There you are sitting at the poker table with a pair of Jacks and a pair of 7s. You are feeling pretty good about your two pair until the player 2 seats to your right begins betting as if he has a royal flush. You are getting nervous but you still pretty confident about your hand. The betting goes around the table a few times and each time he raises. This guy must really have something, you think to yourself. At this point you are starting to crack, unsure if two pair is really going to cut it. Do you get out now or keep going? That’s when mister big stuff goes “all in.” You just can’t take it anymore so you fold. Someone else at the table calls him and it turns out he has a pair of 3s. Are you kidding me? You folded for a pair of 3s! Classic bluff. And you fell for it. The guy who didn’t fall for it, however, collected all the cash.
In Nehemiah chapter 6, Nehemiah found himself at the figurative poker table with a guy named Sanballat. This guy was trying to intimidate him and stop him from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. In this particular chapter, Sanballat concocts a heinous story that he says is being rumored all around the land. Nehemiah didn’t fall for it, however. He called him on his bluff.
Nehemiah 6:8-9 8 I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” 9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”
I can just see Sanballat staring across the table, peering into Nehemiah’s eyes: “I’m all in.” But Nehemiah won’t be intimidated. He sees through the charades and fanciful technique. “I call,” he declares. In that moment he exposes the truth. He finds that his opponent, no… his enemy, is bluffing!
Some of you are in the same situation that Nehemiah is in: you are dealing with a bluffing enemy. It may be a real person who is trying to intimidate you. Or it may be the devil trying to tempt you, discourage you, and weaken your resolve and your faith. I say to you today: “don’t fall for the bluff!” Listen again to Nehemiah’s reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” Or more elegantly stated, “liar liar pants of fire!”
Friends, don’t fall for the bluff! Call it out and then ask God to strengthen you. Ask Him to strengthen your hands for the work set before you. Ask Him to give you wisdom and discernment to see through the lies. God has placed before you a calling, an assignment. Don’t let a bluff take that from you!
I’m not afraid to try things that I haven’t done before. It doesn’t mean I’m good at them, but I’ll try them. Let me clarify: I’m not talking about skydiving or eating fish eyeballs. I mean skill stuff. Like playing a new sport or attempting to fix something. But just because I attempt things, doesn’t mean I am doing them the best way possible. I worked in retail for 13 years. During that time, I worked many positions within the store. With each position comes a new skill set. I remember when I first worked night crew, stocking the shelves for the next day. The way I was opening cases of cans was taking me a while and the others were working circles around me. When one of the experienced guys saw how I was cutting open the case, he was like “what are you doing?” Then he showed me the pro way to do it. It was way better! I was just doing the best I could, but there was a better way.
Moses found himself in a similar situation. He started out as a one-on-one leader but the leadership needs began to grow. Rather than adapting his leadership style to the changing needs of the people, he just continued to stay course on the only way he knew how, which was exhausting! So when his father-in-law Jethro came to town and saw what was going on, he quickly asked: “you’re doing what?!”
Exodus 18:14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”
Jethro then proceeded to give Moses some wisdom about how to better handle the situation. You see, it was a blind spot for Moses. He couldn’t see it any other way. He figured this was the only option he had. And he needed someone else with wisdom to look at the situation with fresh eyes. That wisdom probably saved Moses from a continued life of exhaustion and frustration.
Do you have anyone in your life who asks, “you’re doing what?” Do you have anyone who you have allowed to speak into the places where most people can’t go? You see, we need wisdom from others. We need input. We may not like it or even want it, but we need it. Because, quite frankly, we have blind spots. We get entrenched in things and don’t see any other options. So we must find ourselves a mentor, a trusted friend, a person of wisdom. These are the people who might just see something that we don’t. It might be as simple as how to open a box more efficiently. But it also might be how to get out of the proverbial box that you have been stuck in for so long.
I Samuel 26:21-24 21 Then Saul said, “I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have erred greatly.” 22 “Here is the king’s spear,” David answered. “Let one of your young men come over and get it. 23 The LORD rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness. The LORD delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the LORD’s anointed. 24 As surely as I valued your life today, so may the LORD value my life and deliver me from all trouble.”
In today’s reading, we have yet another instance where David had the chance to kill King Saul but didn’t. Last time, he cut off the hem of his robe while he sat on the throne… not the royal one, the porcelain one. Today, we read that Saul was sleeping when David snuck into camp and took his spear and water jug. He then travels a safe distance and calls out to Saul’s camp, “Why are you trying to kill me?” Again, Saul realizes his sinful ways and apologizes to David – again. This time, however, Saul tells David to come back and refers to him as “son.” He promises not to try to harm David again.
David’s response? “I’m not that stupid.” Good for David, you know. It would be so easy to get caught up in the approval of the king or for restoration to take place. But David was wise. He tells Saul to send one of his young men to come get the stuff. There is no way he is going to walk back into that camp with everyone awake. I applaud this wisdom, this discernment. We need this kind of wisdom in our lives, don’t we? We need to know who to trust. We need to know who is reliable. This kind of wisdom, the kind David had, comes from God.
Wisdom led David to honor the king and at the same time, not trust his motives. Because even though God had promised David the throne, he did his part to stay alive while he was waiting. He wasn’t recklessly counting on God to bail him out. He exercised wisdom. I pray that I have this kind of wisdom in my life. I pray that it will guide my decisions, my actions, and my thoughts. I pray that it will define my relationships and my leadership. Lord, give me your wisdom today!