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In less than two months, the wall Nehemiah had began with the Jews was completed.  Despite at least six attempts to stop the project, Nehemiah’s colleague-enemies found themselves ashamed at their inability to frustrate God’s plans for Nehemiah and his people.  Matthew Henry notes that, “Christian fortitude will be sharpened by opposition.  Every temptation to draw us from duty should quicken us so much the more to duty.”  In other words, true believers do not give up and give in when others plot and scheme against them.  Instead they press in harder, trust God more, and faithfully continue to obey God’s instructions in their lives.  This is the mark of a faithful believer.

Notice how the enemies of Nehemiah’s building project reacted when he completed his mission.  In verse 16, the text says they were afraid, ashamed, and convinced that God was with the Jews.  Just seeing the success of Nehemiah and God’s people was enough to cause these guys to think less of themselves.  Still, instead of making amends and trying to reconcile with those they had been so deceitfully false, they just keep trying to bring Nehemiah down.

When the wall was finished the opposition to building stopped, but these enemies still did not stop trying to intimidate Nehemiah.  Likewise, our enemy will stop at nothing to continually discourage us from living into our calling, even and especially after we experience great success in our obedience to God.  Consider what they do now.

In verse 17, even despite their fear and discouragement at Nehemiah’s success and the fact that they knew it was God’s work that had been completed, the crooked leaders who needlessly despised Nehemiah hatch a new plan.  They begin to correspond with the nobles in Nehemiah’s jurisdiction.  Now Nehemiah has to deal with traitors sharing information with the enemy about him and his work as well as be subject to “overhearing” exaggerated accolades about how wonderful these deceitful men are.

Tobiah was one of the neighboring governors who sought to destroy Nehemiah.  He was related by marriage to these Jewish nobles which provided a perfect pathway for these gossipy, intimidation-intended reports to be circulated throughout Jerusalem.  They doubtless twisted Nehemiah’s true words, truncated his good deeds, mixed lies with some truth to make it believable and then circulated the false letters and reports about him.

Here we see yet another old standby used by Satan.  If he cannot intimidate or discourage God’s chosen vessel from obedience to God, he will do all he can to use the people around that vessel to be false, to make miserable, to slander and discredit, call good evil and evil good, and try to instill fear.

While it must have indeed been irritating and particularly vexing to have people within his own camp speaking so deceitfully and purposefully trying to discourage him, there is no sign that it rattled Nehemiah.  Nehemiah wasn’t into their petty popularity contests and he wasn’t intimidated by them.  Remember, this guy works for the king.  It’s only insecure leaders who lust after power and control that are intimidated by this kind of nonsense.  Nehemiah wasn’t because he already had authority from none other than the king— as do we when we work for the Lord.

Nehemiah simply continues on his mission.  After he completes the wall, the first thing he does is appoint leaders.  A good leader always recognizes the urgency to appoint good leaders and delegate responsibility wisely.  Show me a man who goes out to accomplish work for God and I’ll show you a man who recognizes the urgent necessity of starting out with good leaders.
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Nehemiah understood this necessity and chose men whose good character he knew well.  Chapter 7:2-3 tells us he chose two men and gave them charge over Jerusalem because they were more faithful and God-fearing than others.  That is how a good leader chooses leaders.  It isn’t who runs a better campaign, who is most popular, or who is his bff.  A good leader chooses leaders by how wise, experienced, and godly they are and he does it firstly, not lastly.

Nehemiah not only proves his wisdom in choosing good leaders first, he also proves his lack of false ambition by delegating others to lead.  Nehemiah was continually accused of wanting control and power to oppress, but clearly we see that those claims of his enemies were unwarranted had no merit.  Nehemiah knows he gave his word to return to the king when he was finished with this project so he is setting this city up for the time when he leaves.

He gives a couple instructions to his gatekeepers.  The gates were only to be open in the daytime, and the guards were to secure the gates at all times.  Nehemiah knew the wall wouldn’t protect them if the gates weren’t secure.  Again, he is constantly looking out for the protection and well-being of his people.  That’s just what good leaders do. That’s what Jesus does, and it’s what we must do if we have leadership in any capacity over God’s people.  He who does not care to protect those whom he leads is simply not fit for the job.

 

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