Despite the opposition in chapter 4 & the challenges brought on by the famine conditions and oppression of the marginalised we read about in chapter 5 the work on the wall has continued. As a result, gruesome threesome of Sanballat, Tobiah & Geshem are not happy!
They know that the work on the wall is nearing completion, soon Jerusalem will have been restored and so their influence and ability to regulate and intimidate will have diminished!
So they introduce a new tactic, one far more complex than those that have gone before. Up to now they have tried to oppose using ridicule, mockery, intimidation & threats of violence. These have all been upfront and confrontational in nature.
Now in chapter 6, a new tactic is introduced that is both subtle & difficult to discern at times. Their plan is to get Nehemiah to compromise and in so doing to divert him from his God-given mission. They invite him to a meeting to talk things through.
Compromise is often subtle & therefore can come in under our radar undetected. The request for a meeting may have seemed reasonable at first, maybe meeting would help create an amicable environment in which the building work could continue unhindered.
Compromise is like that, it often doesn’t appear too bad, it might even appear reasonable at first. But Nehemiah’s reply is a model of clarity;
“I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”(Nehemiah 6:3)
Nehemiah knew his priorities, knew what mattered most.
As finite beings, if we give ourselves to one thing that means we ignore something else.
So, if I decide to spend 5-6 hours playing a round of golf, by implication I have chosen not to spend 5-6 hours doing something else like spending time with family (unless they were playing with me).
Nehemiah turned down the request for a meeting because he valued his God-given mission higher than anything else! He refused to meet with the gruesome threesome because doing so would mean not continuing the work God had given him to do.
Bill Beckham said; “We value what we do, and we do what we value”
Nehemiah showed what he valued by what he chose to and what not to do! Knowing what we value will help us to avoid sin and self-centred compromise.
In vs10-14 under the false guise of a prophetic word Nehemiah is tempted by Shemaiah to look out for himself and his personal safety, to forget the wall…
Here again we see Nehemiah’s principals coming to aide his decision making process as he responds to Shemaiah with principals stronger than his personal fear of death.
My paraphrase: He says; ’Should a man like me run away? I will trust in God rather than try to save my own life’
Once again, the compromise seems reasonable. Surely God would want Nehemiah to consider his own personal safety? But doing so would have taken him off the wall and would have caused him to compromise & sin by doing what he was prohibited from doing.
More than this, Nehemiah couldn’t enter into the temple as he wasn’t a priest and God prohibited anyone from entering it who was not a priest. So, Nehemiah feared God more than someone who could take his life! More than anything else he wanted to hear God say over him one day; “Well done Nehemiah, with you I am well pleased.”
He valued God being pleased with Him above even a fear for his own life! This kept him from sinning. The power of sin is broken when we realise this: that in God and delighting in God we will be satisfied:
Is there any area in your life where there is temptation to compromise? It might seem reasonable but it will rob your focus from God’s call on your life. Identify the tactic of your enemy and resist like Nehemiah did (6:3).
Do a personal audit of your time remembering that; “We value what we do, and we do what we value”. Do you need to make any adjustments?