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Nehemiah 4:1-12

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We read in that the Jews began building the walls of Jerusalem;
when we turn to chapter 4
we discover that this project was carried out in the face of ruthless and unrelenting opposition.
The instigators of this unprovoked attack were two of the evil trio whom we met in : Sanballat (4:1) and Tobiah (4:3).
They were assisted in their vicious assault on God’s people by ‘the Arabs, the Ammonites and the men of Ashdod’ (4:7),
who lived in the land once occupied by the Philistines,
long-standing enemies of the Jews.
The builders were encircled, with
Sanballat in the north,
Tobiah in the east,
the Arabs in the south and
the Ashdodites posing a threat in the west.
However, God does not desert His people
but gave them strength and courage
to come through their various trials.
He supported His people not only because of His
special love for them,
but also because he had His eye on the future of the Jewish race.
The survival of the Jews was tied in with the salvation of the elect drawn from all nations.
The leadership of Nehemiah and the faith of the Jews were tested to the limits.
Nehemiah’s handling of harassment, and the subsequent temptation to discouragement,
is full of instruction for those feeling the pressure of the Lord’s work.
The way that we deal with frustrations in Christian service and in our personal lives shows what kind of people we are.
I’ll give you a verse of truth that has to sink deep into the fabric of our lives
— ...“We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
Those are the words of the apostle Paul after his first missionary journey!
Knowing the reality of spiritual opposition beforehand as we “run … the race that is set before us” ()
will help us avoid becoming too discouraged or drawing false conclusions—
thinking that opposition signals God’s disapproval of us and that we should change course immediately.
We often, in a less-than-subtle way, draw the conclusion that lack of opposition
means God’s favor,
when in fact the opposite can be the case.
With the work of rebuilding begun, one of Nehemiah’s tasks was to reassure his brothers and sisters
that the opposition they immediately faced, particularly its severity,
was nothing more than what they should expect.
Indeed, they should take comfort from it,
knowing that it was evidence that what they were doing was a good thing—
and Satan hates a good thing and will always endeavor to destroy it.
The title of this message is in the form of a question: Where is your confidence?
There are many things that cause us to lose our confidence in the work of God.
Like them we might be
discouraged Then Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.”
fearful And our adversaries said, “They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease.”
vulnerable 12 — So it was, when the Jews who dwelt near them came, that they told us ten times, “From whatever place you turn, they will be upon us.”
So being discouraged, fearful, and vulnerable might cause our confidence in God to be shaken a bit.
So in v1-9 speaks about the opposition outside the ranks and discouragement and doubt within in v10-23.
So Nehemiah realizes that the Lord’s people and the mission of God are in serious trouble.
And like Paul, Nehemiah would discover that trials and tribulations enables discerning Christian to unearth hidden treasure
In Paul put it Paul speaks about the Father of mercies and God of all comfort
comforting believers who are in trouble and
Paul speaks about the Father of mercies and God of all comfort comforting believers who are in trouble and that in Christ Jesus comfort abounds in the midst of our sufferings.
that in Christ Jesus comfort abounds in the midst of our sufferings.
As we look at the text together, let’s see a few things:
CONFLICT IS INEVITABLE
Nehemiah 4:1–3 — 1 But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews. 2 And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?” 3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.”
— 1 But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews. 2 And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?” 3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.”
Initially, trouble comes from outside the ranks; that menacing duo resume the opposition.
Sanballat, angry and greatly incensed about the excellent start made on Jerusalem’s walls, ridiculed the workers (1) and,
before long, his friend Tobiah was at his side with further undermining taunts and destructive sneering (3).
The verbal onslaughts are followed by menacing plots to fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it (8).
These men know that if they are to wreck the project, damaging words must be supplemented with dangerous weapons.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”
has sometimes been taught to our children, but the statement carries little or no truth.
Words do hurt, and mental intimidation has often sapped the energy from the most powerful and brave.
The success of the building program was in large measure dependent on the harmonious work of the forty-one different sections.
Their united front was therefore something at which Sanballat aimed his verbal missiles,
hoping that the collapse of one or two groups would lead to a domino effect,
as one after another the builders succumbed to collapsed morale under the strain of fear.
Attacking their competence, ability, resolve, and tactics, Sanballat lobbed word missiles in their direction.
This kind of ridicule and intimidation has always been something that the church has had to face.
When Jesus told the professional mourners in Jairus’s house that his daughter was not dead but asleep
(though physically, she certainly was dead), they laughed him to scorn ().
When Paul spoke to Governor Festus about Jesus Christ, the response was: “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind” ().
So conflict is INEVITABLE.
Did the mental intimidation work?
To the extent that Nehemiah took it seriously, the answer seems to be yes!
This is where we see that 2. PRAYER IS CRUCIAL.
