Nehemiah 6:1-4 - Finishing the Job

Dr. Steve Viars August 31, 1996 Nehemiah 6:1-4

- For the past several weeks, we've been studying Nehemiah 4-5.
- We said that the relationship between the two chapters is that they're both about opposition, but they differ in that chapter four speaks about opposition from without, while chapter 5 deals with opposition from within.

- These verses have proved to be a gold mine of biblical principles.
- They explain much about how and why opposition develops, what forms opposition often takes, and how godly men and women overcome it.

1. Why opposition develops.

- The "opposition from without" in chapter 4 developed because of jealousy, and anger at the accomplishments of others.
- In chapter 5, it developed "inside the family" because of greed and selfishness.
- It's amazing how relevant and applicable the Scripture is because many of you have been placed in various leadership positions and you know how often these sinful tendencies get the "opposition ball" rolling.

- we've also learned:
2. The "forms" opposition takes.

- Remember, in chapter 4, it began with ridicule, and sarcasm.
- it eventually escalated into threats and violence.

- in chapter 5, its form was the abuse of people, and taking advantage of others who were weaker or less fortunate.

3. Solutions to overcome opposition.

1) We've seen a number of occasions where Nehemiah has prayed.
2) Time and again Nehemiah has turned the attention of the people back to the work and kept them (and himself) focused on the project instead of the criticism.
3) He reassured the people and reminded them of the Lord's promises and goodness.
4) He made specific plans to counteract the opposition by having half the people ready with swords while the other half worked. In some cases, some workers even had a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other.
5) When it came to internal opposition within the family, he quickly addressed the problem and confronted those who were sinning.
6) Nehemiah also made sure that his life was an example that the others could follow,
- we left last Sunday on a "high note" in the sense that chapter 5 ends with this great description of the example Nehemiah had been by:
- refusing to take the king's food allowance,
- refusing to tax the people
- not allowing his staff to abuse their power
- not being sidetracked with land deals, etc.
- not abusing the privileges that came with his position.

- You would expect, therefore, to perhaps read in chapter 6 that "Everyone lived happily ever after!"
- But that’s not what happens.
- the work did progress on the wall, but the opposition from without returns with a vengeance.

- let's read about it.
- READ 6:1-14

- now here's another passage that is just packed with important principles about leadership and handling opposition.
- Cyril Barber (along with several other writers) points out that the opposition in chapter 6 can be broken down into three stages:

Breakdown of Nehemiah 6:1-14

1) Opposition by intrigue
- the invitation to come meet

2) Opposition by innuendo
- the open letter about Nehemiah's supposed insurrection

3) Opposition by intimidation
- the supposed plot according to Shemaiah

Two Other Important Introductory Notes

1) These attacks have become very personal.
- The opposition in chapters 4-5 was not nearly as pointed as what we're reading about now.
- This opposition is aimed directly at Nehemiah.

- Barber explains:
- "When Sanballet and his coconspirators realize that they have been outmaneuvered, outgeneraled, and outwitted by Nehemiah, they decide to attack him personally...their wounded pride will not be appeased until Nehemiah has been humiliated."

2) These attacks were subtle.
- James Montgomery Boice observed:
- "Each was subtle, on the surface it appeared to be something other than it was. Part of the challenge to Nehemiah was to see the real situation clearly."
- Our plan for the next three weeks is to take these three form of opposition and learn all we can about how we might face them today and what God wants us to do to overcome such opposition.

I. [Principle #1 - From the setting] Know the Difference Between a Job Being Done and a Job Being Almost Done

- INPUT - Please describe the lifestyle of a person who finishes tasks, and one who doesn't.

- (on white board)

- This issue of knowing when a job is done becomes a critical point in the way Nehemiah responds to this first form of opposition in chapter 6.
- There are at least two ways the project is not yet finished:

A. The work on the wall was not complete.

- verse 1 - "...I had rebuilt the wall, and that no breach remained in it, although at that time I had not set up the doors in the gates."

- it's amazing what topics are left out of this story, and what topics are developed in great detail.
- There are no details about how they got from the wall being half-way up to it beings all the way up and ready for the gates...
- because that information is not the thrust of the story...

- the point is -- it's almost done, but its not done.

- to leave the project now would have been very foolish because a wall without a gate is practically useless.
- it would not provide the protection it was designed to provide until the job was done.

- there's another way to think about the unfinished nature of the project.

B. The work on the people of God was not complete.

- of course, in some ways it is never complete.
- But Cyril Barber makes the important point that:
"Nehemiah knew that without adequate leadership in Jerusalem, the people would speedily lapse back into their old ways. The priesthood was corrupt and the rulers avaricious. Exploitation would cause the morale to collapse, and dissension would again prevail. His place was in Jerusalem. The whole matter, therefore, became one of priorities."

- We saw in verse 3 that Nehemiah understood this principle, and it helped him make the decision about whether he would go down to meet them or not.
- Of course there were other issues involved as well, but Barber is right when he said that the matter boiled down to priorities.
- There's a difference between a job being done, and being almost done.

- INPUT - Specific area of life in which we might move to something else before completing the job at hand?

(Lesson from the office building -- It's a lot easier to start something than it is to finish it!---Thank the Lord for finishers).

II. [Principle #2 - From their "invitation"] Be Very Slow About Stopping What God Has Called You To Do

- let's think about this invitation for a few moments:

A. Let us meet together.

- read from Boice, p. 102-103

- This invitation seemed so harmless.
- This was especially true because they offered to meet:

B. In the plain of Ono

- in other words, they were proposing a neutral site.

- to complicate matters further, they:

C. Repeated the offer four times.

- so it wasn't just a matter of applying pressure.
- it was a matter of applying pressure day after day after day.

- Some might look at these verses and say, "What's the big deal?"
- "Why not go down and meet with these guys?"

- Of course what happens later in the chapter shows what would have happened in Nehemiah had gone down to them...but at this point he didn't know that yet.
- At this point, it would have constituted a soft little choice as a result of failing to realize that the job wasn't done, and he had no business going anywhere until it was.

- A sideline to this is -- Its interesting how often, especially around a time of victory, a soft little choice is presented to us, and how large an impact that choice can have.

1) David - Sin with Bathsheba after a series of military and political victories.

2) Jonah - Sin of self pity after great revival in Ninevah.

3) Joseph - Temptation from Potiphar's wife after his promotion to being steward of the house.
- Some of these servants avoided the temptation, some did not. This matter of finishing what God has given you to do was a significant part of it.

III. [Principle #3 - From Nehemiah's response] Don't Be Fooled by the Enemy or Sidetracked from the Work

A. Learn when and how to say "no."

Swindoll - "There's a great difference between being an available man or woman of God and being a puppet of people. A great difference. Some people never understand how you can say no. But every leader under God must reserve that right.

B. Learn (or keep learning) the importance of priority oriented living.

verse 3 - "I am doing a great work and cannot come down"

Matthew 6:33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.

C. Develop godly discernment.

verse 2 - "But they were planning to harm me."

Barber - "His ability to see the issues clearly and stand firm under pressure safeguarded him from succumbing to the wiles of his adversaries."

- Ii Corinthians 2:11 in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes.


Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and four grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video