We’re continuing to learn from Nehemiah about how to manage a new beginning. Remember, Nehemiah was called by God to oversee the rebuilding of the wall in Jerusalem. It was a daunting task, no doubt. Perhaps not unlike our own new beginnings. We saw how the seed was planted, and how important resolve is. Last week we saw how Nehemiah faced opposition. There was constant opposition. Today, we’ll see Nehemiah’s discernment determining how best to fight those battles.
Sanballat, governor of Samaria, and some of his political allies had opposed the Jews’ projects from the beginning. They were relentless in their threats and interference with the wall building. In chapter 6, Sanballat sends out an open letter accusing Nehemiah of fortifying Jerusalem so that he can set himself us as king. He also claimed Nehemiah had gone so far as to arrange for prophets to declare that Nehemiah was the rightful king.
The claims were outrageously baseless and insultingly public, on the order of publishing an op-ed in the New York Times. What should Nehemiah do? How should he react? And what can we learn from Nehemiah when our own fresh starts are met with undeserved drama?
Nehemiah responded simply, quickly, and firmly.
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” (Nehemiah 6:8). Nehemiah doesn’t go overboard with his response or his denials, but he doesn’t mince words. The accusations are false and Sanballat is the source.
When we take on something new, inevitably some will not jump on board and may even work to undermine our efforts. It may be possible to ignore them for a while, but when they begin to affect others, especially others who look to us for leadership, we have to respond. We can follow Nehemiah’s lead by answering confidently with clarity and using godly discernment to know how and when to proceed.
Nehemiah saw the motives behind the actions.
Nehemiah wisely saw through Sanballat’s actions. For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done” (Nehemiah 6:9a). He understood the accusations were more than a personal attack on him. There was a larger purpose and that was derailing the work God had given Nehemiah and his crew.
It is hard not to take attacks personally. Very hard. But if they come, discernment helps us take a step back and look at the big picture. What might be the opposition’s larger goal?
Nehemiah prayed for strength.
But now, O God, strengthen my hands (Nehemiah 6:9b). Nehemiah’s prayer is interesting because it is not for vindication or for the punishment of his adversaries. He prayed for strength, strength to endure, strength to stay focused.
For every new beginning God lays before us, He also equips us and ensures we have the necessary resources to do it (John 15:!6). These resources are not only physical, but emotional, mental, and spiritual. But let’s be honest, we don’t always ask for them. Let’s be like Nehemiah and discern when we need help and humbly ask for it.