This prayer is broken into two sections: Nehemiah prays on behalf of the people and the sections ends with corporate prayer by the people.
Nehemiah’s prayer is found in — 4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! 5 Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders.
Notice Nehemiah’s response to the enemy’s assaults is to turn to God.
I want you to see some of the things that the Holy Spirit records for us concerning this prayer.
He prays Urgently.
His response is to hurry into the presence of God, to the audience chamber of God.
Remember in 2:20 in the presence of these same men, he had declared his conviction that the God of heaven would give success to the builders.
Which has to be more that inspiring rally cry, we learn that heaven’s Lord must be sought for earth’s needs.
Our God isn’t just the source of ultimate victory but also the Giver of immediate help!
In turning to the Lord, Nehemiah knew that there was nowhere else he could go.
This created an urgency in prayer.
He also prayed honestly.
Nehemiah was angry about their ridicule.
They had despised the workers and poured insults on their heads.
Nehemiah cannot contain his fury and the exasperation spills out in fervent prayer.
He does not need to choose his words carefully.
He is in the presence of One who knows the reason for his indignation.
There are times when, bewildered and distressed, we cry out in anguish to God,
telling him exactly how we feel,
as in those experiences when we are pained that he does not seem to answer our prayers
or respond to our cry
as speedily as we had hoped.
It is best to be honest with God.
There is no time for flowery words or extended devotion.
An urgency about the situation requires immediacy and focus.
Before the rot of despair sets in, Nehemiah wants God to act to prevent it.
It is a prayer that God will come down now, at this very moment, and demonstrate His sovereignty over these enemies of the Jews.
He prayed passionately. Nehemiah’s prayer is an unbridled expression of turbulent emotions and he cannot conceal his fury.
Imprecatory prayers of this kind have the shocking immediacy of a scream, to startle us
into feeling something of the desperation which produced them.
He has been attacked personally and his motives challenged.
Few people can cope with fierce verbal criticism.
But, more seriously, his enemies have sinned against God (by opposing his work) and God’s people (by maligning their efforts)
and Nehemiah does not want their sin to be overlooked: Do not … blot out their sins.
Driven by a desire to see this work done for the glory of God,
Nehemiah once again
demonstrated his belief in the power of prayer.
It was prayer that had brought him to Jerusalem in the first place (; ).
Now, in the face of the most serious opposition he had faced, so soon after his return,
Nehemiah took the matter directly to the Lord, pleading for his ear (4:4–5), and inspiring others to pray as he did so (4:9).
See here’s the deal. The One being mocked and ridiculed is, in the end, isn’t Nehemiah but God.
By insulting Nehemiah and the people of the Lord, they are insulting God Himself!
Nehemiah has no doubt at all that this project is the Lord’s purpose and that therefore his glory is at stake.
This is a prayer for God to take a sinful situation and do what’s right, what’s just.
He also prayed dependently: v4 “Hear, O our God”
It is the heart cry of a man in desperate need.
The project has reached a crucial stage.
The wall has been built to half its height and so much dedicated energy has gone into the enterprise, for the people worked with all their heart (6).
It would be disastrous if,
demoralized by Sanballat’s ridicule,
discouraged by Tobiah’s taunts and
frightened by Samaria’s soldiers,
the builders gave up, especially when so much had been accomplished.
Only God could save them from discouragement and disaster.
That is why Nehemiah prayed.
He knew that between his despondent workers and their potential failure were
God’s abundant resources;
immeasurable supplies
are released through dependent prayer.
Then we have the people of the Lord praying in — 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.
They, just like their dependent leader, had every reason to cry to the Lord.
The earnest petition of leader and people continue to teach us about prayer—its necessity,
These people believed in the necessity of prayer.
The enemies united as they laid destructive plots to overthrow the work.
and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God...
We (by necessity) need to come together to pray.
teaches us about partnership
teaches us about partnership and
What I mean by that is a partnership of prayer.
v9 says “we made our prayer to our God”
—expressing their unity and corporate reliance.
Like their building work, their praying was a further corporate activity in which they could help one another.
Jerusalem’s builders valued the comfort of prayer.
They described their Lord as our God, the God of
infinite wisdom (he knew what to do),
compassionate care (he wanted to help them),
limitless power (nothing daunted him), and
available resources- everything they needed was there for the asking.
No wonder they prayed.
So Conflict is INEVITABLE and Prayer is CRUCIAL
teaches us about comfort.
These people had not only to build the wall of Jerusalem,
but to watch against their enemies at the same time.
Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.
Their case is ours. We have to work for Christ.
I hope that all of us who love him
are trying to do what we can
to build up His kingdom;
but we need also to watch against deadly foes.
If they can destroy us, of course they will also destroy our work.
They will do both, if they can.
