Sir Godfrey Gregg D. Div, OHPM, ROMC
I. When distracted by good opportunities, stand firm on godly priorities (Nehemiah 6:1-4)
We haven’t heard from Nehemiah’s enemies for a whole chapter. But guess what, they are back! They were there at the beginning of the work, in the middle and now at the end. We saw them attacking externally through ridicule and threatening physical violence, but here they go personal. This is because they are running out of time and so they are going to make a final push and this time it is a direct assault at Nehemiah. Bishop Goodridge says, “When Sanballat had his co-conspirators realized that they have been outmaneuvered, outgeneraled, and outwitted by Nehemiah, they decide to attack him personally.… Their wounded pride will not be appeased until Nehemiah has been humiliated.”
The attacks never seem to end. The enemies are relentless. A huge moment is coming up. It’s been almost 100 years since the Israelites came back from the exile. Remember God had called Nehemiah from his job in Persia to rebuild the walls of the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was where the nations would see the glory of God. It was where people worshiped God. To have its wall built meant their identity was secured. People could live there in safety again, not fearing enemies attacking them. They had tried once to rebuild the wall, but stopped when enemies threatened. This time, through the leadership of Nehemiah, it hasn’t been easy, but they finally persevered. The wall is almost done and right before a major victory, the enemy shows up again.
Look at Nehemiah 6:1. The wall is done, except for the gates. This is like building your house, but your front door is not set yet. How comfortable are you to sleep at night? Probably not much, especially if you live in dangerous parts of town! So yeah, almost there, but not quite! I wonder if Nehemiah, finally seeing the finish line ahead, feels confident the work will be finally completed. Just then, notice what happens in Nehemiah 6:2. He gets a polite invitation for a getaway vacation. Ono happened to be an oasis—a retreat location for the wealthy. It had fertile land with trees and water.
Take a look at the map. Can you see Ono? Which province is it close to? Samaria, which was where Sanballat was from! It was 25 miles northwest of Jerusalem. The Lord Bishop says, “At such a time, the invitation seemed to be a concession speech by a person who had just lost a political campaign. ‘Nehemiah, it is no use pretending that we have not been opposed to your project. We have been. It has not been in our best interests. We have had our differences over it. But you have succeeded in spite of us, and now there is no use to carry on our opposition. For better or worse, we are going to have to live together, you as governor of Jerusalem and ourselves as governors of our own provinces. So let’s be friends. What we need is a summit conference. Why don’t we meet on the plain of Ono? It is a neutral site about equidistant from each of our provinces. You pick a village in Ono, and we’ll meet you there.’”
Sanballat’s trying hard to lure him away from the work. I mean dialogue is good right? Talking is better than fighting right? You’ve been laying bricks for a while, Nehemiah. Let’s talk it over and relax at Ono Resort and Spa. See how subtle the Enemy works? This is just like how Satan works as well. He makes it look like he is offering something for your best interest and then when you give in, he destroys you. He cloaks his opposition under the guise of cooperation. When he can’t beat you, he will join you and then take over and destroy you. Somehow, Nehemiah smelled something fishy was going on. We are not sure how he was able to discern this. Perhaps he had his informants in the enemy’s camp or perhaps he just had a gift for discernment. Why take me so far? Why alone? He connected the dots to figure out their real plan.
Look at his response in Nehemiah 6:3. I love this line: “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” Why was it a great work? It was a great work because a great God had called him to do it for Him. This trip was a distraction. And Nehemiah knew going down to Ono meant the work would be stopped. So Nehemiah stood firm on the priorities that God had laid on his heart. Notice in Nehemiah 6:4 that they came four times with this request and he had to say “Oh, no!” each time (sorry that was cheesy).
He knew this opportunity sounded good, but in the end, it would do him more harm than good. It would take him away from finishing the work God had given him to do. Ken Mitchell, a pastor out in Jacksonville, FL shares the story about a man who taught him early on what it meant to stand firm to godly priorities.
You may find yourself in a situation looking for employment and the enemy will offer you all in its power to separate you from your family and the church where you serve with distinction. You must be aware that “not all that glitters is gold”. The interview may go well and all that you would need is offered to you, but what God has in store for you will come to you in its fullness.
Wow, that is a modern day Nehemiah! There are times that you will have to give up a promotion in order to fulfill your obligations for the Lord and church. There is where you have to discern where you are and try to connect the dots. Trust me this will not be easy in these hard economic times making lot more money, but you have to say like Nehemiah, “Sorry, I am doing a great work, I cannot come down.” Amen!
I am not telling anyone here what to do with your career or job situation. You have to discern it for yourself. What I am saying is what Andy Stanley said, “To accomplish the important things you must learn to say no to some good things.” It will be the good things that will attempt to distract you from the important things. It will happen so subtly that if we are not careful, it will be too late to fix.
So for example, when you might be tempted to take that overtime shift, which will mean you can no longer see or tuck your kids in at night, parents, then you say to yourself, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” As you struggle with the temptation to squeeze one more “good” activity into your schedule that is already bursting at the seams, think about your family and church and whisper to yourself, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” When you go home after service after serving here and the thoughts come, “I should not do this anymore. There are better people here than me.” It is then you say, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” If you are single, don’t get distracted with what could be or should be relationally. Allow God to shape your character while you wait for him to bring the right person into your life. This season is a great work. Guard your purity and integrity at all costs. Be too busy with that so you cannot come down!
CONTINUES TOMORROW …..