Fake News and False Accusations

Fake News and False Accusations

Nehemiah 5 & 6

Nehemiah faced constant challenges while doing the work of God. Discouragement came from without, and then later from within. The people were quarreling and the work was stopped momentarily while Nehemiah addressed the conflicts.

During each trial, Nehemiah prayed and obeyed God’s instructions. Consequently, the work continued and the wall reached its full height in miraculous time with all the gaps covered and only the doors to the gates left to be installed.

Nehemiah 6:15-16 So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month 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.

Nevertheless, the enemies did not give up. They could not do much about the wall now that it was fully built. So, Sanballat and Geshem turned their attention to attacking Nehemiah. Destroy him and the city would be disorganized and powerless to resist their attacks. We’ve seen such satanic plots throughout church history.

Mark 14:27 And Jesus said to them [His disciples], “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’

In Nehemiah’s case, his enemies plotted to deceive and distract him, defame and disparage him, and to discredit and dishonor him.

To deceive and distract him, Sanballat and Geshem invited Nehemiah to meet them in one of the villages in Sanballat’s province. No reason was given. It looked like a “peace talk” of some kind. But Nehemiah discerned it differently. Why should he travel a day’s journey for a talk, away from the work and protection of his people, to a place in his enemy’s territory? He suspected foul play.

Nehemiah 6:3-4 And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner.

This reminded me of a story of a missionary in China whose talents and abilities were so outstanding that one of the American companies in China tried to hire him. They offered him an attractive job with a salary to match, but he turned it down. He told them that God had sent him to China as a missionary. He thought that would end the matter, but instead they came back with a better offer and an increase in salary. He turned that down too, but again they came back a third time, doubling the financial package with added benefits. Finally, he said to them, “It’s not your salary that’s too little. It’s the job that’s too small!”

Nehemiah said, “I’m not going to stop this GREAT WORK of God to meet up with you.”

So, the enemies changed their tactic. To defame and disparage him, Sanballat sent his servant to Nehemiah with an unsealed letter, which could be read by anyone on its way from Samaria to Jerusalem. That was the design. That way, the fake news in the letter would be widely reported by the time Nehemiah got to read it for the first time.

(Do you want to know what the letter says? It is open. Let’s see what it says. OK?)

Nehemiah 6:6-7 In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. And you have also set up prophets to proclaim, concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah.’ And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.”

Even Geshem would testify that this was true! How odd, coming from one of their own. They created fake news and rubber-stamped it themselves. (We have seen how this is commonly done in politics.) Insinuation needs no proof. You just need to say it and have enough people repeat it, and it becomes the “truth” until you can prove your innocence.

Here is how you recognize fake news. (1) The source is anonymous. (2) The statement is usually exaggerated. (3) The statement is usually designed to hurt someone. In this case it was Nehemiah. And, they threatened to bring this fake news to King Artaxerxes if Nehemiah refuses to cooperate with them.

What could he do? What can we do in similar circumstances? Pray. Nehemiah prayed for strength to continue the work.

Nehemiah 6:8-9 Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.” For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands.

Fake news and false accusations are the main ingredients of gossip. The more evil and juicier the gossip, the quicker undiscerning people are to believe it. Some people believe it simply because they want to believe it and they will not take the time to see if it’s true. They will readily take second hand information and treat it as if it is the truth, not realizing that if you’re not an eyewitness, you can easily become a false witness. When we consider the fact that God hates a false witness, it should give us pause before repeating it.

The 9th commandment says, Exodus 20:16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Proverbs 19:5 A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape.

Nehemiah’s enemies threatened to bring him down with Satan’s weapons of gossip, intimidation, and character assassination. Nehemiah could not stop the rumors, but he could pray and receive grace from God. Nehemiah faced one problem after another. He was likely physically tired, mentally stretched, and emotionally drained. But yet, by God’s grace, he stood firm and faced each crisis with prayer.

Prayer is effective because it directs our mind to God and away from self and the surrounding circumstances. During prayer, we can hear God’s directions instead of the enemy’s lies and threats. During prayer, we receive God’s encouragement and strength to remain faithful and obedient. We cannot prevent the attacks, but we can anchor our thoughts firmly in God through prayer and find His strength to resist the attacks.

Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

Nehemiah did not let the false accusations interfere with the task God gave him. Finally, the wall and gates were complete. Was this the end of Nehemiah’s troubles? No. Nehemiah faced yet another temptation that would have destroyed his credibility.

Nehemiah 6:10-14 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. Let us close the doors of 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 the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 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. Shemaiah, a so-called prophet, was paid to lure Nehemiah into the Temple.

This was an attempt to discredit Nehemiah by tempting him to sin by taking residence in the temple to protect himself. However, Nehemiah recognized that any idea or suggestion contrary to God’s Word can never be from God. We don’t have to consider it. We don’t need to rationalize it. We just drop it, because God does not contradict Himself. Sinning is not the way to save our life. It is the way to lose it.

So, Nehemiah prayed again. He didn’t seek revenge. He turned his enemies over to God. Then he stood his ground, trusting God, and obeying Him.

Nehemiah set us a good example. Fear God, not men. Seek God’s favor and not the approval of men. The enemy tried to deceive him, defame him, and discredit him, but none of these attempts succeeded because Nehemiah trusted God and prayed. He wasn’t intimidated by what people said or did. He was concerned about God’s work and doing God’s will.

Jesus said we would have tribulation in this world. We may have lots of trouble, from without and sometimes from within, against our work for God and sometimes against us personally. But our trust is still in God, who called us and who alone can give us the strength to persevere during trials, tribulations, and temptations. We are to pray and keep faith in God. We are called to remain obedient and faithful to the end.

Nowadays, false accusations are socially acceptable. They are made daily by the news media, politicians, sports idols, and movie stars against anyone they dislike or disagree with. There are no repercussions and no time is given for corrections.

In fact, right now in America and around the world, we are witnessing Satan in action. People are taking on the characteristics of the original accuser more and more each day. Hiding behind social media with anonymous sources, people are accusing each other of horrific things. We are taught how to do it while we watch one politician accusing another politician of something to destroy their character.

The natural impulse when we are falsely accused is to get angry and push back. But that is not what Nehemiah did, nor is it what Jesus said to do.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:10-12, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

The phrase, “all kinds of evil” tells us that the followers of Jesus will face insults, lies, ridicule, and false accusations, and those attacks will come in many different ways.

In fact, those attacks will sometimes come from people you least expect—from members of the church. You may become victimized by a whispering or a smear campaign which is usually done to discredit you or your ministry. Most of the time, they received their accusations through second hand information better known as gossip and rumor.

Some of these attacks will question your faith, your character, your commitment, and your integrity. Sometimes your motives will be questioned. Sometimes your words will be twisted and they will misquote you to make the rumor a little juicer.

Why do these things happen? Because, as we have learned in Nehemiah, the enemy does not want us to ever be successful at anything we try to do—especially if it is to lift up the name of Jesus Christ. Our faith will be challenged because we have an adversary, the devil, who loves to make false accusations. That is why he is called the “accuser of the brethren” (Rev 12:10). He motivates people to make false accusations.

Here is how to respond: 1 Peter 3:14-17 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Persecution can be avoided. All we need to do is compromise with the enemy. Nehemiah did not compromise. Neither should we. Since we know why persecution and false accusations happen, expect them, and respond like Jesus.

Jesus said in John 15:20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

Jesus was often falsely accused. The Pharisees said His power came from demons. In fact, they solicited some false accusers against Jesus in order to crucify Him. And even though He was falsely accused, Jesus never compromised! He went right on doing His Father’s will, which included going to the cross.

Isaiah 53:7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.

If you are going to follow Jesus, expect false accusations, rumors, and persecution. False accusers will try to make themselves your judge, jury, and executioner. Don’t be afraid of them. Don’t be discouraged or distracted. Don’t get defensive and into an argument. Do what Nehemiah and Jesus did. Go to the throne of your Father to receive grace to stand. Keep following Jesus and continue doing what the Father has given you to do.

You are in a war with satanic forces, not flesh and blood. As long as you stay on the battlefield, God will give the victory. Besides, all they can do is discredit your reputation and kill your body. They cannot destroy your character nor your life. They don’t have that power, but you do! In Christ, you are a child of God and you have eternal life. Nothing and nobody can take that away from you!

So make sure you are relying on Jesus to be your righteousness and your life. Make sure you pray and stay filled with the Holy Spirit. Then stand in the grace and power of God, doing the will of the Father. And after you have done all, stand firm.