Nehemiah 6, 7

Nehemiah 6, 7

SERIES: Godly Leadership

Operation Intimidation

DATE: April 7, 2019

Note: This was Michael Andrus’ last sermon at First Free in St. Louis, preached in 2019.  It has been inserted into the 1992 series on Nehemiah. 

Greetings:  Thank you kindly, Adam, for that introduction.  I listened to John Richardson’s last message in which he said you were turning on the “way back machine” and inviting me to speak.  Well, he’s not far off as it’s been over 15 years since we moved back to Wichita.  I expect this will be my last time to preach here at First Free.  Adam didn’t tell me that; I’m saying that.  I turned 75 in March, and for me that seems to be the right time to hang it up.  I just hope you don’t conclude I waited too long. 

I appreciate the fact that Nathan retrieved my old pulpit from the Chapel; it’s kind of like a security blanket.  In gratitude I decided to ditch the tie.  It just goes to show you even an old geezer can change with the times!  

I bring you greetings from the rest of our family.  Jan is, of course, here with me, for which I am grateful.  What a great partner she has been for nearly 55 years!  Here is a photo of Eddie and Cindy, Andy and Brooke, and our seven grandchildren taken last Thanksgiving.  We were getting ready for a hayride on our farm.  Eddie has two in college and two in high school; they still live in Bentonville, AR.  Andy’s three are 5, 7, and 9, and they live just five miles from us.  Everyone is in good health, for which we are grateful.  And my mother is still with us and is nearing 101. 

Introduction:  The text I have been asked to teach today, Nehemiah 6 and 7, is all about antagonism and intimidation, plus a long list of nearly unpronounceable names.  This is not what I might have chosen for a swan song, but on the other hand it is Scripture, and I believe strongly that all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable.  So, let’s see what God wants to teach us through this, His holy Word.

Years ago there was a stunning news article about 15-year-old Kip Kinkel of Springfield, Oregon, who killed both his parents and then shot up his school cafeteria, killing 2 students and wounding 22 others.  The 4-column headline in the St. Louis Post Dispatch read, “‘Evil exists,’ experts say of school shootings.”  As if he had just made a startling discovery but could hardly believe it himself, Dr. Shawn Johnston, a forensic psychologist from the left coast said, “I do believe there is a small percentage of people who are determined to be bad, who enjoy doing bad things.”  And he concludes his brilliant analysis with this statement: “I guess the bottom line for me is that evil exists.”  

Hello!!  Two thousand years ago the Apostle Paul wrote a description of humanity which for decades has been ignored and categorically rejected by academics like Dr. Johnston, and by almost our entire humanistic, relativistic society:  

         There is no one righteous, not even one;

                  there is no one who understands,

                  no one who seeks God.

         All have turned away,

                  they have together become worthless;

         there is no one who does good,

                  not even one. (Rom. 3:10-12) 

Theologians have a term for Paul’s view of human nature.  It’s called the doctrine of Total Depravity.  Contrary to critics, it doesn’t mean that everyone is as thoroughly wicked as he can possibly be, or even that sinners are unable to act in positive ways toward one another, but it doesmean that there is no spiritual good innate in any of us, and that sin extends to every part of our nature—intellect, emotions, and will.  It also means we really shouldn’t be shocked when human beings do unconscionable things.  

Even religious people can be hateful, obnoxious, and abusive; in fact, most terrorism in our world today is religiously motivated.  Kenneth Haugk is the Lutheran pastor who founded the worldwide Stephen Ministries headquartered right here in St. Louis.  He wrote a great book entitled Antagonists in the Church:  How to Identify and Deal with Destructive Conflict.  The thesis of this book is that there are antagonists in the church who work to undermine God’s work and God’s servants.  And the sooner we recognize this and learn how to deal with them appropriately, the sooner we will be able to protect the church and maintain its health.

But, I might add, this is certainly not just a problem in the church.  Without a doubt some of you are facing an antagonist right now at school, at work or in the neighborhood.  Perhaps even in your home.  My hope is that by examining Nehemiah’s response to his antagonists you will better know how to deal with yours in a biblical fashion.  

