Nehemiah 6:1-4 (NASB)
1 Now when it was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall, and that no breach remained in it, although at that time I had not set up the doors in the gates,
2 then Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they were planning to harm me.
3 So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”
4 They sent messages to me four times in this manner, and I answered them in the same way.
The book of Nehemiah records the story of Nehemiah and the Jews returning from Babylonian exile to rebuild the city of Jerusalem, specifically the walls around the city. The walls of Jerusalem represent the city’s strength and power both to the Jews and to the opposition they’re facing. They speak of God’s faithfulness and His provision. Naturally their enemies don’t want the walls rebuilt, but there’s very little they can do to stop God’s people. The Jews have returned with permission to rebuild, so the enemy’s only hope is to distract them. Let me say that again – the only hope of the enemy to stop them is to distract them.
Nehemiah’s enemies invite him to a meeting of regional leaders in the plain of Ono, which is a plain outside the province of Judea. Here’s what Nehemiah knows as a leader: his intuition tells him that they have an ulterior motive, but he also knows that he only has a certain amount of time and energy and he has to choose wisely where he puts his focus. Based on the vision given by God to rebuild the walls – this is what drives him and guides him – he has to decide who and what he gives his attention to. What voices will he listen to? Those that have his attention will affect his decisions, and whatever he decides, he knows that today’s decisions will affect tomorrow’s outcomes.
As God continues the process of birthing vision in us there will be distractions along the way. You’ve started the habit of spending time with God daily over these past 26 days, or maybe you’ve reengaged in this discipline? Tomorrow morning will be the final devotional blog of this series, so what plan will continue on with beyond day 28? If you don’t develop a plan to continue there’s a high likelihood that the voice of distraction will draw you from your place of power and protection. May our response to the voice of distraction be the same as that of Nehemiah is verse 3 – “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”
As you reflect on the temptation that Nehemiah faced to leave the work of God and give his attention to distraction, what resonates with you personally relative to your daily quiet time? As you begin and cultivate the discipline of spending time in the Word and prayer daily, what distractions have you noticed? Where does your mind drift? What pressures do you feel? What distractions come your way? Make a list of these things and beside them include a one-sentence plan to overcome the distractions. For example, if you notice yourself feeling rushed, make a plan to get up 15 minutes earlier to give yourself a little extra margin in your morning.
Tomorrow morning will be the final devotional blog for this series. What is your plan to continue the habit of spending time with God daily? Maybe study the book of Nehemiah? Maybe choose an Old Testament character and begin reading their story? Abraham’s story beginning in Genesis 12? Joseph’s story beginning in Genesis 37? Maybe begin reading through the gospel of John? Ask the Lord to direct you on what you should study next. Write down the impressions in your heart and plan to begin reading and journaling out of your reading on Monday morning.
Father, guard our hearts and minds from distractions, both in our daily quiet time with You and in terms of where we direct our time and energy. In Jesus’ name. Amen.