February 3, 2020
1 When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates— 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages[a] on the plain of Ono.”
But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.
Distractions are all around us. For Nehemiah, distraction comes in the form of an invitation from the power brokers in the area. They keep pestering him to meet, under the guise of perhaps friendship, partnership, or mutual benefit. On the surface, it probably looks like a good opportunity for Nehemiah. An olive branch from the other leaders in the area. But they had sinister intentions. Even more importantly, Nehemiah understood what his top priority was, and that meeting with Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem would hamper the work he had to do.
At several points this month, we’ve asked God what he wants us to focus on for our lives, our relationships, or our goals. Today, let’s focus on what is distracting us. Do you feel distracted from a key task, relationship, or goal? Or, perhaps more importantly, have others told you that you seem distracted or unfocused? Are there things that seem good on the surface, but that stand between you and where God is calling you? What would it mean to say “no” to those things in order to say “yes” to God?
Nehemiah’s refusal didn’t come without a potential cost. We’ve already seen that these same men were critical of Nehemiah’s efforts. They even threatened violence in the early stages of the project. Nehemiah risked exacerbating an already tenuous relationship. But his resolve was clear. Completing the wall came first. Political maneuvering could come second.
Today, reflect on the hard truth that saying “yes” to God might mean saying “no” to something else. Look for times today when you find yourself distracted or confused, and ask God to bring clarity and purpose to your thoughts and actions.