And I sent messengers to them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease…
I. MARK THE CHARACTER OF GASHMU. His history we know nothing of. Parentage, training, chieftainship, whether inherited or won, life's events, end — all are secret from us. But it is not secret that he was in friendship with Nehemiah's enemies Sanballat and Tobiah. These three were one in their desire to keep Jerusalem weak. Whatever Gashmu thought of Sanballat, we can see that Sanballat thought much of him. "Gashmu says it." That must, thinks Sanballat, carry conviction of peril even to Nehemiah and bring him to a stand.
1. Gashmu evidently was a man with a great reputation. His word had weight. It was the word of a superior person — of one who perhaps spoke but little, but who took care when he did speak to put a sting into what he said. He took care not hastily to commit himself. He not only thought before he spoke, but chose the words in which to .pack most strikingly the thought. His was a quoted opinion. It went on long .journeys. "A wise word that! A fine remark that! Whose?" "Gashmu says it!" Men looked up to Gashmu. From silent heights he spoke down to them. He despised most of them, as one of a loftier race, and yet strangely loved their reverential attention, prompt praise, and their homage to his wisdom in quoting:far and wide his opinion. He was great in criticism. If there was a fault in anybody, he could spot it. No number of excellences, however bright, could blind him to that fault. He could not only see it, but could excel all others in speaking disagreeably about it. Who could expect such a superior person to have pity on human infirmities? It is not a difficult thing for a man to build up to-day such a reputation as Gashmu's. Let him be blind to all that is good in others. Let him darken and exaggerate the faults he sees, and when he cannot see them, imagine them. Let him pick the keenest and most poisonous words. Never ,commend anybody. Let him have a clever tongue, with a bad heart, and he would be a great man among pigmy souls. Let Christian men and women be on their guard. In the effort to live purely, and to serve God by serving their generation, they will meet with Gashmu. Let not such hinder you from Christian life and labour. Answer not this railing with railing; answer it only with a more devoted piety, and a larger Christian service.
2. Gashmu was a man without sympathy with goodness. Nehemiah was a patriot. From love to his country and his God he had given up an honourable and lucrative office at the Persian Court. If Nehemiah is dependent upon outside sympathy for the prosecution and completion of his work, he had better at once get his retinue together and go back to Babylon! No sympathy for him from clever and oft-quoted Gashmu! Welcome to all the inspiration of sympathy. The kindly eye, the warm-grasping hand, the love-kindling appreciation, how welcome! Difficult duty becomes easier, the burthened life is lightened of its load. But do not live on this; don't look for this. Live a life that lives above it. Live in God. Then let not their opinion dishearten you. Does Gashmu say it? Who is Gashmu? A man who, whatever his worldly shrewdness and reputation, is in the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity. What judge can he be of the quality of Christian labour, of the beauty of a holy and Christian life?
3. Gashmu had keen hatred of religious enthusiasm. Nehemiah's religion was the root of his patriotism. He lost no time in carrying out the rebuilding of the ruined wall. He allowed not the quickened and responsive zeal of the people to flag. He was as ready to fight as to build. No specious pretence could call him from the work. On it went — on till done. This was gall and wormwood to Gashmu. If Nehemiah had only talked, however loudly, of his intentions, it had not mattered. Gashmu could not tolerate enthusiasm. He is still alive, though in English garb. The earnest Christian is certain to meet with him. He hates earnestness, and enthusiasm he cannot away with.
4. Gashmu was a man skilful to read motives. Or so he deemed himself. He could not only look at the rising walls of the city, but right through them. He could not only see Nehemiah on the wall inspiriting the armed masons; but he could see into Nehemiah's heart. He knew the secret meaning of all this rapid labour. "What do you think, Gashmu, about it?" He knew, and soon the report is flying abroad among the surrounding heathens, that the Jews intend to rebel against the Persian power, and that Nehemiah means to be their king — King Nehemiah. So the lying rumour goes on its journey, and "Gashmu saith it" gives it wings. Not an atom of truth in it! But Gashmu smiled and nodded, and calmly whispered into willing ears the lie that no amount of confidence and conceit and cleverness could make true. But his lie is written here. "Gashmu says it!" And for that lie Gashmu is remembered to-day. Live to God — do any brave stroke of work for Him, and some present-day Gashmu will know all about your motive for doing it. He will know more about you than you know about yourself. Engage in work for Christ, and Gashmu will say, "I know pride is at the bottom of this; he wants to show how much better he is than anybody else. He wants to be talked about. Anything to make headway. Anything to build up business. He knows that Sunday will help Monday." Slanderous Gashmu! Is he not alive to-day?
II. IMITATE NEHEMIAH'S TREATMENT OF GASHMU. He would not be hindered. He kept to prayer. He kept to work. He would not go down. Are you seeking to build up your character in truth, purity, holiness? This is God's work. Be not hindered in it. Be not diverted from it. Are you seeking to build up some other — some neglected, broken-down, and ruined character? Do the work — finish it.
(G. T. Coster.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?