Summary: Priorities - (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request - email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Reading: chapter 6 verses 1-19.
• A reporter was interviewing an old man on his 100th birthday.
• “What are you most proud of?” he asked.
• “Well, “ said the man, “I don’t have an enemy in the world.”
• “What a beautiful thought!
• How inspirational!” said the reporter.
• “Yep,” added the centenarian, “outlived every last one of them.”
“Pay attention to your enemies, for they are the first to discover your mistakes”.
Nehemiah’s enemies are identified for us by name in verse 4:
• “Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem and their followers”.
• So far in the book they had been the enemy without,
• In this chapter they try to change their tactics;
• And they will try to become the enemy within!
So far in the story:
• Under Nehemiah's gifted leadership,
• The people had completed rebuilding of the walls of the city of Jerusalem.
• Now all that remained to do was the restoration of the gates;
• Then when the city was secure,
• He could concentrate on strengthening of the community within those walls.
(1). The Intrigue (deception) (verses 1-4):
• F. E. Smith was a clever lawyer with a quick wit;
• Who served as the British attorney general from 1915 until 1919.
• On one occasion he cross-examined a young man;
• Who was claiming damages for an arm injury caused by the negligence of a bus driver.
• “Will you please show us how high you can lift your arm now?” asked Smith.
• The young man gingerly raised his arm to shoulder level, his face distorted with pain.
• “Thank you,” said Smith.
• “And now, could you show us how high you could lift it before the accident?”
• The young man eagerly shot his arm up above his head.
• You will not be surprised to know that he lost the case!
Using deception to gain an advantage is not a new thing;
• It happens today and it happened way back in Nehemiah times (chapter 6):
• With Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem & their followers.
• Having failed miserably;
• In their attempts to stop the workers from rebuilding the city walls,
• They decide to employ new tactics.
• From now on they will concentrate their attacks on Nehemiah himself.
• After all if you destroy Nehemiah the leader;
• His followers will have no-one to follow and to lead them!
Quote verses 1-2:
“When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates- 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: "Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono." “
In verses 1-2:
• The enemies of Nehemiah, suddenly want to become Nehemiah's friends:
• And they invite him to a conference down on the plain of Ono.
• Ono is a village situated halfway between Jerusalem and Samaria.
• It was a quiet, relaxing place.
These first two verses read like Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem had a genuine desire to make peace;
• It seems that they at long last realise they are fighting a losing battle;
• So they want to meet up with Nehemiah, cut their losses and join up with him!
• They choose a place halfway between them;
• They are saying to Nehemiah; “We are willing to meet you halfway, don’t be a bad neighbour”
• We have a saying; “I wasn’t born yesterday!”
• Nehemiah was aware of what the saying means. He too would not be easily taken in.
• Norman “Kid” McCoy, who was welterweight boxing champion in 1896,
• He was also regarded as a formidable puncher,
• And was included in the Ring Magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time.
• During one of his fights, McCoy discovered his opponent had a disability,
• He was fighting a contender who had the misfortune of being deaf.
• McCoy wasted no time in taking advantage of it.
• Near the end of the third round McCoy stepped back a pace;
• And pointed to his adversary’s corner, indicating that the bell had rung.
• “Thank you” said McCoy’s opponent. “very kind of you.”
• But the bell hadn’t rung at all,
• And as soon as the other boxer dropped his hands and turned away.
• McCoy immediately knocked him out.
Unlike McCoy’s opponent Nehemiah was not about to be taken in:
• Some commentators suggest that they were trying to trick him into leaving Jerusalem,
• Where he had armed support, to come to a conference where they could ambush him.