As Nehemiah and his fellow Israelites started to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, intimidation arose. Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite released words that were like arrows: “What are those feeble Jews doing?” “What they are building—if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!” The evil men plotted together, intending to fight against Jerusalem, even saying, “Before they know or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.”
The intimidation was fierce, but Nehemiah encouraged his people by telling them to remember the Lord. He encouraged his men to fight for their families. As they repaired the wall, each worker carried a weapon in one hand and a building tool in another. Leaders with weapons were also positioned strategically around everyone working. When the walls were finally up with only the gates left to be put in place, a message from Sanballat was sent to Nehemiah. It was a summon to leave his post and meet with them. Nehemiah refused. He knew it was a trap.
Sanballat accused: “You are plotting to revolt!” and “According to reports, you are about to become their king…”
Nehemiah never had plans to rebel against the king of Persia. In fact, he had the blessing of the king to do this task. The work on the gates progressed, and a certain man, Shemaiah, was hired by Tobiah and Sanballat. He released a “prophetic word” to Nehemiah: “Go inside the temple because men are coming to kill you!” The prophetic word sounded so religious, so godly even with the “temple” aspect, so safe in the interest of Nehemiah since he was aware of the murderous intent of Sanballat and Tobiah— yet Nehemiah knew better. It was another arrow– the voice of fear and intimidation, not the voice of the Lord.
I have observed that anyone trying to do the work of the Lord in obedience will face the hocus pocus voice of fear, intimidation, and the counterfeit prophetic. Whenever Sanballats, Tobiahs, and Shemaiahs arise, God’s people need to be bold. Fear and intimidation should not be given room to operate. Any voice masquerading as “prophetic” when it distracts from God’s clear voice and direction is evil. It should not be tolerated.
The Lord has said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). God delights to speak to us personally. When He uses other people to release a prophetic word, there is always wisdom in checking with God directly for the word’s validity. A real prophetic word will NEVER go against what God says in the Bible, or against the instructions God has placed in our hearts. The prophetic must always ALIGN with God’s direction and heart. A counterfeit word will always rob us of peace.
Arrows of intimidation and the false prophetic fly in the air. As we do the work of the Lord, let’s not be paralyzed by them. Instead, let us be wise like Nehemiah and continue with the task ahead of us.
Janina Marie Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of One Voice Magazine, a teacher of world literature, and a student of the Bible. She enjoys reflecting on life’s curve balls and plateaus. She resides in the Philippines, the country known for people who smile a lot.