When I was a little girl our family took a trip to the Dakota’s. We travelled through the Black Hills, saw Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands and took in all the sights and sounds of God’s glorious land. During our trip we stayed in a hotel that had an outdoor pool. For a little kid like me who had tons of energy this was very exciting indeed! Unfortunately, I hadn’t quite learned how to swim. But, that didn’t stop me from running out of our hotel room and diving in head first into the deep end. All I remember is hearing my mom yell and the sound of my dad’s body hitting the water behind me. Somehow I managed to swim all on my own to the side of the pool, where I came up from the water and saw the face of my very scared and very angry mother.
Risks like this happened to me throughout the rest of my childhood. One way or another I was finding something to dive into, without thinking about how deep the water might be. I have always been a dive in head first and hope I can swim kind of person, much to the displeasure of my mother. But thankfully, after growing up, having children of my own and becoming a Christian, I have learned that diving in is not always the best way to handle things, and that to walk this walk I need to have some discernment. I have learned, by the grace of God that discernment is a gift that God has given us to use, and for me, I need to use it. Not every pool that presents itself is of the Lord.
While on our new adventures we are going to have to use discernment. Not only is our enemy trying to discourage us and distract us, but he also wants us to take our eyes off the goal, and off of Jesus. Our enemy knows that if we take our eyes off the goal long enough we might just fall into sin, and who knows better the effects of sin then our enemy. This is why we need to use the gift of discernment that God has given to us. Nehemiah understood this gift of discernment, and because he used it, it saved him from falling down and falling away from the true blessings of God in his life.
“Now when I went into the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home, he said, ‘Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, for they are coming to kill you. They are coming to kill you by night.’ But I said, ‘Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in.’ And I understood, and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.” Nehemiah 6:10-12 (ESV)
Nehemiah is approached by a secret agent, someone hired by the enemy to lead Nehemiah away from the current path he was on. The secret agent comes to Nehemiah and says that there are men going to come to kill him tonight and he needs to hide. He should go into the temple, close the doors and hide there. Now, Nehemiah could have entered the temple grounds, and the porches surrounding the temple, but to actually go into the temple like this man suggested would have been a great sin against God, because Nehemiah was not a priest.
Throughout the Old Testament there have been men who have tried to go into the temple and thought that it would be okay. King Saul in 1 Samuel 13:8-13 decided to take the task of offering a sacrifice into his own hands and God took away his kingdom from him. King Uzziah in 2Chronicles 26:16-23 was similar in that he thought he had a right to enter the temple and be like a priest, and God struck him with leprosy. If Nehemiah would have sought refuge in the temple, God would most likely have struck him down as well for thinking that he could enter such a holy place. But, notice what Nehemiah says. He says in verse 12 that he understood and saw that God had not sent him. The KJV uses the word perceived, and gives us the understanding that Nehemiah used his gift of discernment to determine whether this man was of God or not. Nehemiah recognized that the person who was trying to help him was actually not sent by God, but by the enemy.
Nehemiah perceived- that is he discerned that this help was not from the Lord, but was a trick of the enemy to knock him off his course. Nehemiah did not immediately believe this man, but he instead tested him and his words and thought through what was before him. This was not a pool Nehemiah was going to dive into. As we walk along our paths, we are going to meet people and have opportunities come before us that are going to look like they are sent by God. There will be people who come to help us, perhaps financial help that seems too good to be true, and on the outside they will all look like they are blessings from God. But, we must look carefully. We must discern whether or not they are of God or if they are secret agents sent by our enemy. Let us not act in haste, but let us discern what is before us. Don’t dive into the deep end until you are sure you know how to swim.
“For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me. Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid.” Nehemiah 6:13-14
Nehemiah did not jump into the temple, but instead he recognized the help for what it was, a trick to get him to sin. The enemy wanted to destroy the work that Nehemiah was given and wanted the people around to discredit him and through him, discredit God. One of the quickest and easiest ways to destroy someone’s testimony is to destroy it by sin. Sin will trip us up and it will cause us to fear and fret. It will knock us down and even in some cases, make our testimonies so tainted that we will give up and walk away from God all together. That is why we must discern all that comes before us on our walks. The twists and the turns, the crossroads, the stop signs and the bridges up ahead, don’t walk on them till you know that they are from the Lord and not the enemy.
Let us not act in haste and dive into every good looking pool we see. We must scrutinize, we must examine, and we must pray that His Word and His wisdom will guide us every step of the way. Not all the help that comes our way is sent from the Lord. Sometimes it is a secret agent sent to trip us up and turn our eyes from Jesus Christ.
“So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Elul, in fifty two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.” Nehemiah 6:15-19
The wall was finished, and your path so far is completed as well. You have done the works that God has given you; the tasks He has given to you up to this point are finished. In spite of all the efforts of the enemy to knock us off our paths, we have overcome, and we will overcome. Nehemiah knew as we should also know that we have not gotten this far because we have done anything, but because God has been our help, our very present help in all our troubles. He was with us every step of the way, and He will continue to be with us the rest of the journey. Remember that sometimes the help we are offered, or the opportunities that may present themselves may look like blessings from the Lord, and promises sent from above, but take heed, use the gift He has given you, the compass He has placed in your hands is called discernment; use it and do not dive in until you are certain you know how to swim.