The wisdom of Nehemiah said to "pray to our God and station a guard."
What are those feeble Jews doing?
Do they actually think that they can bring the stones back from heaps of rubble?
Even if a fox climbed on top, he would break down their wall!
Sanballat and Tobiah.
Like gnats they were - irritating, always buzzing around, talking behind their backs, making fun, bullying, threatening harm, and just causing trouble by breaking down the motivation and confidence that the people had for doing what God had called them to do. They tried to get into the heads of Nehemiah and the Jewish people who were attempting to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem -- trying to break down their focus so they would get tired and just give up.
You have a new job. You feel that God has opened the door and called you to that position and you are excited to be there. You work very hard trying to do the best you can and go out of your way to be nice, personable, showing the love of Christ to those around you in order to be a good witness, but.....there is that one (or maybe two) person(s). Like gnats.
They don't like you. You don't know why .... they just don't. Maybe its a coworker, maybe it's an extended family member or a friend of a friend. Somewhere...someone is there who watches everything that you are trying to do with disdain. They complain, criticize and harass for no apparent reason. Rolling their eyes at your words, talking behind your back trying to garner reinforcements on their team by breaking down your character and just wearing you down. You go to bed thinking about the issue, you wake up dreading the interaction, you have done nothing wrong and have no clue how to combat the confusion they have created. Unwarranted confusion that is evil to its core.
The battle is not yours.
I know the experience of having someone who just didn't like me. They liked nothing I did, nothing I said, looked down on me, emotionally harassed me and yes.....I let it get under my skin and yes...I wanted to just quit.
The story told in Nehemiah chapter 4 inspires me. Here is my paraphrase of the story:
Sanballat and Tobiah (enemies of the Jews) were furious because Nehemiah had been prompted by the Lord to come back and help the Jewish people rebuild the walls around the city. The walls were in shambles so it was a hard job to begin with but.....when you add on the unjustified emotional and physical bullying that they had to take from Sanballat and Tobiah - it was too much to bear.
As they worked to try and rebuild, they were constantly harrassed, made fun of, mocked, and discouraged. As Sanballat and Tobiah saw the wall making progress it got even worse - they plotted to come against the wall builders in force to throw them into confusion so that they would give up and stop the rebuild.
But did Nehemiah and his workers give up? Nope.
Did they take the time from their work to attack those who were bullying? Nope.
Verse 9 says that Nehemiah instructed the people to "pray to our God and station a guard".
So, they did.
They prayed that God would take notice of the strain that they were under and would fight their battle for them. Their job? Protect themselves and continue their work. From that point on they carried a sword in one hand and a work trowel in another. They continued the work that God had set before them - but they did not back down. They knew that God would fight for them but they came prepared to hold their ground.
Nehemiah's story was placed there as a battleplan that we could mimic.
Did he back down and quit? No way.
Did he go in and fight the enemy taking the energy away from the job God had given them to do? No way.
But did he prepare himself in order protect the calling of God? Absolutely!
Look closely at the scripture - they did 2 things that we can mimic.
1. The first thing they did was pray. Verse 4-5 said that after the verbal harassment...Nehemiah prayed hear us God for we are despised. Don't cover up their guilt God. Take notice of what they are doing God!
2. Second, they then continued on with what they knew to do. Verse 6 says that they worked with all their hearts. Even after the harassment increased they prayed again. Scared? Yes. But they didn't attack them. Instead they posted a guard (verse 9) to protect themselves.
All Nehemiah instructed them to do was to PRAY and PROTECT. They carried protection to work and carried it to bed. They were watchful, smart and didn't drop their guard.
God never said to back down. God never said to be run over. Nehemiah's encouragement to the people was to hold fast, don't be afraid, remember that God is great and awesome and would fight for them. Don't allow the enemy to steal your focus, your rest, your peace.....or the calling that God has placed on your life.
I coulda/shoulda used this many times before. I could have gotten more sleep - not worried as much and continued on with my work. I shoulda protected myself - not allowing myself to be as vulnerable - keeping distance - ignoring the chatter while continuing to hold myself accountable to God alone.
Nehemiah's mantra? God will fight for us! (verse 20). But he was smart in posting a guard - prepared to protect.
How do you handle the unnecessary distractions, chatter that seeks to grab your focus and pull you away from focus on God?
Be wise. Carry the sword in one hand but the trowel in another. Protect yourself - continue in your work and allow God to handle the fight.
My prayer today:
Father God, I have messed up so many times in my life. I have put down my trowel and turned to listen to the Sanballat and Tobiah that have been in my past. I have been afraid and irritated at the undercurrent of emotional harassment that their words brought to me. I have shifted my focus on the evil that was set out to do just that. But thank you for the model in the story of Nehemiah. It reminds me to continue in my work, while using wisdom and protecting myself but allowing you to fight my battles. You are the only one who can make sense out of the confusion that Satan can bring. He is the author of the confusion but .....
You are God.
I love you dearly. Amen.