19 June 2015Nehemiah 6:1-16
"Should a man like me run away?" (v. 11)
Psalm: Psalm 26
The rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem is complete. It should have been a time of celebration and mutual back-slapping. But that was not to be. Instead Nehemiah receives a message from Sanballat and Geshem - Sanballat was the governor over Samaria and the main political opponent of Nehemiah and Geshem is thought to be in charge of a vast area of land from north-east Egypt to northern Arabia and southern Palestine. Given their power and positions it is possible to assume that their opposition to Neheniah was primarily political, rather than religious.
The completion of the walls was an indication of the recovery of Jerusalem's strength. Obviously the walls provided protection against aggressors and invaders, but it also gave the city a sense of identity. For Sanballat and Geshem it also suggested that it had become a threat - "you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall; and according to this report you wish to become their king" (v. 6). Nonsense says Nehemiah, although he puts it somewhat differently (verse 8). Notice, too, his prayer in verse 9.
In the second half of this passage, Sanballat and Tobiah try again to discredit Nehemiah using the words and influence of Shemaiah. But again Nehemiah stands firm (verses 11-13). If Nehemiah had weakened in the face of the challenge and threat against him, his leadership would have been discredited and all the good work and building of morale would have been for nothing.
This passage invites us to consider how we deal with challenges to authority. Nehemiah stands firm - would we have done the same? Were Sanballat and Geshem afraid of the potential power of Nehemiah or intimidated by his success? The passage doesn't make this clear, only the threat is evident. When we are challenged, what is the reason? Is it envy at success, or fear of power? Or perhaps are we at fault because we do not communicate our intentions effectively and allow fear to grow?
- How do you behave when you are challenged? What, if anything, does this passage or Nehemiah have to teach you?
- When you challenge authority, what are your motives? And how might you do it fairly and effectively?