One day I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was shut in at his home. He said, “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you—by night they are coming to kill you.” But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me. Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophet Noadiah and how she and the rest of the prophets have been trying to intimidate me. So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God. Also, in those days the nobles of Judah were sending many letters to Tobiah, and replies from Tobiah kept coming to them. For many in Judah were under oath to him, since he was son-in-law to Shekaniah son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berekiah. Moreover, they kept reporting to me his good deeds and then telling him what I said. And Tobiah sent letters to intimidate me. Nehemiah 6:10-19
The Power of a Praying Leader
In the first section of Chapter 6, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem made a desperate attempt to stop the repair on the wall. They tried to lure Nehemiah into a trap so they can harm him. When that plot did not succeed, they tried to intimidate Nehemiah with a letter in which they claimed Nehemiah was plotting a revolt against the king of Judah and had appointed himself king. To their frustration, Nehemiah was not moved by their intimidation.
In verse 10, Nehemiah visited the house of Shemiah who was a self-proclaimed prophet. In truth, Shemiah functioned more like a double agent. Shemiah tried to get Nehemiah disqualified as the governor of the people by proposing that Nehemiah meet him in the house of God, inside the temple to hide from the men who wanted to kill him. This was nothing more than Shemiah doing the bidding of Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem who were desperate to get rid of Nehemiah. In truth, the enemies of Nehemiah wanted to kill him. However, there was no one coming by night to kill Nehemiah.
Nehemiah wisely discerned the proposition of Shemiah was a ruse to make him sin against God and get him disqualified as a leader. He knew that only priests were allowed in the temple. “He would have been disobeying God if he had done what Shemaiah suggested. In 2 Chronicles 26, King Uzziah – who was not a priest – went into the temple, and God instantly struck him with leprosy.” In verse 12, Nehemiah voiced his distrust of Shemiah and realized that Shemiah had been hired to intimidate him so he can sin against God and be discredited. Yet, instead of lashing out against Shemaiah and his fellow false-religionists, he simply committed these wicked men – and the situation – to God. As well he committed Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who were trying to intimidate him to God (v. 14)
Despite all the scheming and plotting against Nehemiah, the wall was completed in fifty-two days. “The amount of time it took to finish the job was remarkably short. The walls were in ruins for more than 100 years, and then they were set right in a period of only 52 days.” Verse 17-19, captures the degree to which Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem were influential and connected in Jerusalem. The nobles were sending letters to Tobiah because he had family ties to many in the tribe of Judah. In verse 19, they even tried to recommend Tobiah to Nehemiah. “These Jewish brothers of Nehemiah could not see what was so plain to Nehemiah. Perhaps they did not see much of the evil work of Tobiah first-hand, so they had a hard time believing it.” Also, in the case of these nobles, there was self-interest at work. They had financial dealings with Tobiah they wanted to protect. “His numerous binding agreements (pledged to him) within the Jewish community were probably trading contracts, facilitated by marriage connections.” (Kidner)
Nehemiah did in 52 days what the Israelites could not get done in more than 100 years. What lessons can we learn from Nehemiah’s amazing leadership? How did he get the wall repaired in just 52 days? After all, it wasn’t that no one saw the broken wall; it wasn’t that walls were not wanted. For over 100 years, many generations saw the walls broken. Yet no one managed to repair it until Nehemiah. I’m sure many people in Jerusalem wish that the wall would be repaired. Some might have even prayed about it. But the repair was never done. It is not enough to wish for something or pray about it, we have to partner with God to bring it to pass as led by the Holy Spirit. Evidently, the Jews needed the broken wall to be repaired. For, a broken wall was a symbol of defeat and disgrace to the people of God. It was a reminder of their disobedience and their rebelliousness. The broken wall left them vulnerable to their enemy's attack; made them feel weak and defeated. Yet it took Nehemiah to lead the repair 100 years later.
How did Nehemiah do it? “He grieved, he ached, he prayed, he planned, he asked boldly, he went, he fought, he encouraged, he stood strong, he saw the job through to completion.” Nehemiah was focused faithful and forward-thinking. He was a visionary and a dynamic leader who inspired his people to do what they did not think they could do. Nehemiah surrounded himself with people who shared his passion and bought into his vision.
Nehemiah committed all his ways to the Lord and remained prayed up throughout the building project. Nehemiah worked longer in prayer than they needed to work to do the job. He began his planning with 4 months of prayer before going before the king. Yet it only took 52 days to complete the repair of the wall. “This shows the spiritual battle was actually greater than the material battle.”
Our greatest battle is always going to be spiritual. Those who demonstrate discipline and perseverance in praying over their vision will inevitably succeed in every way. A believer who is spiritually grounded can do all things through the Spirit of Christ who provides strength and inspiration. The favor of the Lord will abide by those who trust the Lord to guide their path and fight their battles.
Please give us the discernment to lead according to your perfect will, as we labor for your kingdom.