Summary: The work on the wall is nearly done, so we see their four acts of desperation to defeat God’s work: 1. Assassination plot (1-4); 2. Scandalous rumor (5-7); 3. Trap to violate the Temple (10-14); 4. Threat letters (15-19)...and truth to follow when we fac
Our public schools have been dealing with the serious problem of bullying. Bullies are nothing new; we see examples of them in the Book of Nehemiah. As Nehemiah gets closer to completing the work on the wall of Jerusalem, the pressure and intimidation intensifies. The work was nearly done; all that was left was the hanging of the massive doors. Once the doors are secure, life could begin to return to normal: the people could move back in the city, build homes, and go about their business, without fear of attack. The bullies aren’t happy…so in this chapter we see their four acts of desperation to defeat God’s work…
Outline: 1. Assassination plot (1-4); 2. Scandalous rumor (5-7); 3. Trap to violate the Temple (10-14); 4. Threat letters (15-19)
1. Assassination plot….The enemies of Israel have been unsuccessful with their threats, so they try to eliminate the individual responsible for the project: Nehemiah. “Sack the quarterback.” Four times they send “invitations,” verses 1-4, trying to lure him to discuss their opposition to his efforts, under the guise of a summit conference; maybe even a concession speech? Not likely. Nehemiah rebuffs them each time: “No, no, no, no!” Was this rude? He was busy, and knew it was a trap. He’s not naive. He knew they were up to no good. And even if it wasn’t a trap, he’s wasn’t about to be deterred from the task God has given him. He’s not going to get off track in order to defend his work to unbelievers. There’s a time for dialogue; this wasn’t it! There’s nothing to negotiate. They’re not worth his time, and he knows they’re not trying to be his friends. Nothing these bullies might say to him was as important as the work he was directing. To respond would require a shift of focus and priorities. The only exception we discussed last time--the plight of the poor (chapter 5).
It’s obvious there’s a hidden agenda here; that Nehemiah would not return alive from such a meeting. The Valley of Ono was 27 miles NW of Jerusalem; neutral territory near Joppa, and an ideal place for assassination. Nehemiah’s response was to say “Oh, no” to Ono! When we’re trying to live for God we can expect hostile resistance and distractions that seek to consume our attention and keep us from what we should be doing.
2. Scandalous rumor….By the fourth request, Sanballat realizes the futility of his tactic, and also how his anxiety was becoming more evident…so he changes tact and sends a letter, accusing Nehemiah of treason, verses 5-7. They couldn’t murder Nehemiah, so they attempt to assassinate his reputation. Sanballat was threatening to report Nehemiah to King Artaxerxes--“political hardball.” It’s doubtful that the king of Persia would believe such lies, yet these bullies would stop at nothing to undermine the work of God. If the king had believed such a report, Nehemiah would’ve been recalled and executed. Yet Nehemiah isn’t easily intimidated or diverted from his mission.