And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.
13 Therefore was he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, and that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me.
In the face of opposition sustaining the vision will require staying focused and maintaining a godly lifestyle. Nehemiah identified with common people and this gave him credibility with his followers. His vision might have crumbled if he had used his position for personal gain; instead, he refused special privileges, even providing for his people from his own pocket (Nehemiah 5:14-19). Great leaders care more about the mission than about personal advancement.
Some of Nehemiah’s own cohorts refused to help with the mission. Not everyone you lead will be as excited about your vision as you are. Nehemiah spent little time addressing those who “would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors.”
Sanballat, an opponent of Nehemiah, flew into a rage about the rebuilding. In his mocking, Sanballat referred to the Jews as feeble, and Tobiah the Ammonite continued the taunting with, “What they are building—if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!” (Nehemiah 4:3). Nehemiah didn’t retaliate or even respond to the mocking; instead, he prayed about it (Nehemiah 4:4–5). In fact, his prayers are sprinkled throughout his retelling of the incident.
Nehemiah stood firm in the face of false accusations, recognizing that his enemies were trying to discredit him by intimidating him (Nehemiah 6:13). He received letters intended to instill fear, but he refused to run away or cower before his accusers. Once again, in the midst of a trying time, Nehemiah prayed for strength to continue the work (Nehemiah 6:9) and called for God’s justice (Nehemiah 6:14).
Nehemiah stood firm on the foundation that was set when he started the work: “The God of heaven will give us success.” (Nehemiah 2:20). When the work was finished in a mere 52 days, even his enemies realized that the work the Jews had done had been accomplished with God’s help (Nehemiah 6:16).
Leaders may experience lonely, dark times when the work seems overwhelming in light of the opposition. Great leaders draw their strength from God and persevere despite hostility. They emerge at the other end as stronger leaders than before, more equipped for the next call from God.
Nehemiah continued the project until the wall was completed.
So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.
16 And it came to pass, that when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.
17 Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came unto them.
18 For there were many in Judah sworn unto him, because he was the son in law of Shechaniah the son of Arah; and his son Johanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah.
19 Also they reported his good deeds before me, and uttered my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear.
When the mission is complete God gets the glory. That doesn’t mean however that the opposition will cease. The nay-sayers may continue and we may have to stay true to our commitment to maintain the vision even with the mission completed.
In addition to the maintenance of the previous project, God will frequently set another challenge before us. When the construction of the wall was complete, Nehemiah’s next challenge was the instruction of the people. We will see in our next lesson how Nehemiah proceeded.
By Wayne Clapp