This devotional is written by Henrietta Blyth. Hen is married to Rick, has been at St Mary’s for a while now and loves gardening.

Nehemiah 6:1-14

Further Opposition to the Rebuilding

6 When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates— 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: "Come, let us meet together in one of the villages[a] on the plain of Ono."

But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: "I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?" 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.

5 Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter 6 in which was written:

"It is reported among the nations—and Geshem[b] says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king 7 and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!' Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together."

8 I sent him this reply: "Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head."

9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, "Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed."

But I prayed, "Now strengthen my hands."

10 One day I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was shut in at his home. He said, "Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you—by night they are coming to kill you."

11 But I said, "Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!" 12 I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me.

14 Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophet Noadiah and how she and the rest of the prophets have been trying to intimidate me.


Nehemiah is being intimidated by his enemies. God has told him to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. A lot of people don't want him to succeed and try to stop him. It's interesting to spot their tactics – any of this sound familiar?

First, they try to distract him. Four times they try to get him to come and meet with them.

Then they try to destroy his reputation. An aide carries an unsealed letter – sure therefore to have been read by lots of people along his journey – which carries a pack of lies about Nehemiah.

Then someone prophesies that he is about to be killed and should therefore go into hiding. This too is a lie planted by his enemies, particularly nasty because it is presented as a word from the Lord. And it is a clever lie because indeed fear frequently makes us hide.

What really impresses me about Nehemiah is how robustly he defends his calling and denounces all the tricks of his enemies. He is no people-pleaser and refuses to be intimidated. He is fully aware of what they are trying to do, does not care what they think of him and is very clear about his God-given ministry. He calls them out for the liars that they are.

And then he prays, "God strengthen my hands". He does not pray against his enemies, but prays for more strength to get the task finished.

Has God given you something specific to do? Do you experience a lot of opposition when you try to do it? Distractions? Intimidation? People spreading false rumours about you?

People you love telling you it's too dangerous? Think of Nehemiah and stand firm. Pray that God will strengthen your hands for the task He has given you.

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