, the antagonists HIRED a guy to try and deceive him further, drawing him into a temple and again, away from the work he had been given. Nehemiah actually said that he would have been made to SIN by retreating from his work. He saw that the whole time, his enemies were trying to make him afraid. Afraid for his life, for his work and for his purpose. But once again, he called the bluff. He knew that if God was for him, then none could stand against him.

The takeaway is relatively simple. Stand firm in what your God is doing in and through you. Your enemies (some from within) will try and sway you, distract you and make you afraid, even to the extent bold-faced lying. Your God is not fooled, nor does He want you to be. Jesus called a spade when he saw it, just like Nehemiah did. When Peter seemingly feared for Jesus’ life, he got rebuked because he was speaking against the very purpose of that life.

In the end, it is about what God has in mind. Not you or those around you.

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