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Nehemiah 4 - 11/19/2017

Book of Nehemiah  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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In beginning I want to bring to memory all that we were able to see in chapter 3. We saw a very specific order of how the tasks that were part of the building of the wall were to be laid out.
Very specific men doing very specific portions of the wall.
Now in chapter 4 we get more into the nitty gritty of what was going on.
I want to divide this into the two sections that our ESV translation has this chapter divided into. 1, being the first part is dedicated to the Opposition to the Work.
Nehemiah 4:1–2 ESV
Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?”
In our initial overview that we went through a couple of months back we heard of a man by the name of Sanballat.
In our initial overview that we went through a couple of months back we heard of a man by the name of Sanballat.
Sanballat was the leading figure in the confrontation towards Nehemiah and the construction of the wall.
His “brothers” are his allies.
His series of questions claim that the Jews have underestimated what they can do and have started something that they will not be able to complete.
At the same time, he knows that his mockery will be reported in Jerusalem.
He was nitpicking them to the point of trying to make them unsure of their feat. He was attempting to thwart their progress and cause them to fail.
Nehemiah 4:3 ESV
Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!”
Tobiah appears to be in a subordinate role, echoing Sanballat.
Seemingly appears to be Sanballat’s right hand man.
Reinforcing the commands that were laid out by his “master” so to speak.
A fox only weighs just a few pounds, but Tobiah is clearly implying that any wall that the Jews would attempt to build would easily fall over with the mere weight of a fox on top of it.
Sidenote: right now multiple contractors and architects are constructing sections of wall in the southern Texas desert of different designs for the border wall.
These are being built as to provide the best solution for the provision of demonstrating strength and forcing law abidance.
Nehemiah’s wall was also required to demonstrate strength and this undercutting of Tobiah was a jab at the abdomen of Nehemiah’s stance.
Nehemiah 4:4–5 ESV
Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.
This is the first of three imprecatory prayers uttered by Nehemiah.
An Imprecatory prayer is one that calls for the enemy to experience God’s curse.
Sanballat and his followers were in reality opposing the work of God, and it is from Him that Nehemiah seeks to remedy or set right.
At the same time, neither he nor the people give up their work rebuilding the wall.
We see time and time again that God’s work in God’s timing will not be lack of God’s resources.
When God sets a task to be set in motion no matter the man, or the man’s power. It will be accomplished. Always.
He is sovereign and no matter how hard or big the job. His will is going to be worked out.
Nehemiah 4:6
Nehemiah 4:6 ESV
So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
There is a clear and definitive point that is made here as we see the term “So we built the wall”.
This indicates a a forward motion that the work had progressed.
Also noted is the fact that wee see that they had built the wall all the way around its planned perimeter and it had been joined back together.
The people had a mind to work, this is a point that is essential to our understanding.
Both of this situation and in others in our own personal lives.
What does it mean to have “A Mind to work”?
Well for starters it is an understanding of the prospective discipline of completing a task that looms ahead of us.
It is easy for us to struggle in the area of work in our personal lives.
These people had a mind to work together, to labor together to see a common goal.
Their minds were on the same page and the project was coming to fruition.
Nehemiah 4:7 ESV
But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry.
Nehemiah 4:7
Here we are introduced to a new subject matter.
Another antagonistic group emerges. The Ashodites.
Nehemiah is now completely encircles by the enemy.
Ashdod, a city in the Philistine plain to the west is also the name of a Persian province that was considered to be part of the Philistine territory.
Nehemiah 4:9 ESV
And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.
In verse 9 we see a distinct point that is made.
Firstm we see the sign of prayer, which should always be our response in times of need or in times of fretting, or worrying.
But also an important fact to note is the more common sense precaution of “setting a guard”
Sidenote: while some people may find solace in the statement of “trusting God for our safety”
Often times we need to be reminded that is is wise to be prepared for situations that might arise in which we could avoid.
For example, this past thursday Nakitta had gone to the Dr and I met her there. But on her way home, alone with the kids, she needed to stop and park for a bit to use the restroom and nurse the twins.
I exhorted her to avoid certain areas of Atlanta, the west end of Atlanta in particular as their safety was of utmost importance to me.
We need not forget that no matter how Sovereign God is, He always seeks for us to do the right thing.
Not forsaking the law of the Lord.
Nehemiah 4:10 ESV
In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.”
There is a rising sense of concern.
There is a sense of discouragement, people are getting worried that the wall was going to be a failure.
The first statement here “In Judah it was said” seems as if to reference a point of possible gossip of man made ideals that were spreading throughout the city.
It very well could be that their source of their discouragement is purely from the difficulty in building the wall and all that it entailed.
So much of our sanctification is about the struggle and about remaining steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.
This is no exception here. It was very hard word.
They didnt have cranes and concrete mixers and concrete pump trucks and excavators and other modern means of construction equipment.
This work was much demanding as it was daunting.
Nehemiah 4:11 ESV
And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.”
There is a impending attack that is brewing amongst the enemies.
There are plans that are attempting to thwart the Lord’s work, his progress on His project.
These plans, as we will see in verse 15 will be abandoned, but the mention of them here is pointing us to the disdain that Sanballat was brooding.
Nehemiah 4:12 ESV
At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.”
Nehemiah 4:12
In Scripture, something that we can understand is that ten is a symbolic number for completeness.
The fear of violence is growing in the minds of the people.
It seems that Jews who live near Israel and Ammon have become aware of the intention to attack Jerusalem.
However, they add to the tension in the city by repeatedly urging those at work there to abandon the capital and scatter throughout Judea.
Nehemiah 4:13 ESV
So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows.
Nehemiah 4:13
Fear is something that we all must deal with.
Fear is such an effective tool of the devil and he uses it constantly to make us untrusting in God’s providence.
Fear is not trusting God, period.
The hardest part of sanctification is learning how to truly trust God.
Trust over fear is such a major obstacle that we need to reconcile our hearts with the simple truth that Christ can and will sustain us.
It is not our fearlessness that God delights in, but rather. Our knowing that we must fully and completely rely on His sustaining grace.
Verse 13 here is demonstrating that Nehemiah has no though of fleeing before an impending attack.
His first action is to station additional guards at the most vulnerable points of the wall.
The tension continues to rise as the people of Judah take up arms for the first time.
Nehemiah 4:14 ESV
And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
R.C. Sproul said the following, concerning the Incomprehensibility of God. It is a little on the heavy side but it captures the heart of this verse:

