When I read this passage the word that comes to me is discernment. Nehemiah listened to the voices that called him away from his work and was able to know that they were not from God. That is a pretty amazing gift.
In Nehemiah’s case he really had to armor up and stand his ground. Four times the enemy wrote and asked to meet. That might have been tempting as any appeal to one’s ego might be. “Hey dude, we are leaders and obviously you are the leader. Get out of the labor pool and meet with us. We’re having a leaders only forum down at Hakkephirim and we want you to join us.” Nehemiah didn’t fall for it. He knew they intended to do him harm.
The second attack was a pack of lies about Nehemiah’s motives. It could have undermined his leadership and who wouldn’t feel like they needed to defend themselves? Nehemiah, that’s who. He shot back “you’re nuts” and kept working. He knew they were trying to frighten them into stopping the work. He just prayed for more strength.
The third attack was an inside job – a plant by the enemy. “Man, they are coming to kill you. Let’s hide out in the temple.” Nice try, but there are a couple of red flags here. First, Nehemiah knows God has called him to work not run. And second, he knows God’s laws and there is no way he is going in the temple. The enemy was trying to make him afraid, cause him to sin and discredit his name.
What was Nehemiah’s response to these attacks? He turned them over to God. “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.”
Three times in the book of Nehemiah he refers to “fearing God” as the source of wisdom in knowing what to do.
- Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God Neh. 5:9
- But I did not do so, because of the fear of God. Neh. 5:15
- I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. Neh. 7:2
It seems that Nehemiah’s faithfulness, endurance and wisdom come from his willingness to fear God above all else. Like the psalmist Nehemiah can teach: Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Ps. 34:11
Lord, let me learn from Nehemiah that fearing You is the answer for every question, the antidote to every challenge. Amen.