Further Opposition to the Rebuilding
6 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[a] 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[b] 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.
When God laid it on Nehemiah’s heart to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, he established a plan, then worked through his strategy to accomplish the vision God had given. He assessed the damage, secured the resources, established leaders, and distributed the assignments among them. It seems like God would have allowed this process to be easy, since it was God’s idea in the first place!
But Nehemiah encountered difficult people and difficult circumstances along the way. Sanballat and Tobiah opposed the rebuilding of the wall. They opposed anything that was for the good of the people of Israel, and they sought to discourage Nehemiah and the people building the wall. But these men made the mistake of not recognizing that God was providing the strength and perseverance for Nehemiah. He wasn’t on this mission alone.
Nehemiah did not answer his enemies on their level. He did not play their game of hurt and discouragement. Instead, Nehemiah continued to pray, to work, and to trust. In Verse 3 he says one of my favorite lines in the Old Testament, "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” He would not be budged. He would not take his focus off of God who had led him to do this work. He deeply understood the importance of his work, and therefore could not let anyone stop him.
While there are times that we should stop doing some things, we must find in our hearts the work God is calling us to and stand firm in this work. Whether it is in building a wall, repairing a relationship, or starting something new, if God is calling you to do it, God will give you strength to see it through.
Nehemiah didn’t listen to the voice of the people who were discouraged or to the naysayers. He reminded himself and the people to not be afraid, but to remember that they were fighting for God. It was God who would go before them. Nehemiah was not easily swayed. He was a leader whose dependence was on God, completely. When we pray for God’s will and let God lead us to our work, both personal and professional, we too can be like Nehemiah. May you have the fortitude to say to your naysayers, "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.”
Holy One, As I step into the future, I pray that you will continue to guide me. Give me your help and your protection. Aid me with your direction and support. You are my rock and my redeemer. Let all of my plans be yours, Lord. Open my soul to where and how you are at work in the world, and let me join you. Thank you for being with me regardless of success or failure. Use all of me and all of my life for your purposes, oh Creator God. I put my hope in you alone. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.