“Press On”
Nehemiah 6 & 7

Have you ever started a project, worked on that project, you finally got to what you thought was the end of the project, only to discover there was more left to do?

Jesus’s life on earth must have seemed like that. Take the raising of Lazarus from the dead. That had to have been a climax in not only his life but the life of Lazarus. He was dead, in the tomb, and Jesus called him out and they had a meal together. You would think Jesus would have been labeled a celebrity or something. Instead, people were trying to kill Him, John 11. He survives that threat only to enter Jerusalem as King and at the end of the week, be hung on a cross. Still not the end, the resurrection occurs which one might think was the end, but not so, Jesus experienced the ascension. 
Things still are not over, Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father waiting for His return,  a thousand year reign, followed by the creation of a new heaven and a new earth. 

Reality is, that this side of heaven there will not be a day when we can say, “I’ve arrived! I’ve done it all.” There will always be more we can do. 

We see in Nehemiah 6-7, they may have thought once the doors were in place and the locks secured, they were done, but not so. There was still more work to do. 

Nehemiah follows a similar pattern as Ezra did. First Ezra built the temple, then he re-built the people. Nehemiah rebuilt the wall, now he too will need to rebuild the people. 

Chapter 6 opens with the names of those men who had been harassing Nehemiah since he arrived, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab. They tried to stop him from building the walls then and they were giving a last ditch effort to try and stop him now. The walls had been restored, the gates were completed, if they could stop Nehemiah from putting on the doors and locks they would still have access to the city without having to attack. They suggested that Nehemiah come out to the Ono Valley and have a meeting. But Nehemiah was not swayed. He was a man on a mission and he was not about to be deterred. Nehemiah was not deceived by their intentions, they had been up to no good since the time they met and he was not going to let them keep him from what God had called him to do. 
We can take a lesson from Nehemiah’s response in verse 3, 
“I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down. Why should the work come to a standstill just so I can come down to see you?”

From the world’s perspective, Nehemiah may have sounded a bit confused. Hanging out in the broken down city of Jerusalem and building a wall out of rubble was “great work?” In the world’s eyes, the job Nehemiah left behind as cupbearer to the king was seen as “great work.” He probably had the power to choose who worked in the palace and what food and wine was purchased and served. Not to mention residing with the king in his palace. The king had to trust him. That would have been “great work.” Nehemiah left that palace to assist in a broken-down rubble of a place on the outskirts of the empire. 
It wasn’t safe….yet and enemies were threatening them. But then God’s great work, rarely looks like human’s great work. 

Nehemiah saw what he was doing was making a difference. It was making a difference by protecting not only God’s people, but God’s name in Jerusalem. 

Let’s stop for a moment and check in. Would you say you are doing “great work?” God may not be calling us to build walls, but He has called us to live out His glory by trusting Him, walking with Him in purity, and thanking Him for what He gives us. Regardless if we are called to be missionaries, engineers, stay-at-home moms changing diapers, or retired it is not so much what we do but more in how we do it and who we do it for. 

I learned this lesson while working at Chop Point Camp. I was able to work at the summer camp during the summer but they also hired me to help out on weekends throughout the year, especially the weeks before camp would start. Each cabin had to be thoroughly cleaned, including the toilets. I remember trying to scrub away rust stains off toilets that had been sitting all winter in a cabin and sweeping cobwebs from the ceiling. Peter Willard came by on more than one occasion with a Bible verse, 

Colossians 3:23-24
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Whatever task I was given, he would then ask me if I thought God would be pleased with my work. That’s a pretty high standard for a 14 year old cleaning toilets. But that message stuck with me, and no matter what job or task I take on, I remind myself I am working for the Lord, not for human masters. To hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant is my goal. 

If we are trusting God, walking in purity, and thanking God for what He gives, we are doing a great work just as much as Nehemiah was. Putting rocks around a small town was not what made Nehemiah’s work great. A dedication to God’s name, God’s promises, and God’s people was what made Nehemiah’s work great.

If you are doing great work by trusting God in all that you do, just like Nehemiah, be ready, there will be enemies who will come to distract you. 
If you have been doing great work, you know exactly what I am talking about. Our world is full of things that persistently distract us from what God has called us to do. 
If you’re a student, God has called you to honor Him in your studies. Watch out for the distractions.  If you’re an employee, God has called you to honor Him in the way you serve your employer. Watch out for the distractions. If you’re a spouse, God has called you to honor Him in your marriage. Watch out for the distractions. If you’re single, God has called you to honor Him in your singleness. Watch out for the distractions. If you’re a child, God has called you to honor Him by obeying and honoring your parents. Watch out for the distractions. 

Let’s answer the things that would distract us from the great work God has given each of us to do with the same steadfastness we see from Nehemiah here.”

So the next time your email chimes, or if there’s something silly on TV that would rob you of time with your children, or if there’s someone who wants to gossip with you, respond like this: “I am doing a great work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (Neh 6:3).”

Oh, and if you think you will only be distracted once, think again. As we continue to read, Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem sent the same proposal four times! Nehemiah presses on, undeterred. And then, Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem up the ante. The fifth time, instead of sending a letter to Nehemiah, Sanballat sent a letter that he wanted to be read in public. This letter issued a challenge by spreading false rumors, verses 6 & 7,

“The word is out among the nations—and Geshem says it’s true—that you and the Jews are planning to rebel. 
That’s why you are rebuilding the wall. The word is that you want to be king and that you have appointed prophets to announce in Jerusalem, ‘There’s a king in Judah!’ The king is going to be told all this—don’t you think we should sit down and have a talk?”