John Calvin said that God speaks to us in a kind of lisping. As parents engage in “baby talk” when addressing their infant children, so God, in order to communicate with us lowly mortals, must condescend to speak to us in lisps.

No human being has the ability to understand God exhaustively. There is a built-in barrier that prohibits a total, comprehensive understanding of God. We are finite creatures; God is an infinite being. Therein lies our problem. How shall the finite comprehend the infinite? Medieval theologians had a phrase that has become a dominant axiom for all subsequent study of theology, “The finite cannot grasp (or contain) the infinite.” Nothing is more obvious than that an infinite object cannot be squeezed into a finite space.

This axiom conveys one of the most important doctrines of orthodox Christianity. It is the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God. The term can be misleading. It may suggest to us that since the finite cannot “grasp” the infinite, that we can know nothing about God. If God is beyond human comprehension, does that not suggest that all of our religious talk is only so much theological babbling and that we are left with, at best, an altar to an unknown God?

This is by no means the intent. The incomprehensibility of God does not mean that we know nothing about God. Rather, it means that our knowledge is partial and limited, falling short of a total or comprehensive knowledge. The knowledge that God gives of Himself through revelation is both real and useful. We can know God to the degree that He chooses to reveal Himself. The finite can “grasp” the infinite, but the finite can never hold the infinite within its grasp. There is always more to God than we apprehend.

The Bible says it this way: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever” (Deuteronomy 29:29). Martin Luther referred to two aspects of God—the hidden and the revealed. A portion of the divine knowledge remains hidden to our gaze. We work in the light of what God has revealed.

