Nehemiah and the Jews are hard at work. The wall is only lacking gates. Sanballat steps up his game with a conspiracy to kill Nehemiah.
Sanballat is trying everything he can think of to get Nehemiah to put a halt to the work. He knows he can’t appeal to the king as he is the one backing Nehemiah. His plans at a sneak attack were found out as well as his plan to infiltrate the city with saboteurs. He has even taken to sending ‘olive branch letters’ asking Nehemiah to meet with him. But Nehemiah sees right through his ploy.
Three times, Sanballat sent letters of invitation to Nehemiah. They were disguised as friendly requests to get together but Nehemiah was not fooled. He was busy with the task God had called him to and refused to take time off for a social visit. IF a simple social visit was all Sanballat wanted he would have been content to wait until Nehemiah was finished and they would celebrate his accomplishments together during that meeting. But that wasn’t Sanballat’s intent and Nehemiah knew it full well.
The last letter from Sanballat was an open threat. “If you don’t meet with me, I will send THIS letter to the king.”
Nehemiah was certain that his relationship with the king would survive Sanballat’s lies. Not only because of their history together but because he KNEW God would protect him. As long as there was work to be done and Nehemiah faithfully did it, he had no fear of those who sought to do him harm. He trusted God to watch over him and the work.
Nehemiah called Sanballat and out right liar so he changed his tactics again. Shemaiah was confined to his home but somehow Sanballat got word to him. He offered him some kind of enticement to betray Nehemiah and God. Shemaiah knew the Laws of God and apparently he knew God’s Spirit too because he was a prophet but he was willing to set that all aside to do Sanballat’s bidding. This would NOT go unnoticed by God. Did Satan fool Shemaiah by impersonating God or did he make a conscious decision to do Satan and Sanballat’s work?
I’m curious why Nehemiah was visiting Shemaiah in the first place. Was Nehemiah summoned to him? Did Nehemiah make an impromptu visit? Was Nehemiah checking on a friend? Had Nehemiah heard that Shemaiah had a message from God? Did God arrange this meeting so Nehemiah could see how far spread the plot against him was?
The fact that Nehemiah KNEW the Spirit of God AND God’s words to His people is what prevented him from falling into this trap. Nehemiah KNEW that only the Levites could enter the Temple proper. He could go into the courtyard but not into the structure. To do so would have been to violate God’s Laws and invite the same kind of death Arron’s two sons suffered; consumed by fire where they stood. Nehemiah’s spirit was also so attuned to the Lord’s that the words of Shemaiah immediately struck him as wrong and dangerous.
This last part reminds me of a story. It is a true story about how bank tellers train. There are millions of different counterfeiter techniques in the world. Every day someone comes up with a new one. There is no way the tellers can keep up by studying the counterfeit techniques. What they do instead is carefully study the REAL THING. This way they are so familiar with what is real that something false immediately stands out as wrong.
This is how we are to be with God’s voice and His Spirit. We need to KNOW the REAL THING better than our own heartbeats so that we won’t be tricked by an imitation. And that ONLY comes through time spent with Him.
Nehemiah immediately recognizes the false prophecy of Shemaiah and puts him in his place. Apparently this wasn’t the first time he came up against false prophets trying to trap him in sin. This is a sad indictment against the prophets of Judah. He also calls upon God to remember and return His judgement on those involved in such deceitful tactics. I have NO DOUBT God heard Nehemiah’s prayer against Sanballat, Tobiah and all those who tried to trick him into abandoning God’s work.
Father God, I want to KNOW Your voice as surely as Nehemiah did. I don’t want to sit back and wonder if it was You who told me to do some task. I don’t want to miss out on doing something You would have me do or to do something that is against Your design. Help me hear clearer and clearer every day. Make my heart in tune with Yours.