In case you haven’t been here for this whole series on Nehemiah, allow me to very briefly set the stage.  The Jews had been in dire straits for about 140 years—ever since the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, wiped Jerusalem off the map in 586 B.C.  For 70 years they had endured captivity in Babylon, but Cyrus the Persian defeated Babylon and allowed some of the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild their temple.  Surrounded by enemies and plagued by internal strife, they barely survived over the next several generations. 

But in 445 B.C. God raised up Nehemiah, a Jewish exile and cupbearer to the Persian King Artaxerxes.  God moved in the heart of the king to allow Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city’s walls so the Jewish people could enjoy peace and security.  

An archaeologist friend of mine recently dug up a manuscript that purports to be one of Nehemiah’s speeches to the people (put ancient manuscript on screen).  I can’t vouch 100% for its authenticity (some of you may remember how he got a few things wrong years ago!), but I’ll translate the Hebrew for you so you will at least have the information.  “And Nehemiah said, ‘If you don’t have borders you don’t have a country.  We need a great big, beautiful wall and the Samaritans are going to pay for it.”  Then the manuscript goes on to say that his enemies were heard to respond, “It’s too expensive, it’s medieval, it won’t work, and besides it’s immoral!”  One strange guy even wanted to tear down the few portions of the wall that remained.  (Sorry about that!  As they say, “Fools rush in . . .”  But sometimes it helps to laugh about the political situation in which we find ourselves we don’t end up crying!)  

Back in chapter 4 the people of God faced ridicule and opposition, both external and internal, as the wall reached half its intended height.  But now in chapter 6, as the project nears completion, the opposition enters a whole new stage.  The chapter heading in my Bible reads, “Further opposition,”but that’s a little misleading.  It’s not just more of the same; it is opposition at a whole new level.  As we read starting in Nehemiah 6:1, I want you to watch for similar phrases that appear multiple times in the first 14 verses, phrases like scheming to harm, trying to frighten, hired to intimidate, etc.  I’m going to read from the NIV, p. 345 of your pew Bible.  

By the way, in Pastor Bill’s passage for next week, as Ezra got up to read God’s Word all the people instinctively stood.  I think it’s a valuable practice.  So, will you stand, if you are able, for the reading of God’s Word?  Neh. 6:1-14:

         “When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it–though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates–Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.” 

But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?”  Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer. 

Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter in which was written: “It is reported among the nations–and Geshem says it is true–that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us confer together.” 

I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” 

One day I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was shut in at his home. He said, “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you–by night they are coming to kill you.” 

But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should one like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me. 

Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who have been trying to intimidate me. So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.”  This is the Word of the Lord!  You may be seated.

I want us to consider chapter 6 under three simple headings:  the problem, the solution, and the result.  

The problem is hard core antagonism.  (6:1-14)

As Nehemiah approaches the completion of this amazing project, his enemies stop being mere troublemakers and become hard-core antagonists.  Our story reveals three different tactics antagonists typically use.  

         The antagonist “schemes to harm” (v. 2) by feigning friendship.  Nehemiah’s enemies send a message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.”  Ono was a town about halfway between Samaria and Jerusalem.  Reading between the lines, I suspect the intended message is something like this: “Nehemiah, let’s bury the hatchet.  We’re all reasonable people and we can find a way to preserve the interests of all concerned.  Let’s have a summit conference.  Let’s dialogue.  Let’s find a win/win.”  Well, sometimes dialogue is good, no doubt, but sometimes it’s a trap.  Here Nehemiah’s enemies are just trying to get him to lower his defenses, probably so they can assassinate him when he leaves Jerusalem.  Friends, we don’t want to become paranoid, but we certainly should be cautious when a proven enemy suddenly appears with an olive branch in hand. 

         The antagonist “tries to frighten” (v. 9) by employing leaks, undeclared sources, and distortions of the truth.  After four unsuccessful attempts to distract Nehemiah from his mission, his chief enemy tries for a fifth time by sending his personal aide with the same message, only this time he carries a letter.  The fact that it is unsealed may seem like an insignificant detail, but it is not.  You see, it was customary in ancient times to roll a letter into a little scroll, put hot wax on the outside, and press one’s personal seal into the wax to assure the reader that the letter has not been tampered with.  By leaving it purposely unsealed Sanballat is inviting others to read it along the way.  