The powers of evil hate the people of God.
If they can in any way injure or annoy us, you may rest assured that they will do so.
They will leave no stone unturned, if it can serve their purpose.
No arrows will be left in the quivers of hell
while there are godly men and women
at whom they can be aimed.
Satan and his allies will aim at our hearts every poisoned dart they have.
Beloved, we have a better Leader than Nehemiah;
we have our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and
we have his Holy Spirit, who dwells in us, and shall be with us.
He will say to us, what Nehemiah, in effect, said to these people, “Watch and pray.”
Although the adversaries of the Jews conspired together, and came to fight against Jerusalem, and
— 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.
to hinder the work of rebuilding the wall, Nehemiah says
— 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.
We are given two guards in v9, the first guard is PRAYER. “we made our prayer to our God”
This was a prayer that was intentional.
I love it when people pray, that they are like a good carpenter at his work.
It’s no use to have the best hammer unless you are aiming at the nail and your intention is to drive that nail head into the wood!
An ordinary hammer gets the job done just as much as an expensive hammer.
These folks were praying for divine protection.
They knew what they desired and in a very intentional matter, they asked for it.
Oh for more intentionality in prayer.
Some pray clouds and then we get mist for answers.
Their prayer was very intentional. You think of when they would approach the mercy-seat with the blood offering.
They didn’t go to the mercy-seat and sit down and lay around that place.
No, they had an intentional purpose for approaching, and then left.
Plead the promise, believe it, receive the blessing God is ready to give, and go about your business.
The prayer of Nehemiah and his companions meant business.
This prayer also overcame difficulties.
v9 begins with the word “Nevertheless” Pulling that word apart we get never, the, less.
So, Sanballat sneered so on the contrary ‘all the more’ never the less, but all the more, we prayed!
Tobiah utters his piercing words, all the more, never the less, but all the more we prayed!
It was also a prayer that came before anything else.
v9 does not say that Nehemiah set watch and then prayed, but “Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and ...we set a watch...”
Prayer is the team of horses that pulls the cart. They are out in front!
Do all for the Lord, but not until you pray!
Go to the doctor if you are sick, but pray first!
Take medicine if you must, but first pray!
Go and talk to the person who slandered you, but first pray!
Go nowhere and do nothing that you couldn’t pray first and ask God to bless it.
What a blessed guide prayer is.
It was also a prayer that continued. It says that, “we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.”
Remember as a youth (some of you) would knock on a door or ring the door bell and then run.
That’s how some people pray.
May we have that same vigilance to continue in prayer!
When will we ever be done praying brothers and sisters?
As long as we are here on earth we pray!
It was also a prayer of faith. Does it say, “we made our prayer to God”? NO!
“we made our prayer to our God”!! God had entered into a relationship with them and
they and had taken Yaweh to be their God!
God was in covenant with them and had given Himself to them!
They are the two golden hinges that the door of prayer swings upon, “our God”.
If you and I are to be delivered from the evil that is in the world,
if we are to be kept building the church of God,
We must have for our first guard, mighty, believing prayer,
such as Nehemiah and his Jewish friends presented unto the Lord.
The Second guard is WATCHFULNESS “we set a watch against them day and night”
This is a work that is carefully done.
...and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.
Hone in on the words “and because of them”.
Wherever there was an enemy, there he set a watch.
lastly 3. DISCOURAGEMENT is UNDERSTANDABLE.
They are likely to come up this way. Very well, set a watch there.
— 10 Then Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.” 11 And our adversaries said, “They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease.” 12 So it was, when the Jews who dwelt near them came, that they told us ten times, “From whatever place you turn, they will be upon us.”
Perhaps they may shift about, and come up this way. Very well, set a watch there.
Possibly they may come climbing over the wall in front here. Well, set a watch there.
Divisions are a threat to this congregation, very well, set yourselves to pray for unity (which is God’s will!)
Gossip and people running their mouths threaten to tear apart our congregation,
Scripture says “let your words be few” ()In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.
So set against this sin by praying that the Lord would rid those unhelpful and divisive words from our midst!
Stubborn hearts,
unteachable spirits
unteachable spirits
people backbiting and holding grudges
people backbiting and holding grudges
people being two faced
people being two faced
unsaved spouses
unsaved spouses
multitudes of unreached neighbors
strongholds of unbiblical traditions
phony professions of faith delivered from this podium.
multitudes of unreached neighbors
unconverted children and grandchildren
phony professions of faith delivered from this podium.
lack of faithfulness and commitment.
a dwindling of membership
unconverted children and grandchildren
Are there not many areas we must set a watch against as a congregation?
lack of faithfulness and commitment.
Yes indeed and like Peter, we seem to slumber at Jesus’s words which are like Nehemiah’s to watch and pray.
a dwindling of membership
— 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
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