This chapter reminds me of a political campaign we might see. The opposition tries to openly oppose, intimidate and hinder their opponent, but when all else fails...malign them. Nehemiah is completing the wall and Sanballat hears about it. At first he calls for a meeting (come into my parlor said the spider to the fly). Nehemiah sees through the ploy and refuses several times. Then he receives a note from the enemy laying false charges to be sent to the king. In this passage we are going to see how God gives wisdom and strength to be victorious over the craftiest of enemies.
I don't know if you have ever been maligned before, but I have and it is hard to endure. I remember when my brother would say mean things about me as a child mostly just to stir me into a fight with him. (that's just how things were...just like Jacob and Esau we were). He was usually successful at getting to me; I felt the great need to defend my honor. I have operated much like that until a couple of years ago when the Lord helped me to see that I could trust him for my defense. I did and he did some wonderful things through that.
Nehemiah doesn't overreact like I have done in the past, but merely replies that the rumor is false and keeps on about his business. I love how he didn't become defensive but merely stood boldly in dismissing the allegation. Nehemiah had so well organized his mission that he did not lose his focus with the distractions from the enemy.
Let's make this a little personal. Are your projects well organized so as to keep you focused on the main thing without getting distracted by less important activity? One area where I see that I need to be on guard is in my Bible Study and prayer time. It is so easy for me to delay or get distracted by thoughts for my activities in the day and lose my focus on what I am reading or what I was praying about. Recently, I got an email from a missionary that I have come to know encouraging us to pray for the missionaries in the field and that it was the greatest support we could offer. I was so convicted of my inattention to prayer for them. They need me and depend on me to pray and I have let them down. I also sometimes forget to remember my unsaved loved ones in prayer before the Lord. Think about it; if we aren't praying for them, who is? Prayer and Bible Study should be on your project list; not that it has to be drudgery, but that it never gets neglected.
Nehemiah went to the Lord to ask him to strengthen his hands to complete the work. The enemy wanted to frighten them and sap their strength. Think about it...if you are focused on fear, you cannot focus on the tasks you are given.
In this passage we learn that the enemies were not necessarily from within. Tobiah had connections with the Israelites inside by virtue of marrying into the family. Letters were sent to him from the family reporting everything that was said. One of these letters came to the attention of Shemaiah who called to Nehemiah for a visit. He seemed concerned for Nehemiah and wanted to offer him protection because the enemy planned to kill him. Because Nehemiah was given great discernment from God he could see through the plot to discredit him and refused to hide in the temple. I would have made him look weak before the people and he needed the people to follow his leadership.
Again, Nehemiah goes to God in prayer and shares his frustrations and asks God to remember his enemies. When evil is done against you, how do you respond?
In verses 15 and 16, I love how Nehemiah documents the number of days it took to complete the wall. 52 days...Amazing. That is how the enemies could know that God's hand was on the work. When they realized they were not opposing Nehemiah but God himself, they became fearful themselves. Are our deeds done in such a way that they testify of God's greatness? Can people look at them and say, "it had to be God?" I think that the more I have learned to trust God and to lean on him for strength and wisdom, the more he has responded and given me the resources needed to do things his way. The more I do that, the more I can see God's hand and give him the glory for the project. Like Nehemiah, we can experience God's wisdom and strength to be victorious over the craftiest of enemies.