How astute of Sanballat. He had just enough truth in the letter to make it sound believable. That’s what bullies do in order to manipulate and intimidate. The rumors offered a believable, alternative explanation as to why Nehemiah was rebuilding the wall. Sanballat wanted everyone to hear his negative spin on what was happening and had put down Geshem as agreeing so as to make it look like it wasn’t just his idea. How many of us would start a debate? Someone spreads false rumors and we immediately take the bait and argue. Not Nehemiah, look at his response in verse 8, 

“I sent him back this: “There’s nothing to what you’re saying. You’ve made it all up.”

Nehemiah didn’t waste time responding to their warped view of the world, neither should we.  Look at verse 10, Nehemiah states what was really happening, 
“They were trying to intimidate us into quitting. They thought, ‘They’ll give up; they’ll never finish it.’ ”
Then read what Nehemiah did, 
“I prayed, ‘Give me strength.’ ”
Give him strength to keep doing what God had called him to do. Nehemiah demonstrated that although he knew what to say, he also needed strength to keep pressing on. 
It’s not easy to keep doing what you are doing when the enemy keeps harping on you. That is why they keep doing it. Nehemiah was so close to completing the task, he had to keep the course. But he needed God’s strength to do so. 
Up to now, Nehemiah has given us some excellent ways to press on in the presence of overt opposition. As we continue in verses 10 – 14 we will see how Nehemiah dealt with covert opposition. 
Verse 10,
Then I met secretly with Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, at his house. He said:
Let’s meet at the house of God,
    inside The Temple;
Let’s find safety behind locked doors
    because they’re coming to kill you,
Yes, coming by night to kill you.
We find out as we read further in the passage, that Shemaiah was a prophet, we also learn that he could be bought for a price. Nehemiah listens to this prophet’s suggestion and here was his response, verse 11,
I said, “Why would a man like me run for cover? And why would a man like me use The Temple as a hideout? I won’t do it.”
Why wouldn’t Nehemiah do it? Because he knew Scripture and this so-called prophet was telling him to do something that would get him killed. Nehemiah knew the Pentateuch explicitly said only priests were to enter the temple, and even then, only at appointed times, at the risk of death. Verse 12,
I sensed that God hadn’t sent this man. The so-called prophecy he spoke to me was the work of Tobiah and Sanballat; they had hired him. He had been hired to scare me off—trick me—a layman, into desecrating The Temple and ruining my good reputation so they could accuse me.
Anyone is capable of being bought, for a price. This so-called prophet took money to oppose God’s agenda. He valued money more than God. Rather than getting even, notice, Nehemiah returned to prayer, verse 14, 
“O my God, don’t let Tobiah and Sanballat get by with all the mischief they’ve done. And the same goes for the prophetess Noadiah and the other prophets who have been trying to undermine my confidence.”
Nehemiah has asked the Lord to remember the good he had done for Israel, 5:19 and he asked the Lord to remember the evil the enemies had done against Israel. Nehemiah believed that God rewarded each for the deeds they had done. He may have recalled Deuteronomy 32:35, God is speaking, 
It is mine to avenge; I will repay.
    In due time their foot will slip;
their day of disaster is near
    and their doom rushes upon them.”
Nehemiah leaves the job of justice up to God and presses on. 
We get to the completion of the wall, verse 15, 
The wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul. It had taken fifty-two days. 
Praise the Lord! It was nothing short of a miracle. Nehemiah saw it as a God thing, verse 16, 
When all our enemies heard the news and all the surrounding nations saw it, our enemies totally lost their nerve. They knew that God was behind this work.
Even their enemies saw it as a God thing. 
Just as Jesus performed a miracle by raising Lazarus from the dead, his job wasn’t finished. So Nehemiah came to realize the wall may have been mended, but now God’s people needed some mending. 
Nehemiah had built the walls to keep the enemies from coming in, but in reality, the enemies had already infiltrated the wall. There were traitors within the city. 
Tobiah had been corresponding with nobles in Judah. These exchange letters were a form of trading intelligence.  Verse 18, explains how difficult the situation was,
Many of the nobles had ties to him because he was son-in-law to Shecaniah son of Arah and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berekiah.
Here we go again with the problem of intermarriage. Seemed Tobiah was connected by marriage to significant people in Jerusalem. He was using those connections to continue to intimidate Nehemiah.
Can’t you see Nehemiah raising his hands in the air and claiming, Oye! I’m sure he thought rebuilding a wall was much easier than rebuilding the hearts of the people. Nehemiah knew he would have to confront sin within the congregation. He presses on in Chapter 7, to do just that. 
The list of names in chapter 7 served to identify who the Jews really were. It was Nehemiah’s task to make sure those who came to live in the city of Jerusalem followed God’s Word. In order for God’s people to experience the blessing of Abraham and to be the blessing of all the families of the earth, they had to be holy. They had to be set apart to God. In order for them to be holy they had to know who they were as a people. That’s why these genealogical lists of names matter, and that’s why the problem of intermarriage threatened everything the returnees were trying to accomplish.Nehemiah had to establish who the Jews were so that he could establish who could live in Jerusalem.
We do something similar today in the family of God. 
To be a member of the family of God today, you need to repent of your sin and trust Jesus Christ as your Savior.  In Nehemiah’s day you would have to separate yourself from the nations and become a Jew. 
It is as important to the family of God today to be as vigilant as Nehemiah was about determining who was in and who was out. Today we have “Good News:” if you are out you can come into the family by trusting in Christ and repenting your sin, turning from your sin, believing the Bible, no longer following the world but joining the Great Commission. The Great Commission is better and bigger than building a wall around a city of ruins, it is building the body of Christ, until all the nations “reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining the whole measure of the fulness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:12
That is what those of us in the family are pressing on toward, being conformed to the image of Christ. Let’s not allow the enemies to distract us from this calling. May we not be swayed by the alternative explanation of the world. 
Let’s continue to press on. 
Let’s pray.