He wants the contents leaked because his whole purpose is to slander Nehemiah.  He is clever enough to realize that even if the scurrilous charges in the letter are eventually proved to be false, they can never be wholly retrieved, and perhaps the resulting rumors will be sufficient to impugnNehemiah’s motives, cast aspersions on his integrity, and undermine his influence.  

But not only does the antagonist employ leaks; he also uses unnamed sources.  Notice the opening line of the unsealed letter: “it is reported among the nations.”  One of the common characteristics of an antagonist is to say something like this: “Many people have shared with me such-and-such, but they have asked me to keep their names confidential.”  Kenneth Haugk writes, 

“When someone offers you a word of criticism … and adds, ‘There are X number of other people who feel the same way,’ chances are excellent that you are talking with an antagonist.  These ‘others’ may be phantoms of the antagonist’s imagination, invented to validate his or her own feelings and to threaten you.  Or they may be followers of the antagonist.  Whether they exist or not is immaterial, because individuals who are not antagonistic don’t need to talk about ‘all the others’ who feel the same way; they simply express their own thoughts and feelings.”[i]  

You’ll also notice that Sanballat tries to add gravitas to his report by claiming that Geshem has verified it.  Give me a break!  Geshem is his partner in crime; he has no credibility.  That’s like CNN verifying something MSNBC has reported.

Look also at the content of this letter–it contains severe distortions of the truth.  It claims Nehemiah is intent on becoming king and is even grooming prophets to declare him king.  The wall, then, is just a prelude to a revolt against King Artaxerxes.  But that is totally false.  King Artaxerxes was his sponsor and benefactor, and Nehemiah has no ambitions to rebel against him.  

By the way, there is a kernel of truth in almost every lie–that’s what makes it believable.  Undoubtedly there were prophets in Judah who were speaking of a king for the Jews.  But they were referring to the coming Messiah, not Nehemiah, who was anything but power hungry.[ii]  

         The antagonist “tries to intimidate” (v. 14) by using holy means for an unholy end.  (By the way, J. I. Packer calls the first of these three tactics “political softball,” the second one “political hardball,” and this one “spiritual seduction” or spiritual warfare.)  In verse 10 we find Shemaiah the priest appealing to Nehemiah to come and visit him because he’s a shut-in—too old or too sick to get out, maybe both.  When Nehemiah arrives Shemaiah urges him to go to the temple for protection because he claims there’s a contract out on his life.  There’s a contract out, alright; it’s between Shemaiah and Nehemiah’s enemies, Sanballat and Tobiah.  They have paid this traitorous priest to lure Nehemiah to the temple so his reputation would be destroyed.  Their hope is that the fear such an action would reveal on Nehemiah’s part, would be contagious.  If the people saw their leader on the run they, too, would cut and run.  

Nehemiah’s enemies are using holy means–the counsel of a trusted clergyman and the natural reaction of self-defense–to try to achieve an unholy end–the destruction of Nehemiah and his influence.  By the way, in this willingness to do almost anything to achieve his purposes, the antagonist is almost always motivated by personal gain.  Shemaiah does it for money.  Sanballat and Tobiah seem to be motivated by power.  Other antagonists are motivated by jealousy, loss of influence, injured feelings, or pride.  Often the antagonist is insecure and believes he can build himself up by tearing others down.  He is the opposite of a true servant leader.  

Have you seen any of these behaviors that are common to antagonists in your own relationships—insincere friendship, unnamed sources, distortions of the truth, even the use of holy means to achieve unholy ends?  If so, you know how distressing it can be.  Perhaps more importantly, have you used any of these tactics yourself?   

Well, where hard core antagonism is the problem, what is the solution?  

The solution is godly resistance (6:1-14)  

But what does that entail?  I would like for us to look at several actions Nehemiah takes that constitute godly resistance.  

