Plots against Nehemiah
1Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, and our other enemies learned that I had completely rebuilt the wall. All I lacked was hanging the doors in the gates. 2Then Sanballat and Geshem sent a message, asking me to meet with them in one of the villages in Ono Valley. I knew they were planning to harm me in some way. 3So I sent messengers to tell them, “My work is too important to stop now and go there. I can't afford to slow down the work just to visit with you.” 4They invited me four times, but each time I refused to go.
5Finally, Sanballat sent an official to me with an unsealed letter, 6which said:
A rumor is going around among the nations that you and the other Jews are rebuilding the wall and planning to rebel, because you want to be their king. And Geshem says it's true! 7You even have prophets in Jerusalem, claiming you are now the king of Judah. You know the Persian king will hear about this, so let's get together and talk it over.
8I sent a message back to Sanballat, saying, “None of this is true! You are making it all up.”
9Our enemies were trying to frighten us and to keep us from our work. But I asked God to give me strength.
10One day I went to visit Shemaiah. He wasn't supposed to leave his house, but he said, “Let's hurry to the holy place of the temple and hide there. We will lock the temple doors, because your enemies are planning to kill you tonight.”
11I answered, “Why should someone like me have to run and hide in the temple to save my life? I won't go!”
12Suddenly I realized that God had not given Shemaiah this message. But Tobiah and Sanballat had paid him to trick me 13and to frighten me into doing something wrong, because they wanted to ruin my good name.
14Then I asked God to punish Tobiah and Sanballat for what they had done. I prayed that God would punish the prophet Noadiah and the other prophets who, together with her, had tried to frighten me.
When the work of restoration was all but finished, Nehemiah received an offer to meet with his enemies for consultation. But Nehemiah was not distracted from finishing his work. He had to see his work through to the end. He saw through his enemies’ strategy to delay the work and he responded, “How can I give up this task to meet with you? I have a great work to do!”
His enemies did not stop bothering him and finally threatened him by telling him that there was a rumour that he wanted to start a rebellion and make himself king. Nehemiah knew this was not true, and ignored their lies.
Then finally, someone in the city tried to lure Nehemiah into the temple to hide from an assassination attempt. Nehemiah knew that that this was just a further plot to make him look like a coward. Nehemiah was single minded in pursuit of his mission, and finally we hear the words that the wall has been completed in 52 days – a miracle. All the surrounding peoples realize that this was a “God-thing.”
There are many distractions that can take us away from the job of completing our kingdom tasks. Before the Iraq war was started, many people were concerned that Saddam Hussein was concealing WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction). But the real enemy of the people of God in their pursuit of the kingdom are different WMDs. We are confronted daily with Weapons of Mass Distraction. Nehemiah is an excellent example for us not to be deterred from our task but to daily take counsel in the Word of God and with prayer continue our work through to the end.
O Lord, Help us to maintain a single-minded devotion to you, despite the allurements and distractions of our time (Luke 8:14). Help us to see our work for you through to the end. In your name we pray, Amen.