Charles Simeon Commentary - Nehemiah 6:3 - 6:4

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Nehemiah 6:3 - 6:4

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Neh_6:3-4. I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you? Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.

NEVER can we be sufficiently thankful for the records which are given us respecting the saints of old. When we are put into arduous circumstances ourselves, and see the line of conduct which is required of us, we are ready to think that the requisition is impracticable. But when we behold others, in similar circumstances, approving themselves faithful to their God, we are encouraged, and emboldened to undertake whatever may come before us in the path of duty. Nehemiah, having received from the Persian monarch authority to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, addressed himself to the work with zeal and diligence. But he was not suffered to proceed any long time unmolested in his career. A conspiracy was formed against him, and every effort which malignity could suggest was used to impede him in his sacred course. How he baffled the attempts of his enemies we are told in the passage now before us: from whence I shall take occasion to shew,

I.       What efforts men will make to divert us from the service of our God—

It may be asked, What have we to do with the facts which are here recorded? I answer, They were all of a typical nature, intended to shadow forth the opposition which would be made to the cause of God in every age. The city of our God is erecting continually; and the builders are continually obstructed in their work by the enemies of our God and his Christ: and, as in the instance before us, those enemies will endeavour to prevail,

1.       By artifice—

[Four different times did Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arabian propose to Nehemiah some artifice whereby they might ensnare him to his destruction. And every species of device will the enemies of Christ contrive and execute, to divert his servants from the duties in which they are engaged. Proposals, in appearance the most friendly, shall be made, to draw them aside, and to ensnare their feet. Those who never took any interest about them in their unconverted state, will now express great anxiety to recover them from their supposed errors, and to restore them to the ways which they have forsaken — — —]

2.       By intimidation—

[Parents and governors, who never offered so much as a word of advice to us to serve and honour God, will interpose their authority to keep us from serving him, the very instant that we should shew ourselves on the Lord’s side. Even at this present hour, notwithstanding the liberality which men profess on the subject of toleration, it is no uncommon thing for those who are possessed of power to use their influence, in an arbitrary and tyrannical way, for the suppression of religion: and the more nearly they are related to us, the more decided will they be in their efforts: “our greatest foes will generally be those of our own household” — — —]

3.       By ridicule—

[This is a weapon capable of being used by all: and all will have recourse to it, in order to expose to derision the most sacred characters. The enemies of Nehemiah ridiculed his efforts, saying, that “if but a fox should run up the wall which the Jews were constructing, he would throw it down.” Thus will every thing that can bring odium upon us be reported concerning our principles and conduct: nor will any rank in society, any eminence of attainments, any wisdom of deportment, or any purity of manners, screen us from the envenomed shafts of ridicule and contempt — — —]

But in the example of this holy man we see,

II.      In what manner we should withstand them—

Two things in particular I would notice:

1.       His wisdom—

[He saw through the veil by which these hypocrites sought to cover their designs: but he forbore to bring any accusation against them, lest he should only inflame and irritate their minds, which he wished rather to soothe and to compose. But he appealed to them respecting the importance of prosecuting without intermission the work in which he was engaged: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down.”

And are not we “doing a great work?” What, in the whole world, can be compared with that in which we are engaged, and on which an eternity of happiness or misery altogether depends? — — — If it be said, that a compliance with the habits of the world will not impede our spiritual progress, I utterly deny it: for if that be the case, why are we forbidden to be conformed to this world [Note: Rom_12:2.]? Why is it said, that “if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him [Note: 1Jn_2:15-16.]?” What truth would there be in this assertion, that the friendship of the world is enmity against God; and that whosoever even desires to be the friend of the world, he is thereby constituted the “enemy of God [Note: Jam_4:4. The Greek.]?” The person who duly improves “the cross of Christ, is crucified to the world [Note: Gal_6:14.].” To “serve God and mammon” too is impossible [Note: Mat_6:24.]: and therefore the answer of Nehemiah is exactly suitable for us: “Why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” — — —]

2.       His firmness—

[Four different times did these crafty enemies renew their attempts; and Nehemiah answered them continually to the same effect. He would not enter into disputations with them, but contented himself with such an answer as they could most easily appreciate, and such an one as ought to satisfy their minds. Thus it becomes us also to act. However frequent or continued the efforts of men are to turn us from God, we must withstand them all: and it will be well to keep in our stronghold, and not to descend into the field of controversy with them. Here is a plain fact, which they easily comprehend, and cannot possibly deny: the work of salvation is, beyond all comparison, more important than any other that can be proposed to us; and nothing under heaven ought to be suffered to interfere with it. This is so plain and acknowledged a truth, that no one can withstand it. Men may dispute about the principles of the Gospel; but this admits of no dispute. Here, therefore, we should do well to take our stand; and, by whomsoever we are assaulted, to maintain our ground. An appeal, so made, must at last carry conviction with it, and silence our most inveterate opposers.]

Let us learn from hence,

1.       What we are to expect, if we will serve our God—

[“All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” It is in vain to imagine that we shall escape. Ungodly men hate the light as much as ever: and as, in the days of Ishmael, he who was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now, and ever will be, as long as there shall be an ungodly man upon earth. If, then, you will set yourselves to serve the Lord, prepare your souls for temptation [Note: Ecc_2:1.] — — —]

2.       How we must act, if we will approve ourselves to him—

[We must yield to no artifice, no intimidation whatever. Whether persons come to us in the garb of friends or of foes, our plain answer must be, “Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye [Note: Act_4:19.].” If we “love even life itself” in comparison of Christ, “we shall lose it” for ever [Note: Mat_10:39.]: “We must be faithful unto death, if ever we would attain a crown of life [Note: Rev_2:10.]” — — —]