#6 “Book of Nehemiah” Series
"PROMISES & PITFALLS OF DETOURS!"
TEXT: Nehemiah 6:1-19; Deut. 18:20; Num. 3:10,38; 18:7 Matt. 4:1-11
INTRO: When I was a kid our whole family took a tour of the USA by car, it was in a good 1957 Buick ... however the year we went was 1962! We went to the World's fair in Seattle, Washington – and all around the country! The one thing that really sticks in my mind however about that trip was the constant detours my dad took us on based on the crazy billboards that promised all kinds of goodies just 50 miles off the main highway! My dad wanted us to have an adventure, and the billboards promised them if we just go off the highway.
They were never what the billboards looked like or promised! Dad coughed it up as "seeing the country son ... seeing the parts of our country the main road doesn't usually let you see!" We would beg NOT to go to the next “detour” ... but my dad was always lured by the advertising on those billboards!
One detour we took went took us through the same city 3 times in one day ... we were traveling in a large endless circle ... in other words we went no-where for a good chunk of the day ... we were going nowhere!
This is also true spiritually, so many Christians fall into simple detours that seem to promise them more and better -- only to discover later that it took from them instead of giving to them! And then when they realized it, they used excuses or logic like my dad did in saying, "well you got see something you would have missed otherwise" to talk themselves into thinking the consequences weren't so bad; truth is, it is sometimes better to not see some things or experience some of Satan's detours because the consequences can be quite painful and long lasting!
If Satan can't get you to detour he will settle for tricking you into just slowing down ... and oh the logic here: “You need more rest, more time for yourself, it is time for others to do their share, etc.” ... while these may at times be true, they can also be a sly trick of Satan just to slow you up enough that your ministry is zapped of it's momentum! We need to know the difference!
ILLUS: An ancient story recalls how Satan once summoned his top three aides to plan how to stop a group of dedicated Christians from effective missionary work.
One of the lieutenants, Rancor, said to Satan, "We should convince them that there is no God." Satan sneered at Rancor and replied, "That would never work. They know that there is a God."
Another of Satan's aides, Bitterness, spoke up. "We'll convince them that God does not really care about right or wrong." Satan toyed with the notion for a few moments, but rejected it because he knew that too many Christians know that God does care.
Malice, the third satanic helper, came up with his idea. "We'll let them go on thinking that there is a God and that He cares about right and wrong. But we will keep whispering that there is no hurry, there is no hurry."
Satan howled with glee. He advanced Malice higher in his malevolent organization. Satan knew that he would find this stratagem successful with many, many Christians. -- Frank S. Mead -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 180.
PROP. SENT: The Word of God teaches us to stay on course and avoid the spiritual detours that seem to offer so much but in truth give pain ... and to be careful to know the difference when God is asking us to slow up ... or when Satan is attempting to slow us down ... we need to know how to tell the difference, it can make ALL THE DIFFERENCE in our ability to achieve our spiritual goals in ministry!
I. WASTED SIDE TRIPS! Neh. 6:1-9
A. Temptation! 6:1-9
1. Many of God's people have faced "side trips" or “detours” ... ask Jonah some day how much fun they can be!
2. Nehemiah and the people of God were about ready to finish the walls ... just hang the gates in place and the vision will be complete ... mission accomplished!
3. The enemy tries a cunning detour to prevent this completion of the wall!
a. They ask for a simple meeting with Nehemiah in a place that was equal distance for all of them ... about a days journey away.
b. Four times he gets this message to meet ... and four times he refuses based on the fact that Nehemiah knew his enemy, they weren't interested in his well-being.
(1. Remember that when your being tempted by Satan to do something you know is wrong, IT MIGHT FEEL GOOD AT THE MOMENT BUT IT WILL MAKE YOU SICK!
(2. Satan always tries to appear reasonable!
(3. Everybody is doing it, you don't want to look like a failure, do you? You need to know what it is like ... etc.!
(4. Nothing more than logical lies!
ILLUS: A little girl had been told many times by a childless old couple that if she would come and live with them, they would get her everything she wanted-a pony and cart, a piano, and the like. One day when the couple had been particularly urgent, her father said, "Don't you think you had better go with them?" The little girl looked at him in alarm and cried, "Why, Daddy, don't you want me?" "Yes," he replied, "but I can't give you very much, and they will give you everything nice." "But I wouldn't have you!" she said as she snuggled up to him. – Source Unknown
4. Satan can be quite persistent, hoping we will wear down and give in!
a. Nehemiah was in no mood to believe his enemy had any well wishes in meeting him!
b. And as often as they kept trying to wear him down by repeated invitations, he simply and politely kept refusing, staying the course of ministry he had started ... he was doing a GREAT WORK for God ... why take off now and lose momentum!
B. Traps! 6:5-9
1. When repeated invitations failed, the enemy tried something just a little more persuasive ... an OPEN LETTER was sent!
a. At first you say, "so what?"...
b. Think about it ... an OPEN letter would allow the carrier to know the contents, who would tell his best friend ... and his friend, and so on, and so on, etc. until it became a widespread rumor!!!
c. But that was the point ... the enemy is slick!
