February 14, 2023
Keep Moving Forward In Spite of Difficulties
Nehemiah - “‘Later, I went to visit Shemaiah son of Delaiah and grandson Mehetabel, who was confined to his home. He said, “Let us meet together inside the Temple of God and bolt the doors shut. Your enemies are coming to kill you tonight.’ But I said, ‘Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go! I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me. Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophet Noadiah and how she and the rest of the prophets have been trying to intimidate me.” (Nehemiah 6:10-14)
Nehemiah’s enemies, Tobiah and Sanballat, tried every trick in the book to get him to stop moving forward with his mission. First, they tried to sidetrack him from his work. When that didn’t go well for them, they tried to slander Nehemiah thinking his attention would move from his work to the slander. When these tactics didn’t work, they tried to scare Nehemiah by paying off a “prophet” who stated that the Lord had revealed to him that Nehemiah should stop his work and hide because his enemies were going to kill him that very night. Tobiah and Sanballat were hoping that Nehemiah might become paralyzed by fear and stop his work. However, Nehemiah didn’t allow his enemies to scare him because first, he wasn’t a coward (Nehemiah 6:11), and second, he realized that fear wasn’t from the Lord (Nehemiah 6:12).
We always have to be wary when people say, “God told me to tell you this.” Often, when people say they're speaking for God they really are not doing so. Sometimes, people may say, "I think this is God's will for your life" but often they have no idea. Unless they have a proven track record of living for the Lord, hearing from the Lord, serving in the church, and investing in our lives, it’s quite possible that they may have a hidden agenda. Nehemiah knew that Sanballat and Tobiah were trying to frighten him by paying off a holy man to say he had heard from God, but Nehemiah was determined to not give in to fear and to move forward with the project. We should never let fear keep us from living for the Lord and serving Him.
Nehemiah understood that his enemies were also attempting to lead him into sin. They were trying to force him to hide in the Holy of Holies in the Temple which would compromise his integrity. It was against the law for anyone to go into the Holy of Holies except for the priests at the appointed time. In fact, the law stated that the person who breaks this law should receive the death penalty. (Numbers 18:7) If Nehemiah would have hidden in the Temple after hearing of the assassination attempt, he would have been sinning out of fear.
If the opposition can't scare us into quitting, they will try to get us to sin, to render us as ineffective. These are often the last desperate attempts of the opposition. They are the very things that will happen in our lives whenever we’re attempting any great thing for the Lord. They will try to get at us through discord, discouragement, defeat, derision, distraction, defamation, then through danger. Because Nehemiah refused to quit, the construction of the wall around Jerusalem was completed in 52 days. Nehemiah writes, “When all of our enemies heard about this and all the surrounding nations, they were afraid and they lost their confidence because they realized this work had been done with the help of our God.” (Nehemiah 6:16)
FOLLOW UP ACTIVITY
Overcoming our fears and focusing on doing what God has called us to do always ends up bringing fear to our enemies. In your journal or someplace else, write out Nehemiah 6:16, then pray and ask the Lord to give you the resolve of Nehemiah to press forward even in the midst of fear. If you’re guiding your family through this devotion, lead each member to write out Nehemiah 6:16, then dialogue about what it must have been like for Nehemiah when his enemies tried to frighten him. Then pray as a family with the same emphasis as the individual prayer above.
PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, when I’m attempting something great for you and others try to frighten me, please help me to trust in You, to not give in to fear, and to continue working. In Jesus’ name, Amen.