7 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. 8 They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. 9 But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat. 10 Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, ‘The strength of the labourers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.’11 Also our enemies said, ‘Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.’12 Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, ‘Wherever you turn, they will attack us.’ NIV
Where ridicule and threat of violence may fail, discouragement might be more likely to succeed. It can grow like an ugly, choking weed among God’s people. Discouragement is, I believe, one of the most effective weapons our enemy wields against believers in general, and leaders in particular. If the Jews had succumbed to discouragement they would have defeated themselves.
As I read these verses I thought about how careful we should be regarding the words we speak to one another. Negative words can fall like the drip, drip, drip of water, gradually wearing away even stone. (Warren Wiersbe points out that ‘’ten times’’, v12, is a Hebrew phrase meaning ‘many times’). It’s not that the situation wasn’t dire. It manifestly was. Furthermore, the words of the ‘’enemies’’ themselves (11) seemed to verify the negative chatter among the Jews. But what they were saying to their leaders was not the whole story. It wasn’t untrue, but there were greater truths, and next time we will hear Nehemiah point these out.
Discouragement and fear often go together and can feed off one another. They seemed to do so here.
‘…fear paralyses you, and fear is contagious and paralyses others. Fear and faith cannot live together in the same heart.’ Warren W. Wiersbe: OT Commentary, p.764.
PRAYER: Lord, I want to be a person of faith. Help me to resist discouragement as surely as I should seek to resist sin.