One of the funnest things I love doing is planning weekend fun with my family. I love it when Sophia and Michelle are excited about the plans for the weekend. The joy of planning the family movie nights, the countryside walks, the outdoor sports, the bowling alley, the play dates, or even just the jammie day. I could keep plans and thoughts to myself, but truth be told, honesty is freeing.
Nehemiah 2:19b They jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”
Read Nehemiah 2:11-20
Surely that isn’t the case, you might think, when first reading this passage. Doesn’t Nehemiah hide his intentions? Doesn’t he go out in the still of the night, undetected, so that no one will know what he is up to? No! It is the exact opposite of subterfuge. Nehemiah gathers all the facts before rushing into judgement. His desire for the truth is such that he is inquisitively seeking answers. It is as though he is saying, “Are the walls truly in shambles? What do our surrounding neighbours think of us? Are they antagonistic? I must know for myself.”
He anticipates the obvious objection that a newcomer can have no idea of the task, so he briefs himself thoroughly(verse 12) and chooses his moment to show his hand (verse 16). He would have lost this if he had been exposing half-formed ideas piecemeal to every acquaintance. But never does he compromise his convictions. Never does he compromise truth. It was when Judah compromised their ideals and the truth of the Torah that they went into exile.
The Slavery of Dishonesty
When Nehemiah is confronted by three critics, there is one that painfully stands out. In the list of accusers is a man named Tobiah. The name Tobiah is Jewish in origin and is borne by a powerful family in Ammon for centuries to come. He is referred to as a servant of the emperor and as the Ammonite. This did not describe Tobiah’s ancestry, but rather, his chosen sphere in which he had gained high office(verse 19). Many commentators believe Tobiah to be Jew who assimilated and abandoned the God of Israel.
The Freedom of Honest Self-Awareness
Tobiah’s very name means God is Good. He unlike Nehemiah is not being honest. He is not honest about his relationship with God or with his people. This is the very reason why Nehemiah calls him the “servant”(verse 19) or it can sometimes be translated as “slave.” Tobiah’s refusal to be honest leads to slavery, Nehemiah’s truthfulness though painful and leading to pressures and opposition is freeing.
Today recognise that God is your Good. Be honest about that. Accept his Grace and freedom will flow from there. It is God that makes us prosper and not ourselves.