What does it say?
The enemy attacks continue, focusing directly on Nehemiah (Neh 6). He refuses an attempt to be distracted from the work. Then Sanballat attempts to discredit him with an open letter designed to cause gossip and division. Failing at that, they then claim to have received prophecy of an assassination attempt against him, hoping he will flee to the temple for protection, thereby violating its ceremonial sanctity since he is not a priest. Someone has said that these three tactics are intrigue, innuendo and intimidation. They are still used today against God’s servants. But, in less than two months they finish the walls, a task that would be amazing today. Even Israel’s enemies had to admit that this was a work of God.
Nehemiah 7 shows Nehemiah immediately activating the wall’s protection, assigning specific responsibilities and protocols. Then he gives a list of the people that had returned with Zerubbabel that is almost identical with the list of Ezra 2. This was the first and largest group of returnees. At the conclusion of the chapter Nehemiah gives the totals and the resources they brought with them.
What does it mean?
Yet again we see that people who engage in God’s mission will sooner or later face opposition of all sorts and from all sources, internal and external. Carefully consider Nehemiah’s responses to each of the three attacks on him in chapter 6, as they are very instructive for us to this day (6:3,8,11).
Biblical cultures are much more communal in nature than in today’s West. People in biblical times greatly value family and community. But there is another side that we often overlook. God and his servants also pay enormous attention to the place and value of each individual, as evidenced by the lists we find in chapter 7 and so many other places in the Bible. Don’t worry that there are a few minor differences between the lists in Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 7. There are several possible and logical explanations. For now focus on the fact that God has a place for everyone, and that everyone brings value to God’s mission.
How will I respond?
If I am being attacked because of my involvement in God’s mission, what practical response might I give considering the example of Nehemiah in chapter 6? Rather than focus on the attack, I will resolve to focus on my value as an individual created in God’s image, redeemed by the finished work of Christ and commissioned to a mission. What is a specific value that I bring to God’s mission?