Our God, is great and awesome.
Nehemiah not only arms the people physically; he also bolsters them spiritually by reminding them of the Lord (Who is “Adonai,” the sovereign Lord) who supports them.
Nehemiah 4:15 ESV
When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work.
In , and also in verse 24 the enemy frustrated the plan to build the temple; here God responds in kind by frustrating the plan to stop building the wall.
A surprise invasion is no longer possible, and any attack will be stoutly resisted.
Nehemiah responds successfully to the tide of discouragement by adding guards and exhorting the people.
Nehemiah 4:16 ESV
From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah,
So we now see here that Nehemiah has it set-up so that half of the men were wearing the garb of the soldier and the other half were the workers
At one glance to me it seems as if this would be heavily unproductive but obviously Nehemiah had the necessary precautions in place in order that a constant state of readiness was always present.
The immediate threat had been diffused but nonetheless, precautionary measures were still a wise and worthy offense.
Nehemiah 4:17 ESV
who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other.
Nothing like working with your handgun on your side.
Being prepared.
We should always be prepared.
Im not necessarily saying that we all should walk around wearing a handgun on our side at all times.
2 Timothy 2:15 ESV
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
But, Sc
6. Be prepared to defend what it is that you believe and gain the tools that give you the strength to stand firm on your beliefs.
Nehemiah 4:18 ESV
And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me.
When you need to have your hands free to work and you gotta have your weapon nearby, you wear a sheath or in modern times a holster!
In battle trumpets are often a tool to aid in rallying the troops.
Nehemiah 4:19 ESV
And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another.
Nehemiah 4:19
Nehemiah 4:19–20 ESV
And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”
The Lord has intervened on behalf of His people who are acting in accordance with His wishers
Exodus 14:14 ESV
The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Joshua 10:14 ESV
There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord heeded the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel.
Nehemiah 4:21
Nehemiah 4:21 ESV
So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out.
This sounds to me like a good, hard days work.
Be faithful, or be fruitful and faithful to the cause of whatever you are doing.
If you are a pig farmer, work hard.
If you are a stock broker, work hard.
Be diligent and honest in what you do and how you perform.
We all have work to do, most of what each of us do is is very different from what others do, regardless, lets be faithful where we are.
Nehemiah 4:22 ESV
22 I also said to the people at that time, “Let every man and his servant pass the night within Jerusalem, that they may be a guard for us by night and may labor by day.”
Nehemiah 4:22
Stay true to our cause and faithful, and stay alert.
They were pulling double duty, standing guard while they were not laboring.
Nehemiah 4:23 ESV
23 So neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes; each kept his weapon at his right hand.
Relentless in their approach.
Let us be relentless in our duties and in our pursuits.
Obviously ensuring they are of God and not of man.
Lets press on for Christ and stand for Him.
Reflection and Application
Sanballat, Tobiah, and others despised the Jewish people. Consider the promise made to Abram in that would lay the foundation for the full Abrahamic Covenant: "I [The LORD] will bless those who bless you [Abraham and descendants], and him who dishonors you [Abraham and descendants] I [The LORD] will curse…." Reflect on the aggressive hostility expressed here in view of that Covenant Promise to Israel, a promise made to Abraham and that endures to this present day. ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ Sanballat and company were exercising a well-worn tactic of the greater enemy as expressed in verses three and four of Charitie Lees Bancroft’s classic hymn Before The Throne of God, “When Satan tempts me to despair, and tells me of the guilt within, upward I look, and see Him there Who made an end of all my sin.” “Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free; for God, the Just, is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me.” In view of this, how does a proper understanding that Christ will bring those who are his to maturity shape your daily life? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________
Consider all the possible reactions that the enemies’ mocking and slandering could have produced – what do you think of Nehemiah’s response? What should your response be in a situation in which you are unjustly mocked and slandered? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________
What is the New Covenant believer’s liberty and/or responsibility regarding praying in an imprecatory manner? Can this be an honest petition for justice or was this reserved for Israel? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________
Was the success of the progress just a reflection of Nehemiah and the Jews being a tenacious people or was there more to it? What might you learn from their character in this? ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________
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