Other Authors

“It is Reported…”

It is amazing that so many people acquire reputations as oracles merely by circulating baseless rumours. There is a very suggestive word in that treasury of practical wisdom, the book of Nehemiah, in the sixth chapter and the sixth verse. The enemies of the Jews sent a letter to Nehemiah. In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports, you wish to become their king.”

God’s builders must always expect that their motives will be impugned. Every man who has been used of God to build some part of the walls of Jerusalem has been charged with supreme egotism, with a desire to exalt himself and make himself king. He may have received the clearest commission from God to do the work in which he is engaged, and may be confirmed in his conviction of duty as Nehemiah was, by “the hand of my God which was good upon me”; but all that will avail nothing to silence the criticism of Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem (or Gashmu) the Arabian. God’s builders have always to face the tongue of misrepresentation and slander. We have sometimes thought it is the Devil’s device to occupy the people of God by tempting them to spend their time in refuting his slanders.

Nehemiah was informed that certain things were “reported” about him. Thus do the sharp tongues of the wicked endeavour to strike to the heart of God’s faithful ones: “They say”; “everybody believes”; “It is the general opinion”; “it is reported”! In this way an atmosphere and attitude of opposition is created; and usually there is someone to stamp with his personal authority that which is “reported” and to accelerate the speed of the rumours: “And Geshem says it!”

So far as we are able to determine, Geshem served no useful purpose in the world except to credential the enemy’s slanders. How truly modern is this line of ancient history. “Geshem also says it!” Geshem has wrecked many an individual… nothing is so dangerous… as one or more unsanctified tongues. Trifles are magnified into important issues when some utterly trivial rumour is given the certification of Geshem.

In time past we have suffered much from the signature of Geshem. We have seen people of no consequence, of no weight or influence in any circle where they are known, become “important” messengers of what “Geshem says” — “Of course, I do not know the facts of the case myself; I am not on the inside of matters: I am not taken into official counsel — but when Mr. So-and-so says it, you may be sure there is something in it.” Which, being interpreted, is to say, “It is reported… and Geshem also says it!”

Since Geshem has so long been vocal, it is perhaps vain even to hope that he will cease from his talking. But what shall we set over against this everlasting irritant, that “Geshem says it”? The best of all answers is “this is what the Lord God says“. Let a man be commissioned by a word from Heaven, and sustained and directed and inspired by a word from Heaven, and he will by that same word become invincible. He will then be enabled to go on with his work until all the breaches in the walls are stopped, and the Holy City becomes again the City of the Great King. He will be able to do all this in spite of what “Geshem says”!

“I urge you to watch out for people who create divisions and problems against the teaching that you learned. Keep away from them. People like that aren’t serving the Lord. They are serving their own feelings. They deceive the hearts of innocent people with smooth talk and flattery… I want you to be wise about what’s good, and innocent about what’s evil.” (Rom. 16:17-19)

Thomas T. Shields (1873-1955)