June 23: Discernment and Prayer
Nehemiah 6:1–7:65; 1 John 5:1–5; Psalm 109:16–31
“For all of them sought to frighten us.… And now, God, strengthen my hands” (Neh 6:9).
While God calls us to “love [our] enemies and pray for those who persecute [us]” (Matt 5:44), he also calls us to act with discernment and prayer. Loving others doesn’t mean we should be weak or passive. Part of loving others means discerning their hearts and motives.
“Blessed are the meek, because they will inherit the earth” (Matt 5:5). When Jesus spoke about being meek, He wasn’t referring to weakness. Instead, He was teaching us to focus on others rather than ourselves. That doesn’t mean we should be passive toward those who wish to harm us. Part of practicing meekness is being aware of our enemies and dealing with them cautiously. Doing so successfully takes strength and discernment—necessary components of any godly work.
Nehemiah demonstrates these traits in his interactions with his enemies. When his opponents ask him to meet with them, Nehemiah discovers that they actually wish to hurt him. He resists their attack—even calling them on their deceit (Neh 6:8).
Too often we allow ourselves to live passively. We enter into situations without thinking things through or recognizing that we’re about to be hurt by others. Yet we as Christians are at war against the evil in the world—not just against people, but also the unseen forces of evil (Eph 6:12). When we feel oppression, we must resist the urge to be reactive. Instead, we must appeal to Christ, who can overcome it all. We must refuse to engage unless it’s on our terms, by the power of the Spirit and completely in His will.
What battles are you engaging with that you should disengage from? Which situations in your life need discernment?
JOHN D. BARRY
- And when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall, and that there was no more breaches therein (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates) Then sent Sanballat and Geshem unto me, saying, come thou that we may meet together in the villages in the plain of Ono: and they thought to do me evil. Therefore I sent messengers unto them, saying, I have a great work to do, and I cannot come down: why would the work case, while I leave it and come down to you? Yet they set unto me four times after this sort unto me the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand, Wherein was written, It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu hath said it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel, for the which cause thou buildest the wall, and thou wilt be their king according to these words. Thou hast also ordained the Prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is King in Judah: and now according to these words it shall come to the King’s ears: come now therefore, and let us take counsel together. Then I sent unto him, saying, It is not done according to these words that thou sayest: for thou feignest them of thine own heart. For all they afraid us, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, and it shall not be done: now therefore encourage thou me. And I cam to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabel, and he was shut up, an dhe said, Let us come together into the house of God in the midst of the Temple, and shut the doors of the Temple: for they will come to slay thee: yea, in the night will they come to kill thee. Then I said, Should suah a man as I, flee? Who is he, being as I am, that would go into the Temple to live? I will not go in. And lo, I perceived that God had not sent him, but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobia and Sanballat had hired him. Therefore was he hired, that I might be afraid, and do thus, and sin, and that they might have an evil report, that they might reproach me. My God, remember thou Tobiah, and Sanballat according unto these their works, and Noadiah the Prophetess also, and the rest of the prophets that would have put me in fear. Notwithstanding the wall was finished on the five and twentieth day Elul, in two and fifty days. And when all our enemies heard thereof, even all the heathen that were about us, they were afraid, and their courage failed them: for they knew that this work was wrought by our God. And in these days were there many of the princes of Judah, whose letters went unto Tobaih, and those of Tobaih came unto them. For there were many in Judah, that were sworn unto him: for he was the son in law of Shechaniah, the son of Arah: and his son Jehohanan had the daughter of Meshullam, the son of Berechiah. Yea, they spoke in his praise before me, and told him my words, and Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear. Nehemiah 6:1–7:65
- Whosoever believeth that Jesus is that Christ, is born of God: and everyone that loveth him, which begat, loveth him also which is begotten of him. In this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not burdenous. For all that is born of God, overcometh this world: and this is that victory that hath overcome this world even our faith. Who is it that overcometh this world, but he which believeth that Jesus is that Son of God? 1 John 5:1–5
- Because he remembered not to show mercy, but persecuted the afflicted and poor man, and the sorrowful hearted to slay him. As he loved cursing, so shall it come unto him, and as he loved not blessing, so shall it be far from him. As he clothed himself with cursing like a raiment, so shall it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones. Let it be unto him a garment to cover him, and for a girdle, wherewith he shall be always girded. Let this be the reward of mine adversary from the Lrod, and of them that speak evil against my soul. But thou, O Lord my God, deal with me according unto thy Name: deliver me, (for thy mercy is good) Because I am poor and needy, and mine heart is wounded within me. I depart like the shadow that declineth, and am shaken off as the grasshopper. My knees are weak through fasting, and my flesh hath lost all fatness. I became also a rebuke unto them: they that looked upon me, shaked their heads. Help me, O Lord my God: save my according to thy mercy. And they shall know that this is thine hand, and that thou, Lord, hast done it. Though they curse, yet thou wilt bless: they shall arise and be confounded, but thy servants shall rejoice. Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame, and let them cover themselves with their confusion as with a cloak. I will give thanks unto the Lord greatly with my mouth, and praise him among the multitude. For he will stand at the right hand of the poor, to save them that would condemn his soul. Psalm 109:16–31