Afterward I came unto the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabeel, who was shut up; and he said, Let us meet together in the house of God, 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. And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in. And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. Therefore was he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, and that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me. My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear. – Nehemiah 6:10-14
After failing to stop Nehemiah’s progress with a threat to his reputation, Sanballat on his cohorts devise a plan to cause Nehemiah to fear for his life. They send a false prophet, named Shemaiah, who tries to convince Nehemiah that assassins are going to come kill him during the night. His only safety would be to hide himself in the temple. Ultimately, what they would like to do is make Nehemiah look like a coward by hiding in the temple when others are still outside. He would also violate the law of God by entering into the temple where only priests were allowed.
Nehemiah refuses to go into the temple and hide. He questions why he, a man who has been so greatly blessed thus far by God, would need to run and hide now. The very idea of needing to be afraid now proved that this was a false prophet. Nehemiah used simple logical reasoning to deduce the plot of his enemies. He then prayed to God, put it in His hands, and went back to work!
Shemaiah betrayed himself by suggesting things that were contrary to God’s direct instruction. He told Nehemiah to hide in the temple where only priests are allowed to go. A true prophet or teacher will never tell you to do something that is contrary to the revealed will of God in Scripture. Secondly, Shemaiah attempted to cause Nehemiah to doubt about the care and providence of God. God had mightily delivered him to this point, why should Nehemiah all of the sudden need to be afraid? True men of God bring a message of comfort to the people of God (Isaiah 40:1).
There are many valuable lessons that we can learn from this small portion of scripture, not the least of which is how to recognize a false prophet! In our daily growth in discipleship, there will be many people that will offer us quick helps or new ways to discover more about God. We need to be as vigilant as Nehemiah when this happens and recognize what is going on. True wisdom only comes through diligent study, prayer, and application of the Scripture in our daily walk.
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. – 1 John 4:1
John is telling us to examine the sources and nature of influences on us. The best way to tell whether advice or counsel you receive is godly is to compare it to the word of God, the Bible. If you are familiar with the Bible, true spiritual helpers will simply remind you of the promises of God that you have already learned from Scripture.