Sir Godfrey Gregg D. Div, OHPM, ROMC
Secondly, take note of this second thing, the second distraction Nehemiah dealt with:
II. When distracted by gossip, resolve and resign to the Lord in prayer (Nehemiah 6:5-9)
Sanballat moves to a different tactic in Nehemiah 6:5-9. Look at Nehemiah 6:5. They drop the pretense of friendliness and go after Nehemiah’s reputation. The key word is “open.” Letters to officials were rolled up and secured with seals so that only those with authority could open and read them. Sanballat wanted the public to know the contents of the letter because he hoped to undermine Nehemiah’s reputation and authority. If an open letter was passed from hand to hand and it was neither sealed nor folded in half, how many people do you think would have read it by the time it came to Nehemiah? Probably quite a few! These rumors can divert Nehemiah from the work, divert people from the work, get Persian authorities involved and destroy everything. By the way, this was not a new plan because in Ezra 4, they actually got it to work and the work stopped back then. Now there was an actual wall up, so it could appear that these rumors were in fact true.
The rumors in Nehemiah 6:6-7 revolved around two things: 1) The Jews were going to rebel. 2) Nehemiah is going to be the King, as he even has prophets getting ready to proclaim it on the streets. How do you think this is going to sound when King Artaxerxes finds out about this Nehemiah? Persian kings tolerated no resistance from their subjects. Any hint of rebellion was immediately and ruthlessly put down.
Look at his response in Nehemiah 6:8-9. He denies it immediately and commits himself to the Lord in prayer and then goes back to work. He may have been tempted to start his own anti-smear campaign and send open letters to his enemies. Again, the enemies would love this because it would distract him from the work and cause division among the people. Gossip can be a distraction that stops the work of God.
Beloved, there are so many ministries, churches, corporations, etc. that have crumbled through gossip and slander. James 3:5 says the tongue is a small thing but what huge damage it can do. A small spark can set the forest ablaze! What can you do when there is gossip threatening your reputation? First of all, make sure it is not true. If it is true, you have another problem. But take the situation as an opportunity for a good heart check, which is always good for you!
Usually with false accusations, the source is never declared. Notice the vague reference in Nehemiah 6:6: “it is reported among the nations.” So by making it ambiguous, it makes people think that because everyone is saying it, it must be true. So if you hear gossip, ask kindly about the source. Never trust information that does not come from the proper credentials. Usually gossips do not like to be confronted. If they are confronted, they will then gossip about you! So be careful.
Also, resist the temptation to divert your energy in cleaning it all up. You have to discern and pray for wisdom as to how much time you want to put into chasing the rumor trail and defending yourself. I would say, let it go. Peter says that Jesus, “when he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued to entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).
99.9% of the time, it will distract you and cause you to neglect the work of God and so it is not worth it. I remember when I decided to to launch the Mystical website and the talk started with no source about a certain plan. Another certain gossip started when I was about to be elevated and since I wasn’t told directly I left it where I heard it. My elevation was to important to be distracted with rumors or gossip. I never even mentioned anything like that ever! I do not know who the source was with that rumor, but I was not going to chase it down and try to clean it up, because doing so would divert me from the task at hand. Instead I denied it and trusted God that it will blow over and it did.
Also, with false accusations there is exaggeration and inaccuracy involved. This happens because it is passed from person to person like playing telephone. It is also designed to hurt. It does not matter how spiritual or strong a leader you are, unfair remarks and rumors will cut you deep. This is why Nehemiah here prays for strength in Nehemiah 6:9. Don’t you love the fact that he is always praying? This is the fifth quick trajectory prayers he is praying in this book. He may have had Isaiah 35:3-4 in mind, “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense to God. He will come and save you.”
At the end of the day, when faced with gossip, all you can do is resolve and resign to the Lord in prayer. But the best weapon we have is a blameless character. I like what Archbishop Simon says, “If we take care of our character, we can trust God to take care of our reputation.” Let’s be working on our character so that when gossip comes to distract us, our lives can defend ourselves for us, without us even having to say a word.
Let us also not be the one who spreads rumors. Let us always keep a guard on our mouths. Paul says corrupt talking grieves the Holy Spirit and so instead we must use our speech for building up, not destroying or breaking down (Ephesians 4:29-31). If we are not sure if it’s true and if its hearsay, or if we know sharing information is not beneficial or building up and the person we share it with cannot do anything about it, it is best we do not share it. Former Patriarch Granville used to say that if you ever wanted to test someone to see if he/she is a gossip, then tell that person something personal and see if it comes back to you. Then you can identify the gossip! I pray this will not be necessary here at this church!
But remember not to gossip because the work of God can be stopped because of it. It can be a huge distraction! So we said good opportunities can distract us and we must stand firm on godly priorities. Then we said gossip can distract us and we must resolve and resign to the Lord in prayer. Lastly,
CONTINUES TOMORROW …..