         Nehemiah exercises discernment. (6:12) When the antagonists say, “Let’s meet on the plains of Ono,” he responds, “Oh no.”  Why?  Because they were scheming to harm him.  How did he know that?  Discernment from the Lord!  Then when Shemaiah urges him to run to the temple, verse 12 explains why he refuses: “I realized God had not sent him.”  Discernment again!  

Some people think of discernment as simply a gift–you either have it or you don’t.  But there are plenty of Scriptures indicating that discernment is also a product of spending time with God in His word and in prayer.  The better we come to know God, the better we are able to discern truth from falsehood, just as the better the Federal agent knows the real $100 bill, the more readily he can spot the counterfeit.  

         He focuses on the mission, with perseverance.  (6:3-4) Nehemiah doesn’t get involved in a verbal battle with his enemies; he simply declares his priorities: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down.  Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?”  Sometimes an antagonist will try hard to draw us into battle, requesting endless meetings so he can spill his venom.  At such times the best approach is to simply say that our priorities and schedule don’t allow for any more meetings (or any more emails!).  But it will take perseverance.  Sanballat and Tobiah send the same message five times, but Nehemiah sticks to his decision.  He knows there is a great difference between being available and being a puppet of others.  Every leader must learn when to say “no.”  

         He categorically denies the false charges. (6:8) In verse 8 in response to the false charges in the leaked letter, Nehemiah simply says, “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.”  It’s just a figment of their imagination.  A number of years ago a woman came up to me and said, “I’ve been gone a couple of weeks and when I returned to church today, I was shocked to hear what the Elders have been up to.”  I had this funny feeling I was going to be shocked too, so I asked her what she had heard.  She said another person in the church had told her (in strict confidence, of course) that the Elders had lied about a family, treated them despicably, and forced them out of the church.  I flatly denied that anything even remotely like that had ever happened.  I urged her to talk to several other Elders to confirm my denial, and then to go back to the person who was her source and urge that person to talk to the Elders.  The originator of the rumor never came to any of us, so I assume it was all a fabrication.

But there’s something even more important that Nehemiah does than deny the accusations.  

         He prays.  (6:9,14) If you’re using the NLT the last phrase of verse 9 reads: “So I continued the work with even greater determination.”  But in the Hebrew that last sentence is more likely a prayer.  Here’s how the NIV puts it: “But I prayed, ‘Now strengthen my hands.’”  I love Nehemiah’s bullet prayers.  This one is just four words long, able to be fired off at a moment of crisis.  Why?  Because he’s on praying ground with God.  And that’s a lot better than shooting off our mouth or melting into a pile of anxiety.  

When slander and gossip and rumor are coming at us, it is very difficult to handle emotionally.  We can deny the falsehoods and the rumors, but we cannot control what others believe.  We may tend to get discouraged and want to throw in the towel.  But not Nehemiah; he prays for strength.  He knows that in the final analysis it is what God thinks of him that really matters.  Therefore, he maintains his emotional stability and is able to continue with the work.  

         He leaves vengeance with God.  (6:14) Look at verse 14, where we have another prayer of Nehemiah, but a very different kind of prayer: “Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who have been trying to intimidate me.”  Now when Nehemiah asks God to remember these characters, it’s not because he’s worried God might forget them.  He’s asking God to deal with them.  This is what is called an imprecatory prayer (there was another one back in 4:4-5).  He’s praying for God’s righteous judgment on his enemies, not only on Sanballat and Tobiah but also on the Jewish prophets who have become traitors against him.  He can’t fight them alone, but he knows that any believer plus God is a majority.  Friends, if you have an enemy who deserves to be dealt with, let God do it.  He’s much better at it than we are.   

I’ll never forget a sermon Stephen Olford preached at our church in Wichita more than 40 years ago.  He was the long-time pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in New York City at the time, and he had just led in a move to integrate his church.  Three prominent leaders fought him tooth and nail.  Olford decided he would just let God deal with them, and in six months’ time all three were dead!  Now that wasn’t Olford’s desire; in fact, he mourned their passing.  But believe me, it put the fear of God in that church!  Had he attacked them personally he probably would have split the church and ended up being forced out.

