Nehemiah 6 p2: Our Defense - Recognising the great work

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Bible Study Series on the Book of Nehemiah

Nehemiah 6:2-3 Our Defense: Recognising the great work

by I Gordon

Neh 6:2-3 Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to me, saying, 'Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.' But they were planning to harm me. So I sent messengers to them, saying, 'I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?'

We have seen in the previous studies that Satan can use the world in two ways: 

  1. Firstly, through luring us out into a state of compromise. 
  2. And secondly, through making us fearful of what they think of us. 

We will now look a bit more closely at what I believe is the answer to combating these problems. And it is found in Nehemiah's first response when faced with Geshem's subtle attack. Every time Geshem sent a message to Nehemiah he responded with  'I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you.' (Ch 6:3) He recognised the great work! So, question time - what makes something a great work? Is it how big something is? Or how much money goes into it? I don't think so. I believe that the two main ingredients for a great work are: 1) How long it will last. 2) Who it is done for. What I mean is this:

Consider Eternity!

As Christians, our defense against the call of the world is to recognise the great work that we are called to. The work we do is great for it lasts for eternity!1 Through our testimony and life, people can be 'snatched from the fire' (Jude 23) and saved for eternity. The only time that worldliness can start to take a grip on our lives is when we have lost sight of why we are here and the fact that we are 'only visiting this planet'.

Only Visiting This Planet
When is the last time you considered yourself a stranger, pilgrim or exile on this earth? That's what the old men of faith considered themselves. In Hebrews 11 we have the Hall of Faith. The greatest men the earth has ever known. They are those that God says 'of whom the world was not worthy'. This chapter is about faith and the basis for their faith was their continual gaze into eternity. Look at what is said again and again:

By faith Abraham went out not knowing where he was going  'for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God'  (vs 8-10). 'All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having welcomed them from a distance,  and having confessed that they were strangers, and exiles on earth.'  (vs 13).  But as it is they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he has prepared a city for them.  ' (vs16). Moses chose to endure hardship with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for 'he was looking ahead to his reward.' (vs 26). Others were tortured, not accepting release so that they might obtain a better resurrection.'  (vs 35)

I don't think there would have been a lot of worldliness in that list! All had their eyes on the things to come.

Nehemiah didn't lose sight of the great work! It is interesting that a lot of the major verses warning against worldliness in the New Testament go on to say something about the second coming or the judgement to come2. If we can recognise that what we are doing is considered a 'great work' then maybe we won't be so quick in going back to 'Ono'. Jesus said something really important that every Christian businessman (or business woman, well actually all of us!) should remember. He said that 'where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.' It is the attitude of the world to live only for the now, to build our little empires, caring little for the life to come. But our heart and treasure should not be in this world. Consider the great work! It will last for eternity. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul? 

Heaven & Earth - A Dream of Contrasting Fortunes

The importance of eternity was brought home to me again recently through a dream that a friend of mine had. She had been going through various trials and had been quite down when the Lord gave her an incredible dream, showing her (and our) destiny to come. In it she saw herself standing with millions of people and they were talking about the Lord. She said the place was filled with a peace and beauty she cannot describe. And she saw the Lord Jesus presenting the people back to the Father who was seated on a throne. 

The dream carried on and looking down upon the earth, she saw military action and tanks going in every direction upon the earth. Finally she saw people upon the earth, running in fear into forests and woods where hidden camps had been made. Obviously it is the first part of this dream that relates to the topic at hand, but the whole thing shows the reality and awesomeness of our future and the dread for those who will not listen.

Now King David knew of this heavenly hope that guarded his heart and mind. Speaking of the different attitudes between the righteous and the wicked, David wrote:

Psalm 17:13-15 Deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword, with Your hand from men, O Lord, from men of the world who have their portion in this life, and whose belly You fill with Your hidden treasure. They are satisfied with children, and leave the rest of their possession for their babes. But as for me, I will see your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in your likeness.

