Topic: Sermon Passage: Nehemiah 6:1–6:16
Tempting a Leader
Jerusalem’s walls were nearly completed when the opposition became very personal against Nehemiah: if you can bring down the leader, you can bring his work down with him. If we want to do God’s work, for God’s glory, we will face such attack, so it’s helpful to know what these attacks can look like, as they will often come disguised.
Nehemiah’s opponents propose a peace conference. In reality, it was probably an assassination attempt. Temptation is like that: what will kill you comes dressed as something attractive. But there is also the threat of distraction. This conference would have taken several days – at a critical point in the work. Like Nehemiah, we must resist the temptation to be distracted from what God has called us to do.
Two powerful men invite Nehemiah to join them. Flattery is powerful, because it can reel you in. It leads you to compromise. Nehemiah wouldn’t compromise. Today he would be labelled intolerant or inflexible! He didn’t care for their applause: he was living for God’s glory.
Fear of Others
Sanballet writes a letter that he wants everyone to read. It is a veiled threat to Nehemiah. As well as being swayed by the applause of others, we can be swayed by their criticism: to fear negative comments if we do the hard, but right thing. But Nehemiah is not intimidated or swayed. He prays and asks God to keep him strong.
The suggestion comes that he should hide in the temple: it was the temptation to put his security and comfort above the work of God. Self-protectionism flows from our deep-rooted self-centredness. You can’t lay your life down whilst building protective walls around yourself.
Nehemiah won’t go into the temple: only priests can do that. He resists the temptation to take more power to himself. The man who grabs power, and the man who hides from power, may both be driven by fear.
The Ultimate Leader
As we understand Jesus’ grace, and let it train us (Titus 2:11-12) we will turn from these temptations. When we know his love for us, we will love him more than these temptations. When we know he was not distracted from his calling to save us, we will fight distractions for his glory. When we know he gave up the worship of heaven for us, we will not swallow the flattery that would lead us away from him. When we know what God thinks of us we will not be swayed by fear of criticism. When we know that Jesus did not protect himself for us, we will lay our lives down in service of him and others. And when we know he's the one with all the power, we won’t abuse power, but rather use whatever power he gives us for others’ good, and his glory.