Nehemiah said to his sly enemies from the walls of Jerusalem. “I am doing a great work and cannot come down. Why should I come down to you and the work cease?” (Nehemiah 6:3) It probably sounded unreasonable, extreme, perhaps unsociable. But Nehemiah was not only filled with a vision and conviction about what he was called to do. He also knew how to recognize distractions and subtle attempts to get him away from God’s highest and best.
In approximately 440 BC, Jerusalem was in ruins, a virtual ghost town compared to the glory that it had been in the hundreds of years before its destruction. Nehemiah had received permission from the Persian king to go back to Jerusalem as the governor there with the specific vision to restore and build the walls of the city.
But then the local enemies of the Jews wanted Nehemiah to “Come down into the plain of Ono and talk to us.” (Nehemiah 6:2) Their cunning line of reasoning was, “Let’s talk this over, Nehemiah. Now be reasonable; we’re your friends and you need to listen to us.” Don’t get me wrong, there can certainly be a time to listen to people and discuss things. But in this case, Nehemiah knew that these enemies at the gate were utterly and totally “Wolves in sheep’s clothing.” (Matthew 7:15).
So Nehemiah boldly told them, “I’m doing a great work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I come down and talk to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3) Nehemiah was not tricked and duped by the deceit of the Devil. He wasn’t sidetracked and tripped off into a trap, lured by the lies of the Lucifer.
Where there is faith, reverence and obedience to God, the Devil is always going about in one form or the other to try to destroy God’s plan and His people. This is a constant throughout history and it’s shown in this amazing way in the book of Nehemiah. We often think of Satan “Going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” ( I Peter 5:8). But, believe it or not, more often the Devil will go about as a sly, slithering serpent, like his temptations at the beginning in Eden.
In the book of Nehemiah, the enemies of God never openly, physically attacked the fragile remnant of the Jews who were attempting to fortify their city. Instead, it was all with words; doubts, fears, questions, accusations, whatever might be thrown against their faith was tried by the local enemies of Israel in an attempt to defeat the faith and reborn convictions of the Jews.
Often this is the Devil’s first line of attack. If he can dissuade you from believing and obeying God through his words which sow fear, confusion, doubt or whatever it takes to turn you away from your faith and obedience, then he doesn’t need to try any kind of physical attack on you. Like with Eve in the garden, the devil can just lie to you. And if you believe the lie, rather than God’s Word, Satan has won.
While the book of Nehemiah is a history book and not considered especially spiritual in content, there are key verses which show that the returned Jews were a chastened, humbled, believing people, focused on living repentant lives in obedience to the God of Abraham. Even a little verse like Nehemiah 4:6 “For the people had a mind to work” is a short glimpse into the regenerated soul of the inhabitants of Jerusalem as they banded together in thankfulness that God had allowed them, as He had promised He would, to return to their homeland and rebuild their capital.
And those words, “I am doing a great work and cannot come down” are ones that we too can claim, remember and even quote back to the Devil if need be when we are being besieged by temptations, allurements, doubts, fears or confusion that the Enemy of God throws at us daily to try to get us to cast away our confidence, surrender our joy and lose our crown to the words of Satan and the wisdom that is not of God. Don’t come down from the wall of God’s will and high calling into the “plain of Ono”! God help us all to stay strong on the wall of God’s will.