“Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.” (Nehemiah 4:7-9)
In Nehemiah’s narrative we are introduced to Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem in chapter 2 and the beginning of the 4th mocking and disparaging the Jew’s effort to rebuild the walls of the Holy City. When that did not work, we see in the scripture above attempts at – conspiracy, confusion and conquest. Try doing anything for God and watch the evil one’s agents gather to impede, delay, and destroy the endeavor. It is a given in this fallen world. But Nehemiah acted by setting armed guards on the wall. “And [he] looked and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses.” (4:14) I sometimes wonder if there is any fight left in us.
When the threat of attack did not stop the wall, the terrible threesome next tried to deceive Nehemiah and lure him out of the city. Five message exchanges went back and forth with the last from Sanballat being an open letter accusing Nehemiah of trying to make himself king. Nehemiah responded, ‘No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.’ For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, ‘Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.’ Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.” (6:1-9) Here we see persistent deception, diversion, accusation and fear being used against the hands doing God’s work and will. Indeed, O God, strengthen our hands in this, our times.
After this his enemies hired a false prophet, Shemaiah, to lure Nehemiah into the Holy Place in the temple for refuge from a murder plot. But had he taken such refuge there it would have been a desecration of the house of God and would have put his reverence for God in question. He was not a priest and had no right to go into the Holy Place. Nehemiah perceived what was happening and refused to enter the temple.
Satan often attacks from within the community of believers. He lures the faithful to compromise in the Word. Whether by a little or a lot, stray from the truth and our work on the wall will cease. There are many unfinished walls in our decaying world that would have made a difference. But the evil one and his agents persisted, using whatever means necessary to stop the work. It has been said, “It would seem that good is satisfied to work but eight hours a day, while evil is only content to stay on the job around the clock.”
Nehemiah’s calling and conviction and leadership made a difference. The people with him possessed a stick-to-it-ness faith that made a difference. Can the same be said of us?
“So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God.” (Nehemiah 6:15-16)