Nehemiah 4:1-2, 4, 12-13, 19-20, 22
The Bible in Context:
Nehemiah arrived with authorization to rebuild the city wall.
· Rubble was piled along the line of the wall.
· A failed effort to rebuild the wall and only added more debris.
· Even more intimidating than the physical obstacles was the human opposition.
· After the defeat of Judea in 587 B.C. other ethnic groups expanded into the void created by the exile.
· They did not want anything to disturb the status quo.
Question: In what ways may unbelievers today try to sabotage our intentions to carry out God's purposes?
1 Now it came about that when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious and very angry and mocked the Jews.
· A Moabite of Horonai.
· His name is Babylonian and means “Sin (a pagan god) has healed.”
· Despite his name, Sanballat seemed to be a practicing Jew. His daughter was married to the Jewish high priest’s grandson.
· He had some command over "the army of Samaria" under Artaxerxes. He may have been the governor of the area.
· His opposition to Nehemiah was political rather than religious or ethnic.
· His case is an illustration of the way in which, whenever God has work in progress, Satan finds an agent to oppose it.
2 He spoke in the presence of his brothers and the wealthy men of Samaria and said, "What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore it for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day? Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble even the burned ones?"
· Uncertain if he should take any overt action against Nehemiah, he chose to ridicule him.
· His scorn for what the Jews were doing you rubbed it into public ridicule.
· Mockery is most effective when it contains some truth.
o The Jews in Jerusalem were in fact few in number.
o They did not have sufficient resources for undertaking the rebuilding of the wall.
o From a human perspective the task before them seemed too large.
o But, Nehemiah was trusting in God.
Tobiah immediately joined Sanballat.
· Tobiah was also a practicing Jew.
· He even maintained a residence in the temple.
· Nevertheless, he was a strong opponent of Nehemiah.
Today Christians are mocked by our contemporary culture.
· On TV and in movies.
· In books and in literature.
· It seems that Christians are the only group that people can make fun and still be politically correct.
4 Hear, O our God, how we are despised! Return their reproach on their own heads and give them up for plunder in a land of captivity.
Nehemiah strategy for handling mockery was to recognize its source and to pray.
· The Hebrew verb for “hear” implies taking action on what is heard.
· Nehemiah was not informing God. Rather, he petitioned God to take certain actions.
· The content of his enemies called for divine intervention.
· Nehemiah's cry for justice was expressed through two metaphors.
o First, he called for the insults of his enemies to strike them instead of those for whom they were intended.
o Second, he asked God to send his opposition into captivity.
Nehemiah gives us an example of how to cope with disheartening mockery.
· Mockery is a sin and mockers are guilty before God.
· When someone sins against us, we are to take our problem to God.
· The practice of systematic prayer strengthens faith and builds courage for carrying out the work of God.
Question: Has there ever been a time in your life when others mocked your dedication to God?
· A neighbor.
· A family member.
· [Woman in Baltimore]
12 When the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times, "They will come up against us from every place where you may turn,"
When Sanballat recognize that has mockery of failed to stop the construction of the wall, he escalated his hostility.
· He plotted violence against those who were following Nehemiah.
· He was planning a massive attack that would annihilate all of those in Jerusalem.
· The people became discouraged. Jewish refugees started pouring into the city. They told frightening tales about the enemy's intentions and deeds.
· The reports of violence creating fear in the minds of the people. The threat of an attack was very real.
Nehemiah strategy for continuing to work, despite the attacks, was to prepare defensive measures.
· He placed guard's on watch.
· He put defenders at vulnerable points.
· He assigned half of the workers to security duty, armed all the workers, and instituted a means of a rallying the scattered workers to any point of an attack.
· He also praying and reminded the people of God's greatness.
Spiritual Principle: We should work as if everything depends upon us, and we should pray as if everything depends upon God.
· Trusting in God does not mean that we are to do nothing.
· We are to do what God expects us to do.
· But, we are always to realize that victory depends upon God and not ourselves.
13 then I stationed men in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, the exposed places, and I stationed the people in families with their swords, spears and bows.
· Lower sections of the wall offered less protection.
· Before workers could exchange tools for weapons, an attacking force likely would have been able to climb over the wall and enter into the city.
· Once the enemy was inside the wall, the defeat of the city was almost certain.
