Responding To Rumors

Responding To Rumors

Now, O God, strengthen my hands.
–Nehemiah 6:9

In his book “Hand Me Another Brick,” Chuck Swindoll gave three characteristics of rumors. First, rumors often lack a source. Nehemiah’s enemies tried to intimidate him with a rumor that he was planning a rebellion–but they themselves were the source of that rumor. Second, rumors lack accuracy. People who spread rumors love to exaggerate. That is what Sanballat did in Nehemiah 6:6: “It is reported among the nations . . . that you and the Jews are planning to rebel.” Really, Sanballat? “The nations” are talking about this? It was an exaggeration.

Third, rumors lack a proper setting. If you are really trying to help somebody, you will deal as privately as possible with that person. But if your goal is simply to tear them down, you will deal as publicly as possible with their shortcomings. That is what Sanballat did. Verse 5 says he sent Nehemiah an open letter. That means everybody who handled the letter was able to read the rumor that Nehemiah was planning a rebellion, and the rumor spread like wildfire. Had Sanballat really wanted to help Nehemiah, he would have sealed that letter. But that was not Sanballat’s goal. He was trying to destroy Nehemiah by intimidating him.

How did Nehemiah respond? First of all, he denied the lie. He sent a message to Sanballat that said, “Such things as you are saying have not been done, but you are inventing them in your own mind” (v. 8). Sometimes when there is a rumor spread, Christians say, “I am not even going to bother responding to that,” and they end up getting decimated. Do you remember Michael Dukakis? In 1988 he ran against George H. W. Bush for the presidency. Dukakis had that attitude–he did not respond to attacks against himself or his record. He ended up losing the election. Four years later, Bill Clinton was determined not to make the same mistake. He and his strategists set up what he called the “war room.” Anytime a lie was put out about Clinton or his record, within hours they responded with a counter-punch. Clinton, of course, ended up winning the election. Sometimes lies need to be confronted with the truth. That is what Nehemiah did.

Second, he depended upon the Lord. Look at what Nehemiah said about his enemies in verse 9: “For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.’ But now, O God, strengthen my hands.” Nehemiah knew he was the subject of intimidation. He said, “God, You are going to have to take care of this. As for me, I am going to get back to work on the wall.” That is how Nehemiah handled the lies being spread about him. Ultimately, he depended upon the Lord.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Overcoming The Fear Factor” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.

Charles R. Swindoll, “Hand Me Another Brick: Timeless Lessons On Leadership,” rev. ed. (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1998); “Above The Fray,” dir. William Rabbe (NBC Learn, 2014); James Carville, interview by Chris Bury, PBS, June 2000, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/clinton/interviews/carville.html

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org