Read Nehemiah 6
Further Opposition to the Rebuilding
When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates— 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.”
But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.
5 Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter 6 in which was written:
“It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king 7 and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.”
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.”
10 One day I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was shut in at his home. He said, “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you—by night they are coming to kill you.”
11 But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” 12 I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me.
14 Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophet Noadiah and how she and the rest of the prophets have been trying to intimidate me. 15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.
Opposition to the Completed Wall
16 When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.
17 Also, in those days the nobles of Judah were sending many letters to Tobiah, and replies from Tobiah kept coming to them. 18 For many in Judah were under oath to him, since he was son-in-law to Shekaniah son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berekiah. 19 Moreover, they kept reporting to me his good deeds and then telling him what I said. And Tobiah sent letters to intimidate me.
“So the wall was finished.”
These simple words in verse fifteen are a declaration of sustained obedience to the calling of God in our lives. Sustained obedience will always triumph over pressure and fear. Sustained obedience requires us to discern which projects and people are distractions and which are part of his plan for our lives.
As Nehemiah nears completion of the wall, the pressure mounts. Threats are made on his life. His enemies do all they can to distract and delay him from working on the wall. They come up with a variety of schemes to humiliate him, run him out of town, and, if given the chance, murder him. Anything and everything is on the table to stop Nehemiah’s work on the wall.
Fear is at the center of this passage. And fear is often at the center of our own choice to be obedient. Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem try to leverage fear as a weapon against Nehemiah. The irony is they are the ones who are afraid, not Nehemiah. Their minds are overcome with fear that he will finish the wall. Out of fear, they turn to evil. On the other hand, Nehemiah maintains composure. Like the wall he has been building, he is not easily shaken. Evidence is provided by his response in verse 3. After they have tried to lure him into a trap, Nehemiah asks, “Why should the work stop?”
Why was it right to disregard the people as distractions and focus on the project in Nehemiah 6, but wrong in Nehemiah 5? God is teaching us to exercise discernment. Circumstances change. Decisions are not always made the same way every time because the circumstances are rarely the same every time. In chapter 6, Nehemiah realizes the people coming to him are distractions and should not be given attention over the project of finishing the wall. There are times when we should be focused on a singular task. Complete the work.
So the wall was finished.
Whatever God has placed before us in this season, let us work in obedience until we can declare the same.
- What are all the different ways that Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem try to stop Nehemiah in this chapter? How does Nehemiah respond?
- How do the surrounding nations react to news of the wall’s completion?
- What scares you most about being obedient to the work God has called you to do?
Father, reading this story reminds us of the parallels of Jesus and the cross. Jesus was also called to a great work and mocked, scorned and threatened. He, too, moved forward with a singular purpose because the work before him had to be done. So let us follow the example of Jesus. Give us courage to do the work you place before us. Help us remain faithful to You, as You have remained faithful to us. Amen.
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