5 Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand. 6 In it was written:
It is reported among the nations, and Geshem[a] says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king. 7 And you have also appointed prophets to proclaim concerning you at Jerusalem, saying, “There is a king in Judah!” Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together.
8 Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.”
9 For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, “Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.”
Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.
The attacks and harassment came from everywhere: the enemy physically lurked about and taunted as the work of restoration was being done on the walls of Jerusalem. Protected by one king, the threat of the king where Nehemiah went to work among his people to restore them was no less real.
The accusations followed: 7 It is reported among the nations, and Geshem[a] says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king.
They sought to wear him down and delay the work of restoration with the threat of physical harm and and psychological weakness.
Through it all, Nehemiah , like David, took comfort in the Lord his G-d, and guided by the Holy Spirit, he thwarted them. He strengthened Nehemiah’s hand to answer five times, “I am doing a great work. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?”
Notice the direction Nehemiah had to go to reach them?
As persistent as their enemies’demands were, his focus was equally clear; the wall was not just to put Jerusalem right, but it was to the glory of G-d to have His people do it as an act of loving service.
There are other ways to strengthen hands besides giving them the ability to lift heavy objects. During the holidays I was getting cash back from a machine that gave me $60 of the $100 I asked for; the cashier went to get the manager who didn’t look to see the screen had already given me $60. She counts off $100 and gives it to me; we’re the only two there a the machine and no one there between the time it was my turn and the time the manager came back, and I could have had $160 to spend ….
He can strengthen our hands not to steal.
There are men (and a rising number of women) alone at night in front of their computers, and the ‘adult only’ email slides like Eden’s serpent into the Inbox…
He can strengthen our hands not to give in to temptation.
And in the Garden of Gethsemane, our Savior, knowing the pain and forsaking to come, clasps his hands together and entreats His Father to take the cup…
He can strengthen our hands to pray.
Pray, Brothers and Sisters, that He strengthen your hands to complete the task He’s set for you, to His glory and your sanctification.
Therefore I pray:
Father in Heaven,
We see them coming from a long way off when we are high on the ladder of the center of Your will.
We hear their mocking whispers and veiled threats as clearly as if they’d said them in our ears.
We see their smug smiles of doubt and their frowns of frustration.
We see the ill intent in their eyes.
We see their bravado, for they don’t know You’re in the midst of us.
And in our humanity our hands would strike back, our tongues would give flight to our anger, and our reason would flee the faster for our warming blood.
Let us take comfort in You, Father. Let us see You in them, even as we rebuke them, even as they seek to turn us from the task You appointed us to do. And by faith, let us remember to turn to You. Let us behold Your smile and loving touch as we answer by the power of Your Spirit: I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down.
I ask it by the strong, nail pierced hands of our Savior, hands You strengthened to bear my sin and put on the altar of His all consuming sacrifice, to Your glory and my sanctification, believing I’ve already received.