Flattery will get you! – Could you be drawn away from God’s best in your life by flattery or some other temptation? What can we learn from Nehemiah about protecting our testimonies, our jobs, and our ministries?
Nehemiah 6 & 7
Flattery Will Get You!
Nehemiah 6 & 7:
Flattery & Enticing Distractions
Chapter 6 reminds me of what goes on in politics and the media today. Nehemiah and the people were making great progress at rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. Notice what happened next:
¹ Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), 2 that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm.
3 So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (6.1-3).
As soon as someone starts to do something significant for God, influential people want to meet with him or her and, often, interview them for TV or some other media. Sadly, many have learned the hard way that most people in the media don’t want to rejoice with them because they’re doing something worthwhile. In fact, most have learned that what they say and do gets twisted and misreported. And all it does is serve as a distraction from what’s really important.
Fear is another of the enemies weapons: fear of losing a position of prominence, fear of what people will think, or fear for their own safety or well-being.
10 Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you.”
11 And I said, “Should such a man as I flee? And who is there such as I who would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in!” 12 Then I perceived that God had not sent him at all, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 For this reason he was hired, that I should be afraid and act that way and sin, so that they might have cause for an evil report, that they might reproach me.
When we know that we are doing what God has called us to do, we can trust Him to take care of us.
14 My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat, according to these their works, and the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who would have made me afraid.
But sadly, flattery, the enticement of national coverage, and the excitement of rubbing elbows with dignitaries can tempt us to compromise. Fear sometimes stops us in our tracks. But when it doesn’t work, the enemy will often attack from within—sometimes using people close to that person. How many times have we read the phrase “unnamed sources say …” to spread some untruth.
Another way the enemy attempts to bring down servants of God is by taking advantage of our own sinful desires, often through an immoral sexual encounter.
Those encounters don’t always start with something obviously sexual or immoral. Often they happen between two co-workers or even people who work together in ministry.
It may seem innocent, at first, things like texting and compliments, but will often turn to flirting and spending more and more time together.
I thought it was interesting that one of the people mentioned in verse 14 was a woman, the prophetess Noahdiah! Even though nothing sexual is mentioned, what if Nehemiah had listened to her and began to develop a relationship with her? How many times has someone said, “We’re just friends” only to fall into temptation as the “friendship” develops? We need to be so careful of both the perception of something inappropriate and the temptations that we all face.
But Nehemiah didn’t fall for any of these ploys. He kept his focus on God’s purposes and trusted God for the results.
Today’s Other Readings:
Who Can Be Compared to the Lord?
Verse 6, “For who in the heavens can be compared to the LORD? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the LORD?”
The psalmist praises the Lord as being unparalleled in all the universe!
Truth and Lies
A person who lies will eventually be destroyed by his own lies, but a person who only speaks what he knows to be true will be consistent. We have probably all known people who lie endlessly. Eventually they lose all credibility. But people who speak truth consistently come to be trusted and depended upon.
While he has not been convicted of anything, Paul is still under arrest. He has been held in Caesarea for over two years and because he had appealed to Caesar while he was still in Jerusalem, he is being transferred by ship to Rome.
The conditions for travel are not good. It’s late in the year and they will sail through an area notorious for storms and shipwrecks. When the weather turns bad, Paul advises them to spend the winter in a place called Fair Havens, but those in charge take the advice of the ship’s crew instead.
13 When the south wind blew softly, supposing that they had obtained their desire, putting out to sea, they sailed close by Crete. 14 But not long after, a tempestuous head wind arose, called Euroclydon. 15 So when the ship was caught, and could not head into the wind, we let her drive. 16 And running under the shelter of an island called Clauda, we secured the skiff with difficulty. 17 When they had taken it on board, they used cables to undergird the ship; and fearing lest they should run aground on the Syrtis Sands, they struck sail and so were driven. 18 And because we were exceedingly tempest-tossed, the next day they lightened the ship. 19 On the third day we threw the ship’s tackle overboard with our own hands. 20 Now when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest beat on us, all hope that we would be saved was finally given up.
But God’s plan for Paul to go to Rome would not be thwarted, even by the bad decisions of those in charge.
21 But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. 22 And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, 24 saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.'”
God’s plans and purposes for us are just as sure. Our responsibility is to keep our eyes on Him, be obedient to the best of our ability with God’s help, seek to bring Him glory in the midst of every circumstance, and trust Him for the results.
In the next few days, we’ll look at how we can go from grief to joy, how we think we can control how far sin takes us only to find ourselves caught in it, how we tend to expect certain guarantees from God in our parenting, and then we’ll look at the great exchange, how we get to exchange our sin for His righteousness. Be sure to sign up so you won’t miss any of these upcoming posts.
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