Jump Start # 2779
Nehemiah 6:13 “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 could reproach me.”
His name is Shemaiah. I doubt you have heard many sermons about him. In a game of Bible trivia, his name would stump us. However, in the sixth chapter of Nehemiah, he plays a serious and deadly role. And, what we uncover is a powerful lesson for you and I.
Shemaiah was in Jerusalem. He was with the Jews and Nehemiah. The walls were going up and the opposition was intensifying. The text tells us that Shemaiah was confined to home. We get the idea that he was sick or injured. Nehemiah went to see him. Leaders do that. We’ve seen pictures from wars gone by of officers visiting wounded soldiers in hospital tents. While Nehemiah is visiting Shemaiah, there is a message. Shemaiah believes the enemy is coming to kill Nehemiah. It would be good to go and hide in the Temple, he tells Nehemiah. There he would be safe. All of this sounds reasonable, but not to Nehemiah. He could see through the fake concerns for his safety. This was all a sham. Leaders don’t hide. And, worse, not being a priest, for Nehemiah to stay in the Temple would be sinful. The end does not justify breaking the rules. Nehemiah understood that this would give the enemy a reason to question Nehemiah’s faith, character and faithfulness. The rising walls would come down when fellow Jews found out that Nehemiah was a fake. Nehemiah learned that Shemaiah had been paid by the enemy. They found a price, like with Judas, and he was bought out. He sold his soul to the devil.
This story is told to us in four verses. It’s a short lesson, but filled with things we ought to consider.
First, sometimes the people of God are actively helping the enemy. One wonders who’s side some are on. This is often done very innocently and even without realizing it. Get a group of people together and one starts complaining about the church, worship, the shepherds, the preaching and before the night is over they have spent a long time roasting the very church they belong to. Whose side are you on?
I see this with some books that have been published in the past. They are written by folks who supposedly follow the Bible. But by the last page of the book, they have discarded the plan and pattern one finds in the N.T. They are advocating things not in the Bible. Whose side are you on?
This happens with Facebook posts. I see people sharing things that has inappropriate language, dress and attitudes. One shares them without any disclaimers. Whose side are you on?
Second, some of the worst attacks comes from within and not without. This is true of our families. This is true of the church. We can let our guard down when among family. We can let family get away with things that we would not allow others to do. Those critical comments and discouraging complaints falls upon all kinds of ears. Little ears hear them and wonder why the big ones still go there. These things falls upon those who are not in Christ and it gives them more reason to stay on the outside. It falls upon those young in faith and weak in faith and it makes them question things and creates more doubt than courage. We’d defend the church, the leadership when a co-worker goes on the warpath about the Bible. However, we let someone say nearly the same things in a Bible class or around a group of Christians in a restaurant, and we join in with them. Whose side are you on?
Third, it takes real sharp leaders to be able to recognize a trap and to know that someone is not being honest. Nehemiah saw through the vain things that Shemaiah was saying. The Temple was no place for Nehemiah to hide. How easily, Nehemiah could have walked right into that trap and that would have ruined all the good that he was doing. Shemaiah was baiting Nehemiah. He was tempting him. He was trying to see if he would lay aside what the Bible taught for his own safety. Sadly, others will do the same. They will see if you will take a drink at the ballgame. They will see if you will lose your cool and say a bad word when mad. They will see if you will bend the rules to justify a child’s divorce and remarriage. The enemy was watching. What would Nehemiah do? Would he break the rules to save his own skin? Everyday folks are watching you. They hear what you say. They notice what you say on the phone. They see if you are consistent or playing a game with your faith. They see if you cheat for money, or, are dishonest to get ahead. Eyes are watching. Whose side are you on?
Fourth, consistency is hard. Day in and day. Here, there and everywhere. The same on a Sunday as on a Monday. The same at home as at work. The same here as on vacation. Consistency comes from having a core value of Christ in our lives. We belong to Jesus—always. It doesn’t matter if one is on the golf course, sitting in a movie theatre, working on a project at work, selling a car, or sitting in a pew on a Sunday morning—he is the same. He is a child that belongs to God. His word is his pledge. He will not purposely bend the rules for any reason, even if it costs him. He will not lie to the police when pulled over. He will not fudge the numbers for a boss. He will not give the enemy any evidence to question his character. Alone or in a crowd, he will be the same. He realizes whose side he is on and he wants to remain on that side.
Shemaiah was bought out by the enemy. He was working for the wrong side. He was a Jew in Jerusalem who was helping the enemy. His story is a strong reminder to all of us, “Whose side are you on?”