· Therefore, Nehemiah reduced his workforce to release men for duty in the defense of the city.
19 I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, "The work is great and extensive, and we are separated on the wall far from one another.
· After having taken precautions to defend the city, Nehemiah recognize that his measures were insufficient.
· He then assembled the people and made contingency plans.
20 "At whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us."
· A trumpet was used to convey orders and military units.
· If the city were attacked, the trumpet with summoned reinforcements to wherever it an enemy was approaching.
· Nehemiah believe that God would fight for the people, but he did everything he could to do to prepare for the enemy.
Spiritual Principle: God still fights for his people.
· God is the same today as he was in the days of Nehemiah.
· When we are doing God's will, we can have assurance that God will fight for us when we encounter problems.
o God fought for Moses and the children of Israel with the 10 plagues on Egypt.
· Christians today are opposed in many ways.
o Legal maneuvers, vicious criticism, slander social and vocational discrimination, and the like.
o Churches in some areas have a very difficult time getting building permits.
o I have known of Christians who were fired from their jobs because they refused to do something that was contrary to their faith in Christ.
o Someone told me just this past week of a student who received an “f” on a test because he chose to draw an architectural blueprint of a church rather than a secular building.
22 At that time I also said to the people, "Let each man with his servant spend the night within Jerusalem so that they may be a guard for us by night and a laborer by day."
· As an additional precaution, Nehemiah required the people to sleep inside the wall.
o Staying in individual houses outside the wall was too risky.
o Enemy patrols easily could approach undetected in the darkness and kill the people sleeping in the houses.
Neh. 6:2-3, 11-13
2 then Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to me, saying, "Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono." But they were planning to harm me.
· Since a surprise attack was no longer possible, Sanballat and Tobiah attempted another strategy.
o If they could lure Nehemiah away from the protection of the city, they might be able to kill him.
o Without the leadership of Nehemiah they believed the rebuilding of the wall would fail.
3 So I sent messengers to them, saying, "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?"
· Nehemiah's enemies have devised an attractive, but threatening distraction to lure him out of the city.
· Nehemiah recognizes the true nature of this overture.
o He was not fooled into substituting the good for the best.
o Even if his enemies did not plan to harm him, the time devoted to negotiations would be time not spent rebuilding the wall.
o Anything less than completing the wall fell short of God's purpose for Nehemiah's life. God has appointed Nehemiah to rebuild the wall, not to negotiate.
11 But I said, "Should a man like me flee? And could one such as I go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in."
Shemaiah was a false prophet who was hired by Nehemiah's enemies to lead him astray.
· He claimed to have a word from God, but in reality he was trying to force Nehemiah into compromising behavior.
· He told Nehemiah to flee to the temple in order to escape the plots of his enemies.
Nehemiah's response to this false prophet gives us two principles for identifying false prophets today.
· First, we can be confident that God will not contradict what he is already revealed.
· Second, a false prophet will contradict what God has already revealed.
o According to the Old Testament law, only a priest could enter into the sanctuary.
o Nehemiah was not a priest.
o Therefore, if he had obeyed this false prophet he would have been disobeying God.
12 Then I perceived that surely God had not sent him, but he uttered his prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.
· If a message contradicts previous revelation, it cannot have come from God.
· Any message that contradicts biblical revelation is not from God.
· For Nehemiah the previous revelation was God's commission to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. Anything that contradicted this was not from God.
13 He was hired for this reason, that I might become frightened and act accordingly and sin, so that they might have an evil report in order that they could reproach me.
· Not only get Nehemiah recognize the message was not from God, he was also able to determine its true origin.
· His enemies had paid this false prophet to speak to Nehemiah.
· The people would have perceived Nehemiah as a coward if he had obeyed this false prophet.
o This would have discredited Nehemiah in the eyes of the people.
o If Nehemiah did not trust God to protect him, then how could Nehemiah expect the people to trust God.
Biblical Truths for Spiritual Transformation:
· A good strategy for overcoming mockery is to recognize its source and to pray to God about it.
· Do not be surprised when attacks come and have a plan for countering them.
· Do not be sidetracked from what God has called you to do, but stay focused on God's mission for your life.
· Beware of false prophets who often come to God's people in sheep's clothing.