Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me. When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel. So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days. – Nehemiah 2:9-11
Nehemiah, having been blessed by the Lord to receive all he asked of the king, ventures home on what was probably a four to five-month long journey (Ezra 7:8,9). He had letters in hand showing the area governors that he had permission to pass through their jurisdiction to return to Jerusalem. To back up those letters, Nehemiah also had a military escort to enforce the king’s letters and keep them safe.
On the way, Nehemiah and his companions meet two of Israel’s most vengeful enemies, Sanballat and Tobiah. These men were governors appointed or allowed by Artaxerxes to oversee their respective regions. Sanballat was the commander of a garrison of forces to the north of Judah in the area of Samaria. Tobiah had a similar position to the east of Jerusalem. He was close friends (or business partners) with Eliashib, whose grandson had married the daughter of Sanballat. Both had leased storerooms in the Temple and made other deals with the ruling nobles in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 6:17; 13:4; 13:28). They did not view themselves as servants to Artaxerxes except when necessary. They were in charge and didn’t like anyone messing with their set-up. The two had a very comfortable living as the neighborhood bullies of Judea.
And now a new sheriff is coming to town, and he wants to break up their unrighteous hold on Jerusalem and Israel. Nehemiah’s very presence set up the region for war.
It is interesting to note that Nehemiah does not record any initial meeting he had with these two wicked men. He has his eyes focused on his duty and will not let anything cause him fear or distract him from the goal. So, he travels home, and then rests up a few days before beginning his work.
In our spiritual journey, we are going to need to repent and rebuild portions of our lives. This will cause us to return to the word of God and church. It requires us to do this and other things that some people won’t like. There are people who hate God, seemingly for no apparent reason, and they will do anything to stop the kingdom. When we have prepared our hearts in prayer and we are trusting the Lord is with us, we need to ignore these distractions and move toward our goal. And take a little rest before the true work starts.