What does this story of opposition to Nehemiah teach us about leadership?  Well, one thing it communicates is that the higher one’s exposure and the greater one’s influence as a leader of others, the more determined Satan is in bringing him down.  Packer has written wisely,

“Leaders have something of a Pied Piper quality; they are thought of as wise and farseeing, and people trust their judgment and follow in their steps; so if they can be allured into bypaths and blind alleys, they will take many with them, and Satan will score heavily.  Also, leaders live in something of a goldfish bowl, so that when leadership scandals break, the damage and discouragement will be large-scale and widespread.”[iii]  

Have we ever seen that in the evangelical world in the past few years!  Four of the largest and most influential churches in the country have taken huge hits as their leaders have fallen, more because of spiritual arrogance than anything else.  No wonder that in Paul’s letters to young pastors—Timothy and Titus—he focuses not so much on pastoral skills to learn as on character qualities of humility, perseverance, kindness, wisdom, and integrity that the leader must maintain and model.  That’s what we see in Nehemiah as well.  

Well, we’ve seen the problem—hard core antagonism.  And we’ve seen the solution— godly resistance.  Now it’s time to consider the result.

The result: the mission is completed.  (6:15-7:3)

Verse 15: “So the wall was completed in 52 days.”  What an amazing accomplishment, perhaps unparalleled in history!  By the way, the walls of Jerusalem are incredible to behold (show a slide).  A bunch of you were right there a week ago!  Most of the walls there today, of course, were built by the Turks centuries later, but some of the foundation stones were actually laid by Nehemiah, and some even by Solomon 500 years earlier.  Still one can get a hint regarding the magnitude of this accomplishment.  

Many leaders would not be satisfied if they didn’t get credit for something as amazing as this, but notice that Nehemiah once again explicitly acknowledges, as he did back in chapter 2, that his success is a God-thing.

         Success is recognized as a God-thing. (6:16) Verse 16: “When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.”  And friends, when our enemies see that our dependence upon God is unshakable, and our commitment to the task He has called us to is unwavering, then the fear they are trying to foist on us will fall back on their own heads and they will lose their self-confidence.  There’s nothing like the continued blessing of God to silence one’s critics!  

But then at the end of our chapter we discover something surprising and perhaps disappointing:  

         The opposition doesn’t stop.  (6:17-19)  Nehemiah gets no relief.  Verses 17-19 inform us that some of the nobles of Judah were related to Tobiah, and they kept telling Nehemiah what a good guy Tobiah was and, in turn, never failed to leak Nehemiah’s words to Tobiah.  Then Tobiah would send letters directly to Nehemiah to intimidate him.  And all this is after Nehemiah has demonstrated incredible fortitude in the face of vicious attacks and after the wall has been completed.  Wouldn’t you think he now deserves a period of peace from the antagonists who have made life so miserable for him?  But no, the intimidation continues.  Friends, that’s how it is sometimes.  The Bible never sugar-coats anything.  It never says, “Do these three things and you’ll live happily ever after.”  It tells us how to respond to destructive conflict, but it never suggests that conflict will vanish.  What God calls us to is perseverance in right conduct. 

         So Nehemiah continues to provide spiritual and physical protection for those in his care.  (7:1-3) In the first three verses of chapter 7 we find that his spiritual protection comes in the form of godly appointments—gatekeepers, singers, Levites, and over the whole city Nehemiah places a man named Hanani who is described in 7:2 as “a man of integrity who feared God more than most men do.”  I like that.  What an epitaph!  

Now, that’s the story through 7:3, but Adam assigned me all of chapter 7, too.  You don’t mind if I keep going, do you?  Actually, chapter 7 is largely a list of names, and furthermore, it is almost verbatim a repeat of the second chapter of Ezra.  I call it …

A postscript on the importance of names to God (7:4-73)

I will be brief.  Do you ever think about the fact that after you die, and after your children and your grandchildren are gone (probably less than a century from now for most of us) almost no one will remember your name, unless, of course, you are rich enough to have your name on a building, or athletic enough to get into one of the sports Halls of Fame, or bad enough to earn a place on the FBI’s Most Wanted List?  I think this chapter is in the Bible to communicate that God doesn’t forget names.  

