Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem and the rest of the enemies of Jerusalem heard about the wall that was being built at lightning speed and tried their best to disrupt the progress by trying to trap the leader of the rebuilding activity, Nehemiah.
“Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.”Nehemiah 6:2
The opposition groups tried to make one last attempt to stop the work on the wall and called Nehemiah to Ono, a Benjaminite town almost thirty miles away from the city of Jerusalem.
While the intent of the meeting or even the need of it is not made clear by them, but Nehemiah understood that this was satan’s misdirection by trying to distract him with the concerns of his neighbors and in turn, halt the progress that was being made on the wall.
But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?Nehemiah 6:2-3
Like Nehemiah, when we are working for God, we should not get distracted by the noise around us and only pay attention to His voice.
The Man from S.A.T.A.N.
The opposition kept sending letters to Nehemiah and even sent an inaccurately worded open letter to try and discredit Nehemiah in the eyes of the exiles. They falsely accused him of starting a revolt against the sitting king and even went as far as lying about Nehemiah’s desires to rule over Jerusalem. Nehemiah kept his cool and always sent the same reply and did not wish to play their mind games.
When their attempts of starting an insurgency against Nehemiah failed, the opposition sent his close friend, Shemaiah, a member of the priestly clan to try and discredit him. He invited Nehemiah to come inside the temple, so that they may close the doors and hide from the enemies inside the house of God.
Nehemiah himself was not from the priestly clan and no one apart from the Levites were allowed in the inner altars of the temple. Shemaiah was trying to get Nehemiah to defile the sanctuary with his presence and thereby earn a bad name among his fellow Jews.
I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.Nehemiah 6:12
God gave Nehemiah the wisdom to understand that Shemaiah was not sent by Him but by his opposers. He had been hired to intimidate him and lure him into the temple on the pretense of a hiding place and then discredit him among the Jews as the one who had defiled the house of God. When King Uzziah had similarly attempted to enter the inner sanctuary of the temple, he was stricken with leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:16–20).
I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from?Psalms 121:1
Shemaiah, even though was a priest, was misusing God’s name and was wrongly prophesying against Nehemiah as per the orders of Sanballat and Tobiah. We need to stop blindly believing people who call themselves servants of God but talk to God directly to know His will.
Eliphaz, Job’s friend, was supposedly bringing word from God, but what he did not realize was that it was satan who had come to him in a dream and sent him to discourage Job.
Like the fictional agency “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, satan also has his agents placed all over this world and in every part of our lives and he will activate them when he sees us coming closer to God. His agents could be anyone from our lives, our enemies (like Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem), our friends (like Shemaiah, Eliphaz) and even ‘prophets of God’.
The same happened to Nehemiah also when several prophets and his countrymen, including Noadiah the prophetess, tried their best to intimidate Nehemiah so that he may get distracted and fall from the path of God.
Like in Nehemiah’s life, satan will use seemingly benign members of our lives to try and drive us away from God either by intimidation or by the lure of friendship, to keep us away from God.
But God was with Nehemiah throughout the rebuilding process and the wall was completed in only fifty-two days. Everyone realized that this could have only been accomplished by God and God’s name was glorified throughout the land.
When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.Nehemiah 6:16
When the work of God is accomplished, satan deactivates his agents and as a result they lose their confidence and stop becoming a hindrance for us. In our lives also, we will face these distractions and intimidation tactics from satan’s agents while we are working for God, but as soon as God’s will is accomplished in our lives, these agents will be of no use to satan and he will deactivate them and we will return to a place of having a normal relationship with them.
The Return to Normalcy
After the wall had been rebuilt and I had set the doors in place, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the Levites were appointed.Nehemiah 7:1
God helped Nehemiah achieve something remarkable and Nehemiah duly acknowledged that, but he had made a promise to the king and had to return back to Babylon. He did not want the state of Jerusalem to deteriorate once more, so he appointed his own brother Hanani, the man who had initially brought the report of the fallen city of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:2), as the governor of the land. Along with Hanani he also placed Hananiah in charge of the city in his absence, two men who he thought feared God more than the rest.
God-fearing men were in shortage and Nehemiah had already witnessed the fall of Jerusalem under corrupt leadership. He wanted to make sure that God was leading this city and not satan and his agents.
“The gates of Jerusalem are not to be opened until the sun is hot. While the gatekeepers are still on duty, have them shut the doors and bar them. Also appoint residents of Jerusalem as guards, some at their posts and some near their own houses.”Nehemiah 7:3
Nehemiah was still operating with caution and gave strict instructions to the gatekeepers. He saw the city, now with completed walls but with dilapidated houses, as that was not the primary focus of the group during the last fifty-two days.