The Discipline of Danger

''Should such a man as I flee?'' (Neh. 6:11).

Life is continually faced with many dangers.
There are physical dangers at home as well as on the highway or in the hospital;
social dangers from within as well as from without.
Also, there are spiritual dangers from companions and customs as well as
from carelessness or compromise.

We cannot avoid dangers, even in the most sheltered circumstances.
And our problem is detecting the dangers and facing them, and avoiding them if possible,
but never ignoring them.

Nehemiah is an excellent example of being disciplined in the face of danger.
Nehemiah was the cupbearer of the mightiest monarch of his day, who preferred to identify himself
with the remnant of his people in the Land of Promise than to enjoy the leisure and luxury of the world.
At great personal sacrifice, he left the court for an austere life of a pioneer in a country
which was desolate.

One would think that his sacrifice in leaving a position and pleasure would have been sufficient for him,
and for any servant of God, but that was not the case.
There were persistent enemies in the land, who couldn't stand to see God's cause prosper.
These enemies especially hated Nehemiah.
Nehemiah had became the leader for the discouraged builders of Jerusalem.

Any servant of God in a place of responsibility, however obscure or prominent that place might be,
will face similar dangers.
The Sanballats, Tobiahs and the Arabian Geshems did not cease to exist when the walls of Jerusalem
were completed.
God's people still face their cruel and cunning counterparts in these days.

First, there was the danger of intrigue. (Nehemiah 6:1-4)

In their plans to damage Nehemiah, they planned to have a meeting in a village outside the city walls.
Their devious purpose was to come to an understanding so that all future difficulties could be avoided.
But their real purpose was to put Nehemiah into a position of compromise so that he would appear suspicious
to his people and maybe even capture him by their skillful deceit.

Our critics and enemies have ostensible reasons for wanting to discuss things.
They are experts at raising questions and instilling doubts.
They want us to explain our convictions and our course of action -- not for their enlightenment
and edification, but for our confusion.

We usually feel that we should respond with an answer or that we should defend ourselves
by explaining our motives and our methods.
We think that we should oppose the thinking of our opponents in one strong statement of fact,
and think that we could dispel all their doubts by a definition of our divinely, appointed duty.

But that's not going to happen!
If they really wanted information, and enlightenment, and a statement of fact, they could come to us.
But their purpose is to create doubt, difficulties, diversion from our duty, and to disgrace us.

The strongest answer to intrigue is found in the action that Nehemiah took.

He weighed the alternatives, and determined that he had been called to build, not to argue or to explain.

He said very simply, ''I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down:
why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, to come down to you
?'' (Nehemiah. 6:3)

Many dangers of intrigue could be avoided in God's service, and much could be achieved,
if we determined that it was also our duty not to neglect the work by descending to the level
of our critical critics.
It is to the work that we must do, and not to words!

Second, there was also the subtle danger of innuendo.

When the trap of deserting his duty proved unsuccessful against Nehemiah, his enemies tried
to discount his efforts by ascribing false motives to him. (Nehemiah 6:5-9)
Then they tried to send an an ''open letter'' (vs.5), in which ''it is reported . . .that thou and the Jews
think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king
.'' (vs. 6).

So they try to get to him by false imaginations, false indications, and fanciful implications.
All these are used to make Nehemiah's motives to appear as subtle, selfish, and sordid.
Of course, this was not true.
So they attempted to use a rumor which was downright deceit.

They were trying everything to prevent Nehemiah from doing what God had called him to do.
This not just an ancient accusation -- it is just as current as today's news.
This was as old as the hills.

In human history, the Father of lies (John 8:44) ascribed selfish objectives to Job, saying,
"Doth Job fear God for nought?'' (Job 1:9).

Joseph's brothers said, ''Behold, this dreamer cometh.
Now therefore, come and let us slay him
.'' (Genesis 7:19,20)

Jeremiah, the faithful prophet of Jehovah it was falsely declared that "thou fallest away to the Chaldeans.'' (Jeremiah. 37;13)
Even a denial from Jeremiah was not able to reverse that false declaration.

