Nehemiah: Studies on Leadership | Week 09

Through Hidden Opposition - Discernment

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Blind Sight

Modern medicine now has the ability to heal some forms of congenital blindness. Using the latest restorative procedures, the eye can be corrected. However, to the brain that has never seen the spectrum of the rainbow, the different intensities of light, and the various forms of shapes, nothing registers. Though the physical condition of the eye is functioning, the mind itself needs to be healed. Beyond the work of the physicians, the brain itself must be reprogrammed. So when Jesus healed the boy who had been blind since birth (John 9), giving him the ability not only to see, but to recognize everything, it was a tremendous miracle! Jesus healed, not just his eyes, but regenerated his mind too.

Similarly, though our eyes might be functioning, we also need the miracle of sight. Not physical sight, but our spiritual vision needs remedying so that we may discern different entities at work. Simple things like invitations, letters, and words may not be so simple. This week’s lesson looks at two instances in chapter 6 where the veil of blindness was lifted and discernment was granted.

Read This Week’s Passage: Nehemiah 6:10–19

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Write out Nehemiah 6:10–19 from the translation of your choice.If you’re pressed for time, write out Nehemiah 6:12, 16.You may also re-write the passage in your own words, outline, or mind-map the chapter.

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Discerning False Prophecies

When Nehemiah was not intimated by social deception (invitation to compromising dialogue) or by military deception (rumors of rebellion by letter), the enemies resorted to spiritual deception. A prophet named Shemaiah (v.10) sounded quite concerned for Nehemiah’s welfare. In this dramatic sub-plot, this man, who was a shut-in in his own house (“a secret informer” in NKVJ), signifying the gravity of the matter, became anxious of murder plots in the night, and suggested that they both find safety in the temple.

Nehemiah did not flinch and again perceived the deception of the enemies in using a prophet to mislead him. He sensed that Sanballat and Tobiah were behind the plot and that Shemaiah was hired. How did he know?First, a prophet would be more concerned over the well-being of God’s people and God’s will regarding His work. There was an apparent dissonance between Nehemiah’s work, which God had been leading this entire time, and the warning of the prophet. Shemaiah’s proposition meant Nehemiah would have to abandon his people, instilling fear in them, and undermining the courage he had been portraying throughout the entire project.

Second, Shemaiah suggested to meet “within the temple,” (6:10) inferring the Holy Place, where only priests were permitted and laypeople were completely forbidden. One test of a prophet is they do not contradict what has previously been established by God. The fact that his “prophecy” went against the law of God proved that Shemaiah was a false prophet. Unfortunately, Shemaiah is not the only Bible prophet to fall for the love of money.

Nehemiah replied with predictable faithfulness, “should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!” (6:11). Clearly aware of the scheme, he called out the trickery for what it was, refusing to violate the temple. Not blinded by the fear of an assassination attempt, nor mystified by the utterings of a prophet, Nehemiah continued to keep his eyes clear.

Apparently, Shemaiah was not the only prophet who had deceived him. Tobiah and Sanballat had recruited the prophetess Noadiah (she is found nowhere else in the Bible) and other prophets to put Nehemiah to fear without success.

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Discerning the Work of God

The work was completed in an astonishing fifty-two days—less than two months (6:15). Even by modern standards, to build a wall around Jerusalem with the amount of people and the breadth of resources needed within this timeframe is bewildering. The project was completed so quickly that even the enemies “perceived that this work was done by our God” (6:16). For nearly six chapters, Sanballat and his coalition caused a slew of problems for Nehemiah, but they finally come to a point where they recognize they are going against the work of God. When biblical leadership is sharpened, focused, and consecrated, the visions held by the individuals will drive them to work efficiently and effectively, causing those around them to marvel in the glory of God’s ability.

Though we wish the narrative could end victoriously there, it does not. Even though the walls had been finished and generally acknowledged as the work of God Himself, attempts to discredit the reputation of Nehemiah continued to wax. Tobiah became just as focused upon this objective as Nehemiah was with his own. Tobiah had married into the family of Shechaniah, while his son married into the family of Meshullam. Both being prominent Jewish families, the conspirators used this status to correspond with the other nobles of Judah about the good actions of Tobiah and the words of Nehemiah.

The efforts of the enemy are continual. Even when we have completed a task, the work is not really finished. We find rest, not in the end of the work, but in knowing that we are in the will of God. After completing the ark and the ordeal of the flood, Noah relaxed and got drunk. After calling Israel to repentance and the ordeal of Mount Carmel, Elijah relaxed and ran from Ahab and Jezebel. But after building the walls and the ordeal of the opposition, Nehemiah continued with steadfastness and vigilance against his enemies.

