Here is the next installment for teaching this wonderful little book to children. This is, in fact, my favorite part!
Last time, we learned that Nehemiah was a careful planner and that he began the work to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in an orderly way. But the enemies of the Jews, led by Sanballat and Tobiah, tried to stop them from finishing their work.
First, they tried ridicule. What does it mean to ridicule someone? It means to make fun of them. Did anyone ever make fun of you or something you were trying to do? It can make you want to quit, can’t it? Tobiah said that the wall they were building was so weak that if a little fox jumped on it, it would fall right down! Tobiah might have thought that was a funny joke, but I’ll bet Nehemiah wasn’t laughing. It hurts when people make fun of us, doesn’t it? We must be careful never to hurt anyone else’s feelings by saying mean things, even if we think we’re being funny. You might think it’s a great joke, but the people you hurt won’t be laughing.
Instead of being discouraged and quitting, Nehemiah and the people just worked that much harder to finish the wall. I can just hear them saying to each other, “We’ll show them! We’ll show that old Tobiah!” Before they knew it, the walls were half done!
Now Israel’s enemies knew that ridicule would not stop the Jews. So they tried making threats. What does that mean? Has anyone ever threatened to hurt you? Have you ever threatened to hurt someone, maybe a younger brother or sister who was bothering you? Do you think God approves of a person who threatens to harm another person? I don’t think so!
If someone said to you, “Stop what you’re doing or I’ll kill you,” would you stop? I think I would! It would be scary, wouldn’t it? But instead of being afraid, Nehemiah and the Jews just prayed to God for safety and posted watchmen to keep a lookout for trouble while the others worked.
Then Israel’s enemies formed a wicked plot. They would sneak up on the Jews when they were busy working on the wall and kill the all! When Nehemiah heard this, do you think he was afraid? I’ll bet he was! But he didn’t let his fear stop him from doing God’s work. He posted guards with swords and spears and bows and arrows to “watch the backs” of those who were working. “Our God will fight for us,” he reminded them. And so the work continued.
Israels’ enemies were quite willing to kill people by sneaking up on them and taking them by surprise, but they did not want to actually fight! So Sanballat and Tobiah tried to stop the work a different way. They thought that if they could just get rid of Nehemiah, the people would stop working. They tried to get Nehemiah to meet with them alone, to “talk things over”. Do you think Nehemiah was silly enough to fall for this? No! He knew they could not be trusted. “I’m too busy to leave the city right now,” he said. “Should I stop working just to meet with you?”
Then Sanballat and Tobiah tried spreading lies about Nehemiah. They thought that if they could make the people stop trusting Nehemiah, they would stop working. Maybe they even thought their lies would reach the ears of the King of Persia and then the king would get rid of Nehemiah for them! So they said that Nehemiah was trying to set himself up as King of Israel and was rebelling against King Artaxerxes. Nehemiah was too smart to get into an argument with such people. “Nothing like this is happening, and you know it! You are just making all this up!” he said, and ignored them. It’s hard to ignore people who are telling lies about you, isn’t it? But sometimes that is the best way to handle people who like that.
Then Sanballat hired a false prophet to go try to frighten Nehemiah into hiding in the temple. “Men are coming to kill you!” the false prophet said to Nehemiah. “God says to run away and hide in the temple. Lock yourself in! You’ll be safe there!”
“Should a man like me run away from danger?” Nehemiah said bravely. It was obvious to him that this prophet was not from God. “I will not run away and hide like a coward! If someone wants to kill me, bring it on!” And he just kept on working.
After 52 days of hard work, the walls around Jerusalem were finished! It was finished so quickly that all of Israel’s enemies were terrified. They knew it was only because the God of Israel was helping them that they could do such an impossible job! If we become discouraged in doing God’s work, we can know that He is helping us, too.