So I replied by sending this message to them: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?” Nehemiah 6:3
A recent segment on the news reported that 9 percent of all fatal car accidents result from distracted driving. Take a few seconds to let that statistic sink in. This means that 9 percent of fatal car accidents could be prevented if those drivers had just paid attention and focused on one thing: driving their car. The result of distracted driving is absolutely devastating. Distractions rarely ever take us where we want to go. They take our attention off of what we need to focus on and lead us on a different path. Sometimes, distractions can even be fatal. Nehemiah understood the danger of distractions, which is why he let nothing come in the way of him rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem.
In Nehemiah 6, Nehemiah and those helping to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem continued to face opposition. They had almost finished their project. The wall was complete; all that was left was setting up doors in the gates. When their enemies heard that it was almost complete, they sent a message asking Nehemiah to meet with them. They wanted to harm him and keep the project from completely finishing. Nehemiah replied, “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come” (Nehemiah 6:3). Four different times, they sent the same message, and Nehemiah gave the same response each time. “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come.” Nehemiah never lost focus of his burden and goal: to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. He was not deterred, and if he had taken a break and come down from the wall, he likely would have been harmed or even killed. What an example he set for us!
Nehemiah completed the project in 52 days. What people couldn’t accomplish in 90 years, he made happen in under two months. This was because he stayed focused rather than being distracted.
It’s easy when we receive a burden from God to be very excited and ready to act on the burden. However, as the excitement wears off, we may often be tempted to let distractions get in the way so that we never make significant progress acting on that burden. The same can be true for our children. May Nehemiah’s story be a reminder to you and the children in your life to stay focused and not become distracted. May you and your children, along with Nehemiah, say, “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come.”
Spend some time memorizing Nehemiah 6:3. As you memorize this verse, let it be a reminder to you to stay focused and avoid distractions as you act on the burdens God has given you. Encourage your children to memorize the verse along with you. As distractions come your way (and they will), bring this verse to mind and quote it, reminding yourself that you’re engaged in a great work, and you cannot give in to any distraction.
Read Nehemiah 6:1-19 (NLT)
Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies found out that I had finished rebuilding the wall and that no gaps remained—though we had not yet set up the doors in the gates. So Sanballat and Geshem sent a message asking me to meet them at one of the villages in the plain of Ono.
But I realized they were plotting to harm me, so I replied by sending this message to them: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?”
Four times they sent the same message, and each time I gave the same reply. The fifth time, Sanballat’s servant came with an open letter in his hand, and this is what it said:
“There is a rumor among the surrounding nations, and Geshem tells me it is true, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel and that is why you are building the wall. According to his reports, you plan to be their king. He also reports that you have appointed prophets in Jerusalem to proclaim about you, ‘Look! There is a king in Judah!’
“You can be very sure that this report will get back to the king, so I suggest that you come and talk it over with me.”
I replied, “There is no truth in any part of your story. You are making up the whole thing.”
They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination.
Later I went to visit Shemaiah son of Delaiah and grandson of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home. He said, “Let us meet together inside the Temple of God and bolt the doors shut. Your enemies are coming to kill you tonight.”
But I replied, “Should someone in my position run from danger? Should someone in my position enter the Temple to save his life? No, I won’t do it!” I realized that God had not spoken to him, but that he had uttered this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. They were hoping to intimidate me and make me sin. Then they would be able to accuse and discredit me.
Remember, O my God, all the evil things that Tobiah and Sanballat have done. And remember Noadiah the prophet and all the prophets like her who have tried to intimidate me.
So on October 2 the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun. When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God.
During those fifty-two days, many letters went back and forth between Tobiah and the nobles of Judah. For many in Judah had sworn allegiance to him because his father-in-law was Shecaniah son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan was married to the daughter of Meshullam son of Berekiah. They kept telling me about Tobiah’s good deeds, and then they told him everything I said. And Tobiah kept sending threatening letters to intimidate me.