Several years ago, I read an interesting book called The Gift of Fear. In it, the author (I can't remember his name at the moment) stated that we all have an inner alert system to danger that we often ignore. This alert system is the gift of fear.
Now some of us have more highly honed alert systems, some of us appear to have put our systems in sleep mode and others of us have such sensitive systems that they go off at any little thing, like those annoying car alarms.
No matter where you fall on the spectrum, if you are a Christian, you have a little bit of an edge that others don't. It's called the Holy Spirit and He gives us discernment that often times we don't hear because we aren't paying attention or we ignore because we think it doesn't sound "Christian" enough.
Now don't get me wrong. This doesn't mean that God wants us walking around in fear. He says the words "fear not" over 300 times between Genesis and Revelation. So obviously, fear is not something we are to be wallowing in; however, that doesn't mean we are supposed to ignore our inner alert system that tells us something or someone is dangerous either.
One of the most fascinating things I found in this book were some of the statistics. I was sort of disconcerted to find, that according to the stats, I had a 1 in 4 chance of being physically assaulted in my life time. Yikes! Good thing I know God is my shield and fortress. But what really struck me is that the vast majority of these assaults could have been avoided, something close to 90%, but the woman had been afraid of appearing impolite or not nice. Interesting.
How many times has the Holy Spirit whispered a warning in your ear and you pretended to be deaf because you didn't want to be perceived as "not nice"? I know I have been guilty of that. Usually it is about something other than a life and death situation. But so many times, we get ourselves into trouble because we don't heed the Holy Spirit's still, small voice.
In Nehemiah 6, we see Nehemiah using that discernment from God to protect himself from Sanballat. First, Sanballat sends a friendly letter, asking Nehemiah to meet so they can "counsel together." On the surface, this seems like a good development, but Nehemiah knows that it is highly unlikely that a man who hates him in particular and Jews in general would suddenly have a change of heart. He knows the real reason behind this letter - to get him alone so Sanballat can dispose of him.
Nehemiah sends a refusal and goes on with his work. There is no excuse or apology - just "no." Sanballat doesn't give up right away. He sends several letters. All are met with a simple no.
Finally, realizing Nehemiah is aware of his schemes, Sanballat removes the mask. He sends a letter that says he will tell the king that Nehemiah is trying to promote himself to king in this area. That might not seem as big of a deal to us, but back then any type of activty that threatened the king's authority was considered treason and was a one way ticket to an execution- yours! Nehemiah recognized the threat in this letter.
I love Nehemiah's response. He doesn't beat around the bush but in verse 8 says, "Such things as you are saying have not been done, but you are inventing them in your own mind."
Nehemiah also knows WHY Sanballat is doing this - he wants to frighten Nehemiah to discourage the workers. Nehemiah, as a wise leader, knows that a frightened, scared leader leads to demoralized followers, so he stands firm.
Then Sanballat sinks to a new low - he uses a false prophet to try to lure Nehemiah into a bad situation. Nehemiah enters the house of Shemaiah in verse 10. Shemaiah was the son of a priest who was an intimate friend of Nehemiah's. He had no reason not to trust this man's friendship or his words.
Shemaiah says to Nehemiah, "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, and they are coming to kill you at night."
At first glance, this doesn't seem like a bad idea - find refuge in the temple, but what Shemaiah is really suggesting is that Nehemaiah go into the Holy Place in the temple which was forbidden to anyone who was not a priest, and Nehemiah was NOT a priest.
In verse 12 and 13, Nehemiah says, "Then I perceived that surely God had not sent him, but he uttered his prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He was hired for this reason, that I might become frightened and act accordingly and sin, so that they might have an evil report in order that they coudl reproach me."
Nehemiah knew that if he went into the temple, into the Holy Place, it would be a sin. That would give his enemies ammunition to use against him. It would cause the people to doubt his reverence for God and to doubt his courage. As a leader, he knew that his reputation had to be above reproach and his courage couldn't be questioned because then the people would question if God really told him to build the wall or not.
Nehemiah knew that God would not have had one His prophets tell him to sin. Nehemiah recognized the fear tactic. Throughout chapter 6, we see the enemy trying to use fear to intimidate Nehemiah but he doesn't allow it to happen.
As the chapter closes, we see that Tobiah who had ties to the nobles through marriage continues his campaign to make himself look good and Nehemiah look bad. But most of the enemies simply drift away as they see the wall completed. Even they knew that only God could have brought this about and had no desire to tangle with Yahweh.
Chapter 6 gives us a good look at true leadership - Nehemiah is confident in the work God has called him to. He is not taken in by false offers of friendship or false prophets. He continues to conduct himself with courage and with behavior that is above reproach.
Oh that I might be able to be so bold in following God's call on my life!
~ Blessings, Bronte