Even our Lord Jesus experienced the bitterness of false accusation by the Pharisees
and by their uninformed following, ''He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of devils.'' (Luke 11:15)
They also said, ''We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar,
saying that he himself is Christ a King. . . He stirreth up all the people
.'' (Luke 23:2,5).

How many today have also had his or her motives misinterpreted, their methods maligned,
and their efforts endangered by insidious innuendo?

Nehemiah gives us the solution to these threats.

He says frankly, ''There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them
of thine own heart.''
(Nehemiah. 6:8)
Then he commits his cause to Him who judgeth righteously.

"We are to trust, and not be afraid." (Isaiah 12:2).

We can say with David, ''For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side:
while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life.
But I trusted in thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my God. My times are in thy hand:
deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me. . .
Let the lying lips be put to silence; which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously
against the righteous
.'' (Psalms 31:13-15, 18)

Third, intimidation follows unsuccessful intrigue and innuendo. (Nehemiah. 6:10-14)

The enemy is persistent in his plot to undo the work of the godly.
Nehemiah was warned by the mafia of his day, ''Let us meet together in the house of God
[how pious the fierce Prince of Darkness can become!], within the temple, and let us shut the doors
of the temple: for they will come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee
.'' (6:10).

Down through the ages men and women have stood in the place of danger for God;
and their stand has been honored by Him.

Gideon, with three hundred men, faced the hosts of Midian and Amalek, that ''lay along in the valley
like grasshoppers for multitude
.'' (Judges 7:12)
Shammah stood his ground when all fled, ''and the Lord wrought a great victory.'' (I2 Samuel 23:12)

Asa stood before the onslaught of a vast horde of Ethiopians, and prayed,
''Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power:
help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude
."
(2 Chronicles 14:11)

Jehosaphat cried, ''O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against
this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do:
but our eyes are upon thee
.'' (2 Chronicles 20:12)

Three young men declared, ''If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us
from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.
But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods,
nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up
.'' (Daniel 3:17,18)

Nehemiah's reply to intimidation should be remembered as he said,
''Should such a man as I flee?. . . I will not go in.'' (Nehemiah 6:11).

"Are we servants of the Most High, and should we fear to stand firm in His cause,
in nothing terrified by our adversaries
?" (Philippians 1:28)

Intrigue, innuendo and intimidation are insufficient to terrify and deter the soldier of the Cross,
"clad in the armor of righteousness. (Ephesians 6:10-18)

Insinuation is substituted by the insistent and insatiable Adversary of our soul.
''Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah,
and the letters of Tobiah came unto them. . .
Also they reported his good deeds before me, and uttered my words to him.
And Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear
.'' (Nehemiah 6:17,19)

Letters, letters, letters, how they are multiplied against the servant of God, as in Nehemiah's day,
even by ''the nobles.''
Few seem too high-principled not to stoop to writing letters about others, ''many letters'',
with their sinuous and sly insinuations.
They wreak havoc to God's cause, and they also produce heartache.
One of the deepest testings of a true child of God is to stick to his divinely appointed duty
when all the while there is a barrage of letters about him.

Intrigue, innuendo, intimidation, insinuation -- these constitute the discipline of danger.

Our temptation is to turn from our task and to untangle the intrigue, and to take time to undo the innuendo,
and to flee from intimidation; and to fight hidden insinuation.

Our safety is in doing our duty, (Nehemiah 2:3) and in putting our trust in God, (Nehemiah 6:9),
and in standing stedfast and immovable (Nehemiah 6:11), and then to serve in silence.

The result for us will be as it was with Nehemiah, ''the wall was finished. . .
our enemies. . .were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work
was wrought of our God
.'' (Nehemiah 6:15,16).

Danger feared is folly, danger faced is freedom.

Stand — withstand
Stand still! Stand firm!
Stand ever sound—
Stand armour clad,
Stand fighting ground;
Stand with victor's grip,
''foe'' to overthrow;
Stand with holy hands, unloose the bands—
that brought him low."
— Evan Robe

Sermon adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White