Three men voiced out their unhappiness and anger because Nehemiah showed interests in pursuing a good act. A bit absurd, isn’t it? The three got together to scheme how they will threaten, frighten and bully Nehemiah till he chickened out. Let us take a clue from Nehemiah’s response to every scheme.
Scene 1: “But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us.”What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”
Response: “I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”
Lesson: He did not engage in a feud. And there was no reason to give a more detailed answer because he knew they were distractions. So why waste his resources?
Scene 2: “When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble–burned as they are?” Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building–even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!”
Response: “Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders. We rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart”.
Lesson: He prayed. He had the opportunity to say, “Sanballat and Tobiah, how dare you insult me? Do you not realise I have the authority of the King to do this work?”, “Are you quick to forget who I am –the King’s cupbearer who is on a sabbatical leave just at the moment?”.
Scene 3:“But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.
Response: “But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat”.
Lesson: Correct application of faith with works.
Scene 4: Nehemiah’s men became weary and fearful. They displayed the ‘cannot do’ mentality. Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.” Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.”
My imagination kicks in right here. I imagine that on every corner or street Nehemiah and his men were, they heard “the enemies will attack! the enemies will attack! the enemies will attack!” Words are powerful and if often repeated become engrained in memory.
Response: “Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows.”
Lesson: A strategic action. Each guard had his family with him and that would ginger him up to protect his guard post with all his might! He encouraged his men, empowered them with positive words and reminded them that God was with them.
Scene 5: “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– 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;”
Response: “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? Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.”
Lesson: He had a purpose, he was focussed and time conscious. 1. He could have met with them with the intent of telling them off. 2. He could have rephrased his reply the second, third and/or fourth time.
Scene 6: “Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter 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 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.”
Response: I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.”
Lesson: Nehemiah rebuffed Sanballat. He was not one to be blackmailed. He was not jittery for there was no need to be. Nehemiah knew it was all a scheme.
Nehemiah concluded, “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.”