February 13, 2023
Keep Moving Forward In Spite of Defamation
Nehemiah - “Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter in which was written: ‘It is reported among the nations - and Geshem says it is true - that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.’” (Nehemiah 6:5-7)
In an underhanded way, Sanballat and Geshem challenged Nehemiah’s motives and tried to slander him. They sent an unsealed letter to Nehemiah with several false accusations. Why did they send the letter as an unsealed document? Because they wanted everyone to read it. Back then, sending an unsealed letter was like writing a letter to the editor or posting a private message on someone’s Facebook wall. It was easy for anyone to see that they were simply trying to stir up false rumors about Nehemiah and the rebuilding efforts. The letter basically said, “Nehemiah, you are trying to build an empire. You're building this wall so you can plan a rebellion against Artaxerxes. You're planning to set yourself up as king! You've even stooped to paying prophets to promote yourself.”
Anyone who wants to pursue success in different areas of their lives will be criticized by people who have ulterior motives or who set no goals. If anyone experienced this, it was Jesus. He was probably the most falsely accused person in history. He said, “Blessed are you when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad for great is your reward in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:11-12). It’s uncertain if Nehemiah rejoiced when he faced those trying to slander him, but he did overcome his opponents.
Nehemiah overcame his opponents' accusations and threats because he discerned the motives of his opponents. Nehemiah writes, “They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.’” (Nehemiah 6:9) One of the most difficult things a person ever has to do is to handle false accusations. It makes you want to give up. But Nehemiah refused to do that. He denied the accusations and prayed for strength.
Nehemiah overcame his opponents’ accusations and threats because he refuted their accusations. Nehemiah writes, “I sent him this reply: ‘Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.’” (Nehemiah 6:8) After knowing the motives of his opponents, he mustered his courage and refuted their accusations.
Nehemiah overcame his opponents’ accusations and threats because he continued praying. After discerning the motives of his opponents and refuting their accusations, Nehemiah writes, “But I prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands.’” (Nehemiah 6:9) Then, after his prayer was complete, Nehemiah went back to working on the wall.
Whenever we’re doing something for God, we must realize that people are going to try to defame us. When this happens, we can spend our time fighting criticism or we can spend our time working, moving forward. Nehemiah decided to keep working on the wall. That's why, in 52 days, it was complete. Nehemiah did not give in to defamation. He understood the motives of his opponents and did not give in.
FOLLOW UP ACTIVITY
Imagine for a moment that you turned on the tv and watched a false report about yourself. How would you respond? Would you let it stop you from serving the Lord? Take a minute and skim through Nehemiah 6, reading what Nehemiah did when his opponents tried to defame him. Then write out a plan of action for yourself. If you’re leading your family through this devotion, take time to dialogue about how we should respond when we are falsely accused. Then pray that God would remind us in those unfortunate moments to pray and then keep on moving forward.
PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, when I face defamation, help it not to distract me from what You have for me. Help me to pray and to continue working for You. In the name of Jesus, Amen. .