There are two types of leaders. One is godly, mission-oriented, unintimidated, and proactive, while the other is reactive, gossiping, compromising, deceptive, bitter, opportunistic, and vindictive. Opposition from enemies and “friends” will always attend God’s work, but we must always rely on the strength of God even in the midst of danger or death. Death is not failure. Failure is when we leave our divine call unfinished.

inSpect

What relationship do the following verses have with the primary passage?

  • Deut. 13:1–5; 18:20
  • 1 Cor. 2:14
  • Heb. 4:12; 5:14

What other verses/promises come to mind in connection with Nehemiah 6:10–19?

Review your memorized verse from Nehemiah 6:10–19.

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Discerning the Prophets

Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits…” (Matt. 7:15, 16a). There you have it, the Prophet of all prophets, Jesus said it. As aggravating and disconcerting as it may be, we are called in spiritual warfare to keep our guards up. We do it all the time, checking whether emails are spam, whether friend requests are bots, whether free offers are actually free (they never are!). Since we are digitally cautious and even more so when people show up at our literal front door, we should be more so when it comes to the spiritual world. But how? Jesus by the Holy Spirit gave us some principles to discern whether a person is receiving insight from God.

  • “He will speak to them all that I command him” (Deut. 18:18–20)
  • “If they do not speak according [to the law and to the testimony], it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20)
  • “The word of the prophet comes to pass” (Jer. 28:9)
  • “By their fruits you will know them” (Matt. 7:15–20)
  • “He who prophecies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men…he who prophesies edifies the church” (1 Cor. 14:3, 4)
  • “No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation; they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:20, 21)
  • “Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God” (1 John 4:1, 2)

Why does this matter? Like Nehemiah had to face false prophets, the remnant will have to face false prophets again (Rev. 16:13; 19:20) as well as be identified as a people having the true spirit of prophecy (Rev 12:17; 19:10). God does not consider this an elective course; this is a core requirement. Won’t you take another closer look at the Spirit of prophecy?

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Heathen Plots

The whole power and policy of Satan have always been aimed at those who are zealously seeking to advance the cause and work of God. Though often baffled, he as often renews his assaults. But it is when he works in secret that he is most to be feared. The advocates of unpopular truth must expect opposition from its open enemies; this is often fierce and cruel, but it is far less dangerous than the secret enmity of those who profess to be serving God while at heart they are servants of Satan. While apparently uniting in the work of God, many are connected with his foes; and if in any way crossed in their plans or reproved for their sins, they court the favor of the enemies of truth, and open to them all the plans of God’s servants and the workings of his cause. Thus they place every advantage in the hands of those who use all their knowledge to hinder the work of God and injure his people. Thus these men of two minds and two purposes pretend to serve God, and then go over to the enemy and serve him, as best suits their inclination.

Every device which the prince of darkness can suggest, will be employed to induce God’s servants to form a compromise with the agents of Satan. Repeated solicitations will come in to call us from duty; but, like Nehemiah, we should steadfastly reply, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.” We have no time to seek the favor of the world, or even to defend ourselves from their misrepresentation and calumny. We have no time to lose in self-vindication. We should keep steadily at our work, and let that refute the falsehoods which malice may coin to our injury. Slanders will be multiplied if we stop to answer them. Should we allow our enemies to gain our friendship and sympathy, and thereby allure us from our post of duty; should we, by any unguarded act, expose the cause of God to reproach, and thus weaken the hands of the workers, we should bring upon our characters a stain not easily removed, and place a serious obstacle in the way of our own future usefulness.

Those temptations are most dangerous which come from the professed servants of God, and from our friends. When persons who are uniting with the world, yet claiming great piety and love, counsel the faithful workers for God to be less zealous and more conservative, our answer must be an appeal to the word of God. When they plead for union with those who have been our determined opposers, we should fear and shun them as decidedly as did Nehemiah. Those who would lead away from the old landmarks to form a connection with the ungodly, cannot be sent of heaven. Whatever may have been their former position, their present course tends to unsettle the faith of God’s people.

Such counselors are prompted by Satan. They are time-servers. The testimonies, reproofs, and warnings of God’s servants are unpalatable to them, being a reproof to their worldly, pleasure-loving propensities. We should shun this class as resolutely as did Nehemiah.

Lessons from the Life of Nehemiah by Mrs. E. G. White pp. 62, 63 (SW May 24, 1904, Art. A)

inQuire

Discuss the following questions with your Bible study group.

  • Are you a Tobiah who talks or are you a Nehemiah who walks?
  • How should you meet personal attacks upon your work and/or character?
  • How can you influence others to work for Christ in a positive way?
  • How can prayer strengthen courage?
  • Who else in the Bible received slander and intrigue similar to Nehemiah?
  • Who are other false prophets? What lessons do you learn from them?
  • When has fear overshadowed your faith?
  • When has mystical awe overshadowed your faith?
  • How do we keep faith always before us, especially in front of fear and awe?
  • What is your relationship with the Spirit of Prophecy?