2. In this open letter there was an accusation that Nehemiah was planning on secretly becoming king when the walls and gates were finished and then turn against the very King who had granted him this privilege!
a. Because this kind of scenario was common in that day it was not a crazy possibility to believe ... just what the enemy was counting on – EMOTIONAL BLACKMAIL!
b. The idea was to threaten Nehemiah by ruining his good reputation and so hopefully force him to be withdrawn to have to answer the king about this possibility ... thus to forestall the work of God!
3. Hidden in the open letter of course was a reasonable and kind offer of willingness by the enemy to meet with him to “talk this matter over” ... so it appears that the enemy wishes to help!
a. Satan often plays these games with people ... appearing as an angel of light he often makes the detours alluring and sometimes he even sounds logical and concerned! ... BUT DON'T BE FOOLED!
ILLUS: Don't pour away the water you are traveling with because of a mirage. -- Arabian Proverb - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 2806.
b. Nehemiah doesn’t allow his feelings to interfere with what he knows is God’s plans.
4. Nehemiah's response: "YOU
a. Nehemiah isn't taken in easily ... WHY? BECAUSE he knows that the king knows the real Nehemiah ... and the good reputation he had built would certainly sustain this false rumor!
b. It is important to realize that his PREVIOUSLY good reputation became at this time his trump card!
c. Nehemiah is not blind to what the enemy was trying to do ... DISCOURAGE him and the people and disrupt the building of the wall!
d. His second solution was PRAYER! It was a simple prayer, but effective!
5. The temptation to quit was real (6:9) ... But this is the time to revive and not quit ... for it means Satan's scared of your ministry being effective!
II. WELL-VERSED SCRIPTURES 6:10-14
A. Trickery 6:10-13
1. Nehemiah goes to visit the local priest who has been locked up in his house by his own will ... probably out of curiosity; prophets and priests often were known to do strange things to communicate God's Word, so when they were weird you took notice!
2. Shemaiah seemed genuinely concerned about Nehemiah's life and ministry and tells him about a plot of the enemy to have him killed possibly that very night.
a. So far this could well be the Lord using this priest to warn Nehemiah about a real threat ... certainly he knew the threats existed by the boastful enemy!
b. Of course this would mean being out of action for a while ... thus the project God had given them to complete would be shut down!
3. Everything about the warning section seemed authentic and very real, this was God's servant speaking.
a. Nehemiah had always demonstrated great respect for the prophets and priests sent by God.
b. Nehemiah was not a priest himself ... it was therefore not uncommon to speak with God's local authority to find out the will of God for the people.
4. This was the enemy's most brilliant attack so far.
a. Healthy doses of logic.
b. A sense of genuine concern.
c. Seeing the temple being honored by the priest as a haven of safety.
d. The priest himself had suffered for this message by staying indoors for a long enough time to communicate the sense of urgency of existing fear, and a solution from God!
e. The concern and the revealed death threats fit well the enemy's early attempts to stop the work ... and it was logical that they would attempt an assassination against Nehemiah!
5. Everything seemed to fit and make sense to any logically thinking man ... EXCEPT – it would violate God’s Word for Nehemiah to go into the holy area as one who was not a priest, why would God ask him to go against His own Word?
ILLUS: Have you heard about the elderly woman on a busy street corner who was confused and hesitant to cross because of the heavy traffic? Finally a gentleman came up to her and asked if he could cross the street with her. Gratefully she took his arm, but grew progressively more alarmed as he zigzagged randomly across the street, to the blare of horns and screech of locked brakes. Finally on the opposite curb, she said angrily, "You almost got us killed! You walk like you're blind." "I am," he replied. "That's why I asked if I could cross with you." Jesus said of the Pharisees of His day: "They be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (Matt 15:14). We need to be very careful not to entrust our souls to the guidance of someone who cannot see the clear teachings of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Our eternal destiny is too important to put at such risk. – Source Unknown
B. Triumph! Deut. ; Num. ,38; 18:7
1. One thing didn't fit ... and Nehemiah would not have caught the enemy's cunning trick if he hadn't known his Bible!
2. The Bible clearly forbids any access into the temple's holy areas except priests NUM. 3:10, 38; 18:7; & Deut. 18:20 These passages very clearly states that if anyone other than a priest enters he is to be put to death!
3. Nehemiah wasn't from the priestly clan ... and if he hadn't known his Bible he would have fallen for this trick of Satan's!
4. The other part of this trick was then revealed too ... since it was the priest who suggested all this, knowing it was wrong ... it must have been that the enemy had paid him to do this thing.
a. Deut. clearly stated that no prophet of God will speak something from God that contradicts God's previous Word!
b. This man would now be considered by Nehemiah as a FALSE PROPHET!
c. Because this priest did this he would lose him ministry as a prophet for good!
d. This was a high price to pay for allowing money to dominate his ministry! (Sound like anything familiar in the last few years!) You can’t just change the rules when it is inconvenient to do God’s work.
