The details of God’s victory are not delineated in Scripture. You would think Nehemiah would have recorded the juiciest part of the story—how God vindicated him, the suffering of his opponents, and how they reveled in the Lord’s victory. On the contrary, Nehemiah was so focused on the work that he did not give descriptions of how the coalition failed or how the morale of the people was restored. The only line that is recorded is, “God had brought their plot to nothing” (4:15). That’s all he has to say about it! The rest of the chapter describes how the people returned to the wall and more about the work the people did.
This illustrates the power of focus and its importance in biblical leadership. In our multitasking and distracted world, we often fail to understand the need for concentration. With focus comes the ability to establish priorities and reorder these priorities in the midst of crisis and chaos.
Though the rumors returned “ten times” (4:12), Nehemiah withstood these rumblings with fortitude. Rumors have the ability to instill fear, stir the imagination, conjure thoughts of hypothetical scenarios, often resulting in the prospect of the direst scenario. Whereas many give in after the third or fourth cycle of rumors, Nehemiah’s focus endures to the tenth!
In verse 14, Nehemiah preaches, “do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight…!” He utilized the power of the spoken word to encourage and embolden the people. He invoked an emotional resolve to protect their families, children, and households. More than board room tactics, populist propaganda, and abstract theoretical reasoning, Nehemiah simply utilizes the gift of speech to preach plainly what needed to be done. He neither retaliated nor was phlegmatic through the situation. Nehemiah simply pointed the people’s focus back to God.
Other elements of focus are seen when he supplies the workers with construction tools as well as weapons (4:17). Nehemiah is not naïve about the real danger of conflict, but plans for ancillary scenarios. Secondly, the people are so determined that they work “until the stars appeared” (4:21). While that might sound normal in the 21st century with our modern handheld devices, this revealed a level of unity and sacrifice in a non-electric age. Lastly, the Jerusalemites bypass the social convention of changing their clothes, unless it was only necessary for washing (4:23).
Why is this level of focus so hard to witness today? Is it a cultural or spiritual issue?