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May 28 Today’s Reading: Nehemiah 6-7
“I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.”
Nehemiah 6 describes Sanballat’s opposition to and persecution of God’s servant Nehemiah and his people. It also describes God’s gracious intervention on behalf of his own to deliver them from the designs and devices of their foes. Chapter 7 describes the government of Jerusalem under Nehemiah and gives us the genealogy of those who first returned from Babylon. Blessed Holy Spirit, inscribe upon our hearts the things of Christ in these chapters you would have us to learn this day.
Satan’s rage against Christ and his church is manifest in all times and in all places; but it is manifest in different ways. Sanballat and Tobiah first showed their contempt for Nehemiah and his cause with ridicule and laughter. They laughed and said the work was so meaningless and worthless that a little fox could easily undo it. When ridicule failed, under pretence of kindness, they invited Nehemiah to a conference, intending to do him some mischief. Then Nehemiah had to endure slander, accusing him and God’s church of things he concocted from his own depraved heart. Nehemiah said, “thou feignest them out of thine own heart.” Such are Satan’s devices against the spiritual building of God’s house. Satan is a subtle foe. By private fraud, and by open opposition, as best suits his hellish policy, he attacks God’s people. Let us ever beware of his devices! As the Lord God intervened for Nehemiah and his people then, so he intervenes for us today to deliver the godly out of the snare of the devil. One of the sweetest, most pleasant experiences of life for a child of God is to watch God’s deliverances. No doubt, we are unaware of most of our Lord’s interventions on our behalf; but those that are known to us are more precious than gold.
Jerusalem’s safety and the means Nehemiah zealously adopted to preserve her from the foe ought to remind us our Almighty Governor, the Lord Jesus. When he returned to the court of heaven, having finished salvation for us by his own blood and righteousness, he set watchmen upon the walls of his Zion, poured out his Spirit, and gave his church pastors according to his own heart, — a perpetually standing ministry to maintain the safety and security of his redeemed ones. By the direction and power of God the Holy Ghost, those divinely appointed watchmen keep the doors of his house night and day. Those faithful men of God will give the Lord Jehovah neither rest nor peace, until he has made Jerusalem a praise in the earth.
When Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, and the Jews’ enemies heard that Nehemiah was being used of God to build the walls of Jerusalem, that there was no breach left in the wall, they were determined to undermine the work, destroy Nehemiah’s usefulness, and destroy the work God raised him up to perform. Sanballat and Geshem sent word to God’s servant, calling him to come down from the work Jehovah had trusted to his hands and meet with them.
These men were not interested in Nehemiah, his work, the glory of God, the people of God, or the house of God. They had no interest except themselves. Therefore, they tried to do Nehemiah mischief by getting him to come down to them. Nehemiah was not taken by their snare. He refused to stoop to the level of his foes. He would not come down to them. His reasoning was magnificent. — “I [am] doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?”
Every servant of God in every age would be wise to follow Nehemiah’s example. I say to every man called of God to preach the gospel, let no one turn you aside from the work to which God has called you. There is no work on this earth so great, so needful, so magnificent as the preaching of the gospel of Christ. It is ours to seek the Lord’s sheep, to bring Christ to sinners and bring sinners to Christ, to serve God’s elect, to build his church and his kingdom. We must devote ourselves entirely to this great work, and renew that devotion with every rising sun, for there are many devices by which Satan would call us down from the wall; and he makes them all appear to be both legitimate and needful.
Controversies arise, and we feel compelled to put them down. Why? We try to convince ourselves and others that it is for the glory of God. But if nothing is to be gained for the good of men’s souls, if nothing is brought forward to comfort and edify God’s saints, if nothing is done for the salvation of poor, lost sinners, how is God glorified? Leave the controversies alone and preach the gospel.
Another ploy of the devil is slander. When wicked men, like Sanballat, feign out of their own wicked hearts (Nehemiah 6:9) slanderous accusations against you, ignore them. Do not attempt to defend the honor of your name. Our business is the honor of God’s name. You can never defend yourself from the assaults of men without leaving the work God has trusted to your hands, without laying aside the work of the gospel (prayer and study) to do so.
How many Satan has pulled off the wall of service in the cause of Christ by the “the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things” (Mark 4:19). The children need more things, your wife needs more attention or you crave property, financial security, or a little ease of life, those legitimate things other men pursue. All those things you can have, if you want them; but not without coming down and leaving the work God has given you.