Nehemiah 4:1–6 recounted the enemy’s usage of ridicule. The remaining section of the chapter shows two more tactics: violent threats and discouragement. Verse 8 describes the intent of the attack; verse 11, the propaganda of the threat; and verse 12, the effect of the threat. So worried were the Jews by the threats from the international coalition of powers that surrounded Jerusalem from the north, south, east, and west, that they repeated their report “ten times.”
On one hand, leadership is about logistics, plans, vision, and objectives. When morale is high, things seem to take care of themselves and people work things out. But when morale is low, the enthusiastic mutate into the anxious and supporters morph into naysayers. The propaganda of Sanballat and Tobiah proved effective—Judah said, “the strength of the laborers is falling, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall” (Neh. 4:10). Apparently, they imbibed some of the accusations from verse 2!
If this morale were to continue, it would have dire consequences for the leadership of Nehemiah. This indeed was a true test of his calling and faith. We find prayer to be his first answer and watchfulness his second in this chapter. Verse 9, “nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.”
Prayer and watchfulness work together. Though he is busy with the work and stressed with the impending threat, Nehemiah sets a watch against his enemies day and night and finds time to pray. Two groups were organized, one to build and one to guard. The builders themselves had a sword in one hand and a tool in the other (4:17). Nehemiah also had a trumpeter next to him to sound alarm whenever needed. Readiness was a characteristic that marked the leadership of Nehemiah.He resolved to get the work done at all costs and to prevent disaster by simply being watchful.
We are to stand our ground for the cause of truth even when all those around us are not with us. Enemies are not only those who have anger, contempt, and cruelty, but also indolence, inconsistency, lukewarmness, and betrayal of friends and helpers. Those who love pleasure-seeking and the world are just as much enemies to the work as those who outright hate us. Morale affects people in more ways than one.
The secret to success is remembering that strength is from the Lord and that all were in this together:brothers, sons, daughters, wives, and whole families (4:14). In the middle of building when they are most vulnerable, Nehemiah is at his strongest because God is with Him. In the end, trust was placed upon God to turn their weak morale into God’s victory.