February 9th, 2020 | Chad Gardner
Most people have already quite their resolutions by now. Nehemiah gives us an example of undeterred determination.
Nehemiah had adjusted to life under Persian rule. He served as cupbearer to the king. Ninety years prior, Jews had been allowed to return to Jerusalem, but the city had never been rebuilt. When Nehemiah learned this from his brother, he wept, fasted, and prayed. Nehemiah was not only allowed to return to Jerusalem, but was put in a position of power and authority. The wall was rebuilt through his leadership, and we can learn great things about leadership through this story, but the specific passage we at looking at today focuses on his determination.
Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem had profited from Jerusalem in its state of disrepair. They didn’t want Jerusalem to be rebuilt or Nehemiah’s efforts to succeed.
Now when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”
Nehemiah knew his calling to rebuild the wall, and nothing would deter him. What work does God have for you?
And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner. In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand. In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah.’ And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.” Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.” For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands.
Nehemiah had direction and he was not going to be distracted.
In Nehemiah’s case, the distraction would have led to his demise. These enemies wanted to kill him. The distractions we face might not be as life-threatening in our circumstances, but our focus is just as important.
When we say “yes” to one thing, we are saying “no” to something else.
Nehemiah had a choice. He choose to stay focused on the work God had gave him to do.
Now when I went into the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home, he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple. Let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you. They are coming to kill you by night.” But I said, “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in.” And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me. Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid.
So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.
The wall was finished in 52 days. The surrounding nations knew God had enabled this to happen.
We are presented with choices every day. Sometimes, the options we have are obviously right or wrong. Other times, we might have to say “no” to something that isn’t necessarily bad in and of itself. We must discern whether any given choice is going to pull us away or bring us closer to accomplishing the great work God has for us.