By Kevin Ivy
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Tullahoma
Focal Passage: Nehemiah 4:1-3, 6-9, 14-18
As we continue following the narrative of Nehemiah we quickly discover that doing God’s work brings opposition. Generally, we can please God or we can please men, but we usually cannot please both God and men. As we seek to follow, serve and please God we will inevitably illicit a response from the world and from the forces of darkness. God’s work will ignite ridicule and opposition (Nehemiah 4:1-3).
Sanballat received word that the Jews were rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem and he became furious. He harassed and mocked the people in an effort to discourage them, distract them and delay their progress. He asked his Samaritan brothers, “What are these feeble Jews doing?” “Do they really think they are going to accomplish this?” “Are they going to offer sacrifices?” “Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble, even the burned ones?” Tobiah, joined in the ridicule by proclaiming, “Even what they have built so far couldn’t stand if a fox were to jump on it!” The primary strategy Sanballat and Tobiah used to slow the construction of the walls was harassment and mockery. This is still one of Satan’s strategies to discourage, distract and delay the work of God on earth. Jesus promised that persecution would come through insults and through false accusations (Matthew 5:11-12). We must understand that God’s work will ignite ridicule and opposition. Doors that seem to be closed are not always closed by God. Paths that are filled with obstacles and difficulty are not always wrong paths. In fact, when we face difficulty and opposition, it is often a sign that we are in the very center of God’s will, for God’s plan will always face opposition.
In spite of Sanballat’s and Tobiah’s ridicule and harassment, the Jews built the wall (Nehemiah 4:6-9). The people had a mind to work. They were vigilant in the face of opposition. This caused their enemies to be extremely angry. They began to conspire together to go beyond the use of words, and threatened to oppose the work with all out war! They planned to come and fight against Jerusalem and cause a disturbance. In spite of the threats, they prayerfully continued to do the work that God had given them with wisdom and balance. They prayed. They worked. They set up a guard. They trusted the Lord. In spite of the opposition, we must persevere in doing what God has led us to do.
The Jews continued their work, persevering in the face of opposition (vv. 14-18). When the enemies of God heard that their plan to attack Jerusalem had been exposed, and Nehemiah had prepared the Jews to defend the city, they knew their plans had been frustrated by God. It was evident that God was with the Jews as they rebuilt. The people of God continued their work, but they did so with great vigilance. Half of them worked while half of them kept watch. Those who worked, carried on their labors with one hand and carried their weapons in the other. The builders built with their swords at their side. The enemy’s threats cut the work force in half, but this was no surprise to God. This is how God operates. He takes away the strength of men so that He might get all of the glory. We decrease so that He can increase. When we are weak, He is strong. As doors seem to close, stumbling blocks arise, and opposition appears, we must persist in God’s work, God’s way, for God’s glory. He will prevail!