Nehemiah 4 (NRSV)
Hostile Plots Thwarted
Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he mocked the Jews. 2He said in the presence of his associates and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore things? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish it in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish—and burned ones at that?”
3Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “That stone wall they are building—any fox going up on it would break it down!”
Nehemiah’s leadership: Determination. When confronted by scorn and threats, he did not waste his energy in a war of words. Instead he prayed and the work continued.
4Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their taunt back on their own heads, and give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 5Do not cover their guilt, and do not let their sin be blotted out from your sight; for they have hurled insults in the face of the builders.
Nehemiah’s leadership: Patience. He did not pray for revenge. Instead, he prayed that God would see that justice was done.
6So we rebuilt the wall, and all the wall was joined together to half its height; for the people had a mind to work.
7But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and the gaps were beginning to be closed, they were very angry, 8and all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. 9So we prayed to our God, and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.
Nehemiah’s leadership: Courage. In the face of “rumors of war,” he combined fervent prayer and thoughtful planning.
10But Judah said, “The strength of the burden bearers is failing, and there is too much rubbish so that we are unable to work on the wall.”
11And our enemies said, “They will not know or see anything before we come upon them and kill them and stop the work.”
12When the Jews who lived near them came, they said to us ten times, “From all the places where they live they will come up against us.”
13So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14After I looked these things over, I stood up and said to the nobles and the officials and the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your kin, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
Nehemiah’s leadership: Enthusiasm. When the people were daunted by the amount of work and the opposition, he reminded them to keep their eyes on the big picture and to continue working on behalf of those who were dear to them.
15When our enemies heard that their plot was known to us, and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his work.
16From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and body-armor; and the leaders posted themselves behind the whole house of Judah, 17who were building the wall. The burden bearers carried their loads in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and with the other held a weapon. 18And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me.
19And I said to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread out, and we are separated far from one another on the wall. 20Rally to us wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet. Our God will fight for us.”
Nehemiah’s leadership: Decisiveness. He set up a system where half the men worked while the other half stood guard. Furthermore, he set up a communication system — “the sound of the trumpet” would alert people that there was trouble. Then they could concentrate on their work, without looking over their shoulders all the time.
21So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from break of dawn until the stars came out. 22I also said to the people at that time, “Let every man and his servant pass the night inside Jerusalem, so that they may be a guard for us by night and may labor by day.” 23So neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me ever took off our clothes; each kept his weapon in his right hand.
Dr. Alan Redpath said, ‘The Jews in Nehemiah’s day were successful in their work and in holding the enemy at bay because they had a mind to work (v.6), a heart to pray (v. 9), an eye to watch (v. 9), and an ear to hear (v.20).’ What a good motto for us to keep in mind during our daily lives!
Good leadership in this chapter, but good teamwork, too!
From Johnny and Chachi.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.