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Answering with a Question

Nehemiah 6:1-4 :

Now when it was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, and to Geshem the Arabian, and to the rest of our enemies, that I had built the wall, and that there was no breach left in it (though even to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates) Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come! Let’s meet together in the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to harm me.

I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I can’t come down. Why should the work cease, while I leave it, and come down to you?” They sent to me four times like this; and I answered them the same way.

After the wall was up, Israel's enemies made a gesture of peace and called for peace talks. Nehemiah knew that "they intended to harm" him, however. One of the problems we can have as peace loving people, is to want peace so bad that we act in a naive way with our enemies. God had prepared Nehemiah's heart and mind to realize that these talks were not intended for peace but to take down Nehemiah.

Nehemiah, in Jewish fashion, answered with a question. It was a very good question. Why should he stop the work in order to meet with them? Evidently, they didn't have a good answer, because they made the same request four times.

One of the good things about answering with a question is that it assumes that the person asking the first question is rational and is capable of reasoning about objections to the request. If they don't answer, it's a good sign that they don't have a good reason. Jesus used this very same method when He was questioned by His enemies. One thing that we can infer when a person asks a question and won't respond to yours, is that they don't intend for you to have an option to disagree with them. It isn't really a request if they don't intend to reason with you about it.

Logic is a blessing from God. As creatures made in His image, we have the ability to reason and discover the truth about things as long as we base our reasoning on God's word. An appeal to reason is an appeal to God's word and enemies of God will not be able to provide a good answer if they are in rebellion to Him. Instead, they resort to fallacy and ultimately to harm, which was what Israel's enemies actually had in mind.

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