Do you have any idea how many different names are mentioned in the Bible?  Google tells me the number is 3,237.  Most are mentioned only once.  Many are unpronounceable, at least to us.  Many represent people we know nothing about except for their name.  Why does God take up precious space in His Holy Word to list these names? 

Well, God cares about individuals, and the most important thing about an individual is his or her name.  During my first stint as Pastor in Wichita we had a lady in our church who had lost her brother in Viet Nam.  Years later I happened to be in Washington D. C., and I went to visit the Viet Nam Memorial.  There is a directory there where you can look up the name of someone who died in the war and then locate that name among the 58,318 names carved on that long granite memorial.  So I took a paper and pencil and did a pencil etching of his name and took it back to this woman.  She was so grateful to see that the name of her brother had been preserved for posterity.  

But imagine having your name preserved not just for a half century but for more than two millennia, and not just on a wall but in the best-selling book of all time!  If you were Mispereth (v. 7) or Hodaviah (v. 43) or Pokereth-Hazzebaim (v. 59) wouldn’t you feel honored?

This chapter also informs us that God cares about little people as much as beautiful people, the elite, the powerful, the wealthy, the intellectual, or the successful.  Oh, God cares about them, too, but He also cares about those no one else cares about. 

Believe me, there is a good deal more we could learn from this list, but time forces me to conclude by reminding you that God has another list of names that is far more important than this one in Nehemiah 7.  It includes names from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.  It’s called the Lamb’s Book of Life, and it contains the name of every person who has put his complete faith and trust in Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for the forgiveness of sin.[iv]

In Luke 10 Jesus sent out 72 disciples, not apostles, but average followers like you and me.  He told them to heal the sick and proclaim God’s kingdom.  They returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”  This was heady stuff!  But Jesus puts the kibosh on their enthusiasm, saying, “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”  (Luke 10:20).  That is incredibly more significant.  

Now the Lamb’s book of life has not been published, as this list is in Nehemiah 7.  God has not chosen to reveal the names written in it.  I can assure you there will be some names that will surprise us, and others that will shock us because they are missing.  What God has revealed is the responsibility of each individual to repent and believe the gospel—that’s how names are entered.  

Not one of us deserves to have his/her name written in God’s book.  We all deserve eternal condemnation.  We are all hard-core antagonists toward God when it comes to our attitudes, actions, thoughts, words, and imaginations.  If a person does not repent and believe the gospel, his name will be missing, and he has no one to blame but himself.  If he does believe the gospel, his name is in the Book, and he has no one to praise but God.

Prayer:  Father, Nehemiah succeeded in building the wall of Jerusalem and restoring the national dignity of a despised people because he had an unshakable conviction that what he was doing was what You wanted done.  His confidence in You released him from the pressure of being “a success”or of “needing to keep everyone happy”; instead, his confidence in You enabled him to cope with the antagonists in his life, and to inspire others to give their best.  May our confidence likewise always be in You.  And thank You that You know our names and have written them in your Book, never to be erased.  In the strong and precious name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen!


Antagonists in the Church

Total depravity









Book of Life

[i] Kenneth Haugk, Antagonists in the Church, How to Identify and Deal with Destructive Conflict, 71.

[ii] Every successful leader has at some time or another been accused of stepping beyond the bounds of his authority and seeking to build a personal empire.  And, of course, some have done that.  But a strong leader is automatically vulnerable to such charges, and even when he works hard to delegate responsibility and share authority, there are always those who wonder suspiciously, “What is he getting out of it?  There must be a personal angle to it somewhere!”

[iii] J. I. Packer, A Passion for Faithfulness, 135.

[iv] There is a lot of debate about some aspects of the Book of Life.  When are names written there—from the foundation of the world or when a person believes?  Can names be erased or are they written in indelible ink?  But what is indisputable is that there is incredible joy ahead for those whose names are listed.

Nehemiah 8:1-18
Nehemiah 5