Read: Nehemiah 6:1-7:73a
Fake news is not a new thing, just a phrase that we hear more often these days. Simply put, fake news is a lie. We’ve been dealing with the issue since the days of Adam and Eve and here we witness Nehemiah’s response to Sanballat’s lies to lure him away from Jerusalem.
Four times Sanballat sent the same message:
Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.” But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” Nehemiah 6:2-3
The fifth time Sanballat does his best to stir up rumors and gossip by providing an unsealed letter with words of accusation, supposedly the reason for the meeting in Ono.
“It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.” Nehemiah 6:6-7
Nehemiah flatly denies the accusations, the fake news Sanballat was inventing, and sends a prompt response. Then he took action: he prayed. Throughout the book, Nehemiah stops to pray as his story unfolds.
Nehemiah visits a shut-in, Shemaiah, a kind gesture to begin with, but here is another attempt to lure him away from the work God has put in his hands.
“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.” Nehemiah 6:10
Nehemiah is shrewd enough to see through the simple scheme of Tobiah that would lure him into sin (he was not a priest and therefore was not allowed) and then in secret he would no doubt be killed.
His response, once again, prayer.
It’s amazing to read that the reconstruction of the walls was completed in 52 days. For the Israelites, Nehemiah was the catalyst they needed to focus on a single-minded mission that gave them several positive outcomes:
- unified the people
- reinforced their belief in God with tangible evidence
- provided sanctuary
- demoralized surrounding nations
- discredited those against the plan
- taught them to pray and act
- blessed he dedicated people who sacrificed to see the work done
These are just a few thoughts about the profoundly positive impact Nehemiah made on the people of Israel, his people, for the glory of God.
As a spacious and safe city, he needed a method for selecting those who would be honored to live within the walls — obviously not everyone would fit. Over 42,000 people were selected from the genealogical records. More details to follow in the coming chapters. Nehemiah wasn’t trying to draw attention to himself, his mission was temporary and with great purpose. He selects Hanani and Hananiah to govern Jerusalem so he can return to his full-time job back in Susa.
I love the catalytic nature of Nehemiah’s work, his incredible leadership, the focus on mission and his devotion to God intertwined in this compelling story. The church needs people like Nehemiah. Lord, help me to learn from this story, to find modern day Nehemiah’s who can come in and reset your people and restore the community of faith you desire here on earth.