Nehemiah chapter 4 verses 1 -7
Nehemiah's faith in God and his love for his people is impressive -- and this, in spite of hardship and opposition. Opposition from outside and discouragement from inside, yet the task of rebuilding the wall was complete in only fifty-two days.
There are some great lessons for us to learn from chapter four, beginning in the first three verses:
Here is this man, Sanballat, who heard about this band of Jews rebuilding the walls and he was angry. He ridiculed the Jews. He spoke to his associates and the army of Samaria, no doubt with a tone of ridicule and sarcasm: "What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble...?" Tobiah agreed: "What they are building - if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones."
Let's learn this: It should never surprise us when we do the Lord's work and some react with anger and ridicule. Jesus said to His disciples: "...if they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you." Paul said, all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12).
We can be sure, the more active our faith, the deeper our courage and the bolder our preaching - there will be opposition. The likes of Sanballat and Tobiah are still here on the earth -- and Satan will use them to provoke us and discourage us.
How did Nehemiah respond to this threat? He prayed, and that is the next lesson to learn from this section.
In the Old Testament there are these prayers, where people of God called upon God to defeat and punish the enemy (Psalms 137). Yet in these prayers - of David and Nehemiah, there is no evidence of personal vengeance; but rather - appeals on behalf of righteousness and petitions for the vindication of God's justice.
But here is what is important - When Nehemiah became aware of this growing opposition; in the face of this fear he prayed. This is what we need to learn, and this is what we need to do - when we face fear; when we become aware of opposition: Pray! Don’t try to face fear alone – call on God, a brother, a sister.
One good example of this is found in Acts chapter four. Acts 4 opens with the report of Jewish leaders in Jerusalem "greatly disturbed" when they heard the apostles preaching "in Jesus, the resurrection from the dead." Peter and John were taken into custody; Peter gave a bold defence of their work, and verse 13 says: "...when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated men, they marvelled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus." A man who had been healed was standing nearby -- evidence of their work. The unbelievers who had taken Peter and John conferred privately and decided to severely threaten them and tell them not to preach the gospel. Peter and John were released after this punishment
On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. "Sovereign Lord," they said, "you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them. You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David: "'Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.' Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus." After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
Now here's where we are: As the people do the Lord's work there is this angry opposition. Nehemiah responds by praying. But notice in verse 6... They didn't stop working! The temptation is - to become so worried; so terrified by the opposition - that you pray and pray and wring your hands and wait, AND STOP WORKING! This happens to local churches and can become the death of a local church. You experience a few set-backs. The number dwindles, the budget is strained, and people think about the negatives, talk about the grim prospects -- and talk themselves into death, BY CEASING THE WORK OF THE LORD.
Cut-backs in numbers and budgets do not demand cut-backs in obedience or work -
And that's what Christians need to do! When you decide to follow the Lord, do His work, and cooperate with others in His work - AND YOU JUST KEEP DOING THAT regardless of how much money you don't have; regardless of how many people and regardless of any opposition. You do the Lord's work because you love Him... not because all the circumstances are favourable! We need the attitude of these good people - which is called "a mind to work."
And one reason this is important is - the opposition may get worse!
Do we want to be like this people doing God’s work no matter what - or do we worry under stress – we can decide – the choice - have fun or fear! Some people lead, some people follow – these are the good people. Then there are those who get in the way – they never do anything wrong because the never do anything – their just there being an obstruction and causing trouble. The choice is ours – it is not how good we do something – it is how we obey God and ask Him for favour.
Those who disagree in almost everything will unite in persecution. Nehemiah did not answer these fools according to their folly, but looked up to God by prayer. God's people have often been a despised people, but he hears all the slights that are put upon them, and it is for His people that he does so. Nehemiah had reason to think that the hearts of those sinners were desperately hardened; else he would not have prayed that their sins might never be blotted out. Good work goes on well, when people have a mind to it. The reproaches of enemies should quicken us to our duty, not drive us from it.