Now it came to pass when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had built the wall…
Nehemiah was an instance, and will ever be the type, of a faithful workman in the cause of God; from his conduct and career we may learn -
I. HOW VALUABLE ONE WORKMAN MAY PROVE (vers. 1, 2). Sin sometimes pays an unconscious tribute to integrity and worth. It acts on the assumption that righteousness is more than equal to its energy, and that, to gain its evil end, it must have recourse to "poisoned weapons." Thus, e.g., Philip of Spain, striving vainly to extinguish Protestantism in Holland, concluded that it could only be done by "finishing Orange," and set plots on foot to murder that noble patriot. Sanballat concluded that he could not accomplish his evil designs until Nehemiah was subdued; hence his murderous plans. What a tribute to one man's influence! Men "full of faith" are also "full of power" (Acts 6:8). One single soul, animated by faith, love, and zeal, may defeat all the agencies of evil.
II. WHAT NEED HE HAS OF WARINESS (vers. 2, 4). "They sought to do me mischief" (ver. 2); "they sent unto me four times after this sort" (ver. 4). The enemies of God endeavoured, with a persistency worthy of a better cause, to entrap Nehemiah and despatch him. But he, fearless as he afterwards proved, was not to be taken by their craft. Heroism is unsuspicious; but it is not, therefore, credulous. It can distinguish between the overtures of a friend and the machinations of an enemy. We read of "the deceitfulness of sin" (Hebrews 3:13); and both in the guarding of our own personal integrity, and in the defence of the Church of Christ, we must be on the alert against the enemy, who after the failure of open assault will probably resort to stealth.
III. WHAT NEED HE HAS OF COURAGE (vers. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9). Sanballat, failing to impose on the charity of Nehemiah, adopts another course: he intimates in an open letter which every one may read, that, if the interview be not given him, he will send an evil report to the king of Persia, putting the worst construction on the proceedings at Jerusalem (vers. 5, 6, 7). Nehemiah, feeling that ceremony would be out of place, charges Sanballat with direct falsehood (ver. 8). "Thou feignest them out of thine own heart." There are times when softness of speech is not courtesy, but weakness; when hard words are not rudeness, but faithfulness. But this ruse of the enemy threatened to succeed, notwithstanding the governor's un- varnished retort. "For they all made us afraid" (ver. 9). Fear seems to have possessed the minds of many, and Nehemiah was driven to prayer. "Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands." When other hearts are trembling, and timidity is within us, we must seek, and we shall gain, renewed courage at the throne of grace. "In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul" (Psalm 138:3). "For this cause I bow my knees to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man" (Ephesians 3:16).
IV. How EXCELLENT IS DEVOTEDNESS TO WORK (ver. 3). An admirable message was that of the patriot: "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down," etc. His place was amongst his friends, encouraging and helping them to build, not outside, parleying with the enemy. To have left his post of active duty, of useful work, for such discussion would have been to "come down" indeed. To forsake the good and great work of building for Christ in order to debate with those who are hostile to it is to "come down," is a descent from devotion to danger. We axe safer and better employed in the high places of prayer and activity. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;)
WEB: Now it happened, when it was reported to Sanballat and Tobiah, and to Geshem the Arabian, and to the rest of our enemies, that I had built the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though even to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates;)