Lord's Day Evening Meditations June 1, 2003

Nehemiah 6: 1-19

"Who Is On The Lord's Side?"

We have seen, in chapter 6, the enemy directing his efforts against Nehemiah, thinking that he could stop the work that way. He was probably right, but Nehemiah didn't get caught. Nehemiah was an ordinary man, just like ourselves - "a man subject to like passions as we are;" but, there is something that stands out in Nehemiah from the beginning to the end of this story - he wanted to be faithful. And though the enemy made three distinct attempts in this chapter to make Nehemiah fall, he didn't succeed; Nehemiah was preserved. How? By simple obedience to the Word of God.

That's the way it was with the Lord Himself when Satan tempted Him in the desert with those three strong temptations: "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." Each time He answered, "It is written." He used the sword of the Spirit against the enemy and was preserved. That is our means of safety as well.

In this chapter, the enemy's third attempt against Nehemiah was by the prophet Shemaiah (v. 10). It would have been wrong for Nehemiah to go into the inner temple (only priests were allowed there) and so Nehemiah said, "I will not go in." It isn't always easy to say "No," but once again Nehemiah was preserved from sin and from reproach.

Let's consider this Shemaiah a little. In verse 12 we read, "For Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him." As far as we know, Shemaiah was a Jew, one of God's people, but here we see him being paid by the enemy to work against his own people. In other words, Shemaiah was a traitor! Besides, he wasn't alone in this, for in verse 14 there were Noadia, a prophetess, and "the rest of the prophets" who were also against Nehemiah. What a sorrow these people must have been to Nehemiah, and what a trial to him! Nehemiah was trying to build the wall so that there might be a distinct separation between the people of God and the heathen around. This was a work of God, but the enemy opposed it, as he still opposes today any effort to keep the people of God separate from the world.

When we speak of traitors, the prime example is Judas Iscariot. Think of how with the other disciples, for three and a half years, he followed the Lord. He heard His teachings, he saw His miracles, and witnessed all the love, grace, and holiness of that divine life on earth. And yet, when Satan tempted him with a little bit of money, he turned his back on this wonderful Master to enter the service of the enemy. When Judas kissed Him in the garden, "Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come?" Matt. 26:50. Can you sense the Lord's sorrow and pain of heart in those words? Or in the words of the prophet, "Mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of My bread, hath lifted up his heel against Me." Ps. 41:9. What a sorrow this treachery was to the Lord's heart, and what a sorrow likewise it must have been to Nehemiah to see those who should have been a help to him, serving the interests of the enemy!

What about ourselves, where are we in this matter? Are we a joy or a sorrow to our Lord's heart? James 4:4 says, "Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?" Without knowing it, we could be on the enemy's side and doing his work rather than that of the Lord. None of us can claim to be faithful, but we can all desire to be faithful, and ask the Lord to keep us from becoming traitors. A traitor is someone who betrays a trust or acts against a promised loyalty. Our Lord and Saviour has given us eternal life, His Word, His Holy Spirit, and many, many blessings beside. Can He trust us with all the blessings that He has given to us, or will we prove to be unfaithful? In verse one of our chapter Tobiah is classified as an enemy, yet Shemaiah received money from him to do his work. He was clearly on the enemy's side. In Exod. 32:26 "Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, Who is on the Lord's side?" The sons of Levi came out to Moses. It costs something to be on the Lord's side, but it is the only right side to be on. May the Lord help us to be faithful.

We said that Shemaiah's suggestion that Nehemiah should go with him into the temple to hide was a very strong form of deception, because Shemaiah was a prophet. For another example of this, read 1 Kings 13. As long as the man of God from Judah followed the instructions the Lord had given him, all went well. But it was when the old prophet of Bethel said, "I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake also to me," that the man of God from Judah was induced into the disobedience which cost him his life. When the devil comes openly as the devil and tempts us, we recognize him and turn away, but when he comes as a prophet or as an angel, then the danger of being deceived is very great. Our only safety is to cling to the Word of God.

Peter wrote, "There were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies " 2 Peter 2:1 - 3. Just as there were false prophets all through the Old Testament times, so there are many false teachers in our time. Very much of what is taught and practiced in Christendom is wrong. We have to be very careful of what we hear or what we read. The only way to be preserved from deception is to stay very close to the Word of God.

Well, in verse 15 we read, "So the wall was finished in fifty and two days." Nehemiah achieved what he had set out to do, and in record time. All the way through we have been seeing the opposition of the enemy, ranging from ridicule to threats of violence, and snares for Nehemiah himself. In spite of all the efforts of the enemy, in spite of the size of the undertaking compared to the fewness of workers, and in spite of trouble amongst the remnant themselves and the presence and activity of traitors within their ranks, still the work went on until it was complete. Obviously, the hand of God was in it. Nehemiah didn't take credit for what was accomplished; he recognized that it was the Lord Who had done the work, and even the enemy had to own "that this work was wrought of our God." v. 16. But that doesn't end the story.

In verse 17 we find the nobles of Judah in constant communication with Tobiah. These nobles were obviously on the enemy's side. Just a word of caution here as to what is an enemy. Your unsaved neighbour is not an enemy. God loves him and wants to save him. But there is a system of things in this world which is under the power of Satan and which holds the unsaved as slaves. This godless system of which Satan is the prince, that makes much of man, his will and his lusts, and has crucified the Lord Jesus, is the enemy. It is friendship with this that is enmity with God. Tobiah represents all this opposition to the will of God for His people. Those who were friendly with Tobiah were certainly not on the Lord's side.

In verse 18 there were also "many in Judah sworn unto him." How did Tobiah come to have such influence in that little remnant at Jerusalem? This verse tells us - he had married a Jewish girl! Besides that, "his son Johanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah." This union of the son of Tobiah with the daughter of Meshullam is very sad. Back in chapter 3 we had seen Meshullam the son of Berechiah (if he be the same one) working faithfully on rebuilding the wall and even working on a second piece. What a sorrow that his daughter should marry the son of one of the enemy leaders! What a trial to Nehemiah also! Well, we see that human nature hasn't changed in the almost 2500 years since the days of Nehemiah. These people who were under the influence of Tobiah "reported his good deeds" to Nehemiah. This was an effort to get the enemy to be accepted. They also kept Tobiah informed of all that Nehemiah said. It is so sad to see God's own people working so diligently for the enemy's advantage. May our Lord keep us from being traitors, and keep us on His side! S.L.