Scripture reading – Nehemiah 6; Nehemiah 7
We have observed many qualities in Nehemiah’s life that serve as an inspiration for people everywhere. He was a man of humility and prayer, for when he heard his brethren suffered in Jerusalem, he “sat down and wept, and mourned…and prayed before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4).
He was passionate about his work on the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:12-18), and undeterred by the criticism and scorn of his enemies (Nehemiah 2:19-20). He was a skilled administrator (Nehemiah 3), and bold in his faith (Nehemiah 4). Where others enriched themselves, Nehemiah sacrificed and carried more than his share of the burdens (Nehemiah 5). Lastly, and most importantly, he was a man who fear and revered the LORD (Nehemiah 5:15, 19).
Nehemiah 6 – A Model Shepherd
Familiar enemies appeared once again in Nehemiah 6, and I am struck by three qualities of spiritual leadership evidenced in Nehemiah’s response. He was honest (a rare quality in our day of braggadocios self-promotion, 6:1). We read, “Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies,heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates” (6:1).
While his enemies said he “had builded the wall, and that there was no breach” (6:1), Nehemiah set the record straight, and confessed, “I had not set up the doors upon the gates” (6:1). Minor detail you say? Perhaps, but it was an honest admission. Nehemiah was not a man given to “little white lies” or exaggerations. He did not misrepresent his work, and spoke the truth (Ephesians 4:15, 25).
Nehemiah was also uncompromised, and unwavering in his priorities (6:2-3). When his enemies proposed he meet with them “in the plain of Ono,” he refused for he discerned they would do him harm (6:2c). So, he “sent messengers unto them [his enemies], saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” (6:3).
An open, libelous letter accused Nehemiah of plotting an insurrection against the king, and revealed another important quality of leadership: He was an insightful, discerning man (6:4-9). Four times his enemies appealed to him to meet them, and the fifth time they attacked him in “an open letter” filled with lies (6:5). How did Nehemiah respond? He boldly replied to their lies (6:8), and prayed for strength, saying, “O God, strengthen my hands” (6:9).
Yet, the enemy was not finished, for when the “open letter” failed to discourage Nehemiah, they bribed a priest to tempt him to cower, and seek shelter within the Temple (6:10). Nehemiah saw through the evil motives of his enemies, and answered their attacks with spiritual discernment and conviction (6:11-14).
In spite of the opposition, and temptation to be discouraged, the wall about Jerusalem “was finished…in fifty and two days” (6:15). The walls of the city had been in disrepair for nearly 150 years, and one man led the rebuilding in 52 days! Even the enemies “perceived that this work was wrought of…God” (6:16).
The concluding verses of Nehemiah 6 give a tragic insight into the character of some “nobles of Judah” (6:17-19). While Nehemiah modeled selfless leadership, there were influential Jews in Judah who conspired with the enemy. Those men “sent many letters unto Tobiah” (the same Tobiah that was the enemy of Nehemiah and opposed the work on the wall, 2:10, 19; 4:3, 7; 6:1, 12, 14, 17).
The motive of the “nobles of Judah” is not stated, but we can certainly deduce their goal was to enrich themselves. They would have continued their trade with the heathen of the land, even at the sacrifice of their own people. Though Tobiah had proven to be a formidable enemy of Nehemiah, those nobles touted “his good deeds,” and no doubt took Nehemiah’s words and distorted them. Nehemiah was honest, uncompromised, and discerning. He knew his enemy, and recognized “Tobiah sent letters to put [him] in fear” (6:19).
Closing thoughts – Imagine how different our families and churches might be if this generation had men and women like Nehemiah. Will you face the enemy of God and His people, and determine to be Honest, Uncompromised, and Spiritually Discerning?
Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith
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