Fear or Faith
“But I said, “Should a man like me flee? And could one such as I go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.”
After the Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem failed to discourage the people through their ridicule, they changed tactics. Instead of trying to intimidate the people, they went after Nehemiah. As the walls of Jerusalem were nearing completion, they became even more concerned. They needed to stop this project soon. So they contrived a plan. Under the pretense of meeting to broker peace, they invited Nehemiah to meet with them in the plain of Ono. However, their real intent was to develop a peace treaty; it was to get Nehemiah away from the protection of Jerusalem so that they may kill him.
Nehemiah was not fooled. Even though they insisted that he come, Nehemiah continued to refuse. Nehemiah recognized that opposition to God often comes in the guise of peace. When that did not work, they changed their tactics again. This time they attacked Nehemiah’s motives. People will often try to destroy God's work by accusing them of having hidden motives. Thus, they accused Nehemiah of manipulating the events so that he might appoint himself as king. This, perhaps, was the worse possible attack. When people call into question our motives and the rumors start to fly, the more we try to deny the attack and defend ourselves, the more people will accuse us of false motives. In response, Nehemiah did the most important action a person could take: He prayed. Instead of being distracted, he trusted in God’s protective hand.
However, the enemies were still not rebuffed. They attempted one more strategy; they enlisted some Jews to try and trap Nehemiah. Shemaiah, who acted as a prophet, sought to undermine Nehemiah by giving him a “prophetic word.” Shemaiah advised Nehemiah to go and hide in the temple to be protected from the threats. However, because Nehemiah was not from the tribe of Levi, he was not permitted to enter the temple. Thus the temptation to compromise God’s word to protect oneself. This strategy might have worked for some but did not work for Nehemiah. Nehemiah immediately recognized that it is never right to do wrong to do right. In Det. 18:20 and Isaiah 8:19-20, we find that anyone who claims to be a prophet and yet gives a prophecy contradictory to God’s already revealed the truth is to be rejected. Consequently, Nehemiah refuses. Faith is remaining resolute in our obedience and trusting God for the outcome without compromising.
When facing situations and circumstances that give rise to fear, it is easy to become driven by anxiety and worry. When this happens, faith can waver, and we become more concerned about alleviating the circumstances than walking in obedience to God. So how are we to respond to situations that breed anxiety and fear? The answer lies in prayer. As Paul also affirms, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplications with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). In other words, we do not need a change in circumstances; we need a shift in perspective and focus. Instead of looking at the circumstances, we must place our faith in God’s protective hand. We need to reaffirm our obedience to God regardless of the consequences. This brings us to the essence of faith. Faith is trusting in God and his promises because he is always faithful. Circumstances may change, but God does not. Consequently, we can always trust in him to be faithful to his word. Fear is alleviated, not by the change of circumstance, but by reaffirming our trust in God.