Fake news isn’t new. It’s been going on for years. You can find several examples in the Bible even. In fact, fake news is sprinkled throughout the books of Ezra and Nehemiah—always with the purpose of discouragement to stop or distract God’s people from doing the work He gave them to do.
Ezra 4:16, 22 — a letter to King Artaxerxes from those who had power over Judah before the exiles and their leaders returned to the land to rebuild.
“We inform the king that if this city is built and its walls are restored, you will be left with nothing in Trans-Euphrates…Why let this threat grow, to the detriment of the royal interest.”
Artaxerxes read this and made the Jews in Jerusalem stop doing their work of rebuilding the city. He believed the fake news that his tax income would disappear.
Thankfully, Nehemiah heard about it and petitioned the king to let him go and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. As a trusted friend and advisor to the king, and God’s gracious hand being on him, Nehemiah was sent by the king as Governor of Judah with an army to back him up. That didn’t stop the fake news and intimidation from his enemies.
Nehemiah’s enemies were political power brokers in the Trans-Jordan region who were afraid of losing their power. So, they used various weapons (including fake news) to bully the people of Jerusalem and Nehemiah into submission and defeat, even death. These weapons for discouragement were:
—Intimidation through threatening physical attack (Nehemiah 4:7-9).
—Diversion away from the work at hand and getting trapped (Nehemiah 6:1-4).
—Deception and more fake news spread to the king (Nehemiah 6:2, 5-8). Nehemiah called the news a lie and probably informed his boss, the king, that it was fake news.
—Intimidation again (Nehemiah 6:9-13). This time, the enemies tried to get Nehemiah to do wrong to save his life by shutting himself inside the Temple though he was not a priest and shouldn’t be inside the Temple. Sadly, a woman prophet was used by the enemy side to deliver fake news to Nehemiah. Dear women, beware whose side you are on when you give information.
—Disloyalty (Nehemiah 6:17-19). The nobles of Judah who were Jews of prominence were in cahoots with the enemy through having intermarried with the main men attacking with these weapons. These nobles felt their power was threatened also by Nehemiah.
Our enemy uses every weapon of discouragement to stop us from doing the work God has given us, and especially from doing it well. But, God’s people can be wise in how we respond to fake news and intimidation.
—Nehemiah needed discernment for each of these weapons to recognize the error and avoid an improper response. We need that, too.
—Nehemiah needed God’s strength to combat the weapons. He prayed, “Lord, strengthen my hands” (Nehemiah 6:9. We need to pray that, too.
—Nehemiah trusted in God while at the same time taking safety precautions (Nehemiah 4:16-23). There is nothing wrong with acting wisely for prevention and protection from danger while trusting God for protection. We can do in the wake of any news that causes us fear.
Do you recognize any of these weapons of discouragement in what you’ve heard, read, or seen lately? Have you allowed fake news and intimidation to stop or distract you from doing the work God gave you to do or from doing it well? Ask God for discernment, strength and protection while you take wise precautions that will enable you to keep on working. Read the book of Nehemiah for some encouragement. It’s a gem!