This passage shows the futility of life for those that don't know the Lord. The best they can do is hope for an easy life, storing up possessions to give to their children when they die. Nothing more. Their portion is in this life. But not so us! We like David, fix our eyes on the eternal where we shall see His face in righteousness! And our satisfaction comes when we awake in His likeness!3

Consider the King!

The second ingredient for what makes a work great is, quite obviously, the person you're doing the work for. If you're working for your boss then there is a certain level of importance. If you're working for your country then you might put a bit more effort in (hope my boss doesn't read this). If you're working for God Almighty, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who has the power of life and death, um well, yeah, put some effort into it! That work sort of takes priority over the other doesn't it??? So how does this help us? Well, if gazing at eternity could help fend off the lure of the world, surely then gazing into the glory and majesty of God can surely cast off the fear of man. Geshem and the world only seem to attack in these two means. Either they work on getting you to compromise your faith and have one foot in the world, or they scare you into inactivity through the fear of man. We shouldn't let it happen. 

What is the Fear of God?

We looked in a previous study at the fear of man. But what is the fear of God? Well it means that we live every moment of our life in a continual state of fear, not ever knowing what God is going to do to us. Ok? Thanks for coming and have a happy afternoon. 

Um, er, no. The fear of God is important but thankfully I got the first definition wrong! The fear of the Lord is a reverence for God, leading to honour and trust and putting God first in each situation. Look at how Jesus lived his life on earth; the prophecies said that 'the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord' would rest upon him and 'he would delight in the fear of the Lord.' (Isa 11:3) How was that lived out? Was Jesus scared of the Father? No. He gave all glory to the Father, put all situations in the Fathers hands, and only said and did what he heard and saw the Father doing! The fear of the Lord led to God in action through the man Jesus Christ! 

Are you paralysed by the fear of man? If we were honest, it is a fear that gets each of us at times. It got Abraham (Gen 12:12, 20:2) Peter (Mk 14:66-72) and many other in Jesus' day (John 12:42). Is this you? The Bible tells us to again fear, honour, and remember the Lord.

Psalm 118:4-8 "Oh let those who fear the Lord say that his loving kindness is everlasting...The Lord is for me, I will not fear; What can man do to me?"
Isaiah 51:12-13 "Who are you that you are afraid of man who dies...You have forgotten the Lord your Maker who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth."
Heb 13:5-6 "He said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you', so we may confidently say 'The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'
Proverbs 29:25 "The fear of man brings a snare, but those who trust in the Lord will be kept safe."

I heard a good quote the other day from somewhere... It said, 'If you fear God, you need fear nothing else.' Like that one? Fortunately, Nehemiah had enough reverence and respect for God to carry on with the great work and the attempted compromise, slander and fear tactics didn't put him off. His fear of God overcame the fear of man.

There is a lot that we could learn from Nehemiah!

But Sanballat (Satan) is not through yet. It seems that a change of tactics is in order and that is what we shall look at next!


1. Again, the size of an act is not the issue. God looks at the heart. Even small acts done in faith and love will be fully rewarded in heaven. Matt 10:32. And therefore, they are great works! They will last for eternity.

2. Here are a few anyway, some of which were stated in the small study on worldliness earlier on.

1John 2:15-16 carries on in vs 17 with 'The world is passing away, and also is its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.' James chapter 4 and 5 is about worldliness and he finishes up with 'Therefore be patient brethren until the coming of the Lord...Strengthen your hearts for the coming of the Lord is near!' 1Pet 4:2-7 is a passage on worldly lusts and ends with 'they will have to give an account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead... The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit.'


3. Paul obviously knew the reality of heaven. He had been caught up there, seeing and hearing inexpressible things. (2 Cor 12:2) And he wanted to go back! Listen to his desire - 'for to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.' (Phil 1:21-24) That should be our desire as well.


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