Nehemiah Week 5 – Focused
Summary: Satan is going to try to distract us, discourage us, and deceive us in order to discredit us. But if we will pursue God’s honor rather than our happiness, if we will live with integrity, God will do extraordinary things through us.
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 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 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. 15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.
16 When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.
17 Also, in those days the nobles of Judah were sending many letters to Tobiah, and replies from Tobiah kept coming to them. 18 For many in Judah were under oath to him, since he was son-in-law to Shekaniah son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berekiah. 19 Moreover, they kept reporting to me his good deeds and then telling him what I said. And Tobiah sent letters to intimidate me.
1. Nehemiah faced several distractions during the building of the wall, but what were the distractions this time?
- Verses 1-4:
- Verses 5-9:
- Verses 10-13:
2. How were these different from previous distractions?
3. How did Nehemiah handle all of these distractions?
What does it mean?
4. What is the significance of the fact that the doors had not yet been set in the gates (v. 1)? How might this have contributed to timing of this opposition?
5. What is the significance of the “unsealed letter” (vv. 5-7)? How did this raise the stakes for Nehemiah? What could happen to Nehemiah if the king believed that Nehemiah was plotting to become a king himself? What was Sanballat hoping to accomplish through this letter?
6. How did Nehemiah’s integrity, his understanding of scripture, and his recognition of God’s character prepare him for these challenges?
What does it mean for us?
7. In what ways have you been in a scenario where distractions were competing for your focus during important projects or commitments?
8. How have you allowed some distractions to lead you from the cause? Were any of them slow to take hold but powerful in shifting your focus?
9. How could you have handled things differently? What scenarios have you faced where you were successful in ignoring distractions? Have there been times when your relationship with God and an understanding of scripture helped you to stay on task? If so, explain.
10. What rituals, practices, tools, and relationships do you lean on to set yourself up for success and to maintain integrity?