ILLUS: An airliner returned to the terminal because the pilot did not like the sound of the engines. As it taxied a second time for take-off, one nervous passenger inquired if the problem had been solved. "Yes, it has," smiled the stewardess. "We changed pilots." – Source Unknown
5. Nehemiah triumphed because he knew the Word of God, this protected him from a very clever trick of Satan's that at first seemed so caring and real!
6. Jesus encountered this kind of temptation three times in Matt. 4:1-11: each time Satan used partial Scriptures ... and Jesus beat Him because He knew the Word better than the Devil! WE NEED TO KNOW GOD'S WORD IN THIS DAY AND AGE OF FALSE PROPHETS AND MINISTRIES THAT APPEAL TO THE FLESH! Nehemiah exposes all of the false prophets in town!
7. Instead of Nehemiah getting a bad name ... all the false prophets in town are exposed by God's Word and they therefore lost their reputations and ministry!
8. When you run with the Devil you will fall with him ... join his cause and you will join his collapse!
a. What a high price the priests paid for their participation in the enemy's schemes!
b. Just a single episode of joining with Satan can effectively destroy or slow down your ministry and walk with God ... KNOW THE WORD!
III. WILLFUL STUBBORNESS 6:15-19
A. Testimony! 6:15-16
1. “S0 THE WALL WAS COMPLETED ... IN 52 DAYS!”
a. The miraculous happened because there were no side trips or detours taken!
2. Nehemiah's stubborn insistence to keep to God's call and continually ignore the enemy allowed the great project to not only be completed on time but it testified to the enemy that TRULY GOD WAS WITH THEM!
a. Notice the reaction of the surrounding nations!
b. They were in awe of what God had done with these people and soon their own self-confidence eroded!
c. This is an interesting comment about self-confidence! Self-confidence doesn't come so much from JUST what we do ... but what we do that HONORS God!
d. The enemy was at a loss to explain how this project could have been completed in just 52 days – it was obvious that God had helped His people!
3. What a testimony for Nehemiah too ... if he had fallen prey to the enemy’s subtle plots of distraction and disaster the people would have floundered who looked to his leadership! Nehemiah realized however that if he held steady those who looked to him as a leader would fall into step behind him and follow his lead.
ILLUS: As a boy in the Middle West, I used to amuse myself by holding a stick across a gateway that the sheep had to pass through. After the first few sheep had jumped over the stick, I took it away; but all the other sheep leaped through the gateway over an imaginary barrier. The only reason for their jumping was that those in front had jumped. The sheep is not the only animal with that tendency. Almost all of us are prone to do what others are doing, to believe what others are believing, to follow, without question, the testimony of prominent men. – Source Unknown
a. Give us GOD FEARING leaders!
b. Give us PEOPLE who will not stop just because the enemy offers attractive alternatives and detours!
B. Troublemakers! 6:17-19
1. As a final word in this part of the story it ends on an interesting note of some more STUBBORN WILLFULNESS!
a. But not toward God …
b. Against God!
2. Tobiah the enemy had a
son who had remarried into an influential family inside
a. This marriage
connected the enemy to God's people and produced a continuous problem for
b. Notice that Nehemiah
has constant problems in
c. And it is quite clear that Tobiah the enemy used this marriage to get in a constant barrage of slander against Nehemiah!
3. Nehemiah was always having to defend himself because of this one improper marriage, and as he ends this wonderful success story about completing the wall he states the regular doses of intimidation the enemy was still able to throw at him through the connections that existed between the enemy and this one family in God's people!
4. Nehemiah however would not allow this to rob the people or himself of the proper expression and appreciation of having done the will of God in spite of the enemies' constant barrage of sabotage ... but that's another sermon, next week!
ILLUS: Your reactions to your enemy can hurt you more than your enemy can. -- Hannah Hurnard (1905-1990) -- Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 3175.
5. Let's face it, there are always going to be troublemakers in the Kingdom ... somehow they get connected ... but you can't run around constantly trying to put out small fires, you just keep going and see the bigger picture of the many who desire God's will and are willing to work to see things happen!
6. Troublemakers are like the statement Jesus made about the poor, “THESE YOU WILL ALWAYS HAVE WITH YOU...”
CONCLUSION: Just as Nehemiah and God's people were about to reach their goal the enemy offered some tempting detours. When Nehemiah refused to take these detours the enemy tried to catch him in devastating traps. By staying on course ... and a healthy knowledge of God's Word they reached the goal and the enemy sulked in weakness and defeat! Have you drifted off course or fallen into Satan's detours? Get back on track and you'll make the goal!
NOTE: What are some of Satan's detours? Unresolved anger, jealousy, bitterness, gossip, lies, lust, envy, rebellious attitudes, and material cravings that are never met, self-pity, sexual values contrary to Scripture, etc.