Nehemiah - How to Handle Opposition
Read Time: 11 Minutes
God has given Nehemiah the desire and means to go to Jerusalem and visit the temple and house of God that he had heard was destroyed and repair it. He has been given letters from Artaxerxes ("the great king" Astyages) so that he might pass, without hindrance, to Jerusalem. Princes of the king's forces also accompanied him so that he would succeed in his task, people didn't travel alone then; they would travel in caravans for safety. Nehemiah's journey started out well but he met with opposition upon arrival. We shall learn how he and God handle the six ways that his purpose is frustrated.
:9 Then I came to the governors beyond the river,
and gave them the king's letters.
Now the king had sent captains of the army [can also be translated princes of the king's forces]
:10 When Sanballat the Horonite, [of Horonaim, a Moabite]
and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite,
heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly
that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.
This is the first opposition that Nehemiah faces. The locals get all stirred up because the rightful inhabitants have returned to survey Jerusalem and the temple. Nehemiah has a mission from God yet he is out of favor with the locals. The locals just happen to be sworn enemies of the Judeans.
:11 So I came to Jerusalem,
and was there three days.
:12 And I arose in the night,
I and some few men with me;
neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem:
neither was there any beast with me,
save the beast that I rode upon.
:13 And I went out by night by the gate of the valley,
even before the dragon well,
and to the dung port,
and viewed the walls of Jerusalem,
which were broken down,
and the gates thereof were consumed with fire.
:14 Then I went on to the gate of the fountain,
and to the king's pool:
but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass.
:15 Then went I up in the night by the brook,
and viewed the wall,
and turned back,
and entered by the gate of the valley,
and so returned.
:16 And the rulers knew not whither I went,
or what I did;
neither had I as yet told it to the Jews,
nor to the priests,
nor to the nobles,
nor to the rulers,
nor to the rest that did the work.
Nehemiah didn't have to tell everyone what he was up to. He didn't have to tell all he knew. Sometimes God will have you do things and you just need to keep it to yourself until He says you can speak up. Of course Nehemiah can't keep it a secret forever because he is not going to rebuild Jerusalem single-handedly.
:17 Then said I unto them, [the Jews--priests, nobles,
rulers and workers]
Ye see the distress that we are in,
how Jerusalem lieth waste,
and the gates thereof are burned with fire:
come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem,
that we be no more a reproach.
:18 Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me;
as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me.
And they said,
Let us rise up and build.
So they strengthened their hands for this good work.
When Nehemiah told the Jews what God had commissioned him to do they joined him heartily for this good work is a work sanctioned by God. Speaking of good works:
:10 For we are his workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus unto good works, [the works of God]
which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
When we are doing the will of God He strengthens us and gives us the resources to accomplish the task. We do the good works because we are righteous before Him, not to gain righteousness. We were created in Christ Jesus unto (epi--for the purpose of doing) good works, God's work.
:19 But when Sanballat the Horonite,
and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite,
and Geshem the Arabian, heard it,
they laughed us to scorn,
and despised us, and said,
What is this thing that ye do?
will ye rebel against the king?
Here is the second act of opposition. The locals (an Ammonite and Moabite--enemies of the Children of Israel) heard what they intended to do and they laughed them to scorn--mocked them and derided them--they started mudslinging. They are trying to defame the Jews in front of all the inhabitants. They are trying to get the people to doubt their purpose.
How does one combat this kind of mental pressure? After all we don't like being ridiculed. We don't like being attacked verbally. How did Nehemiah handle the mocking? With the truth of God's Word:
:20 Then answered I them, and said unto them,
The God of heaven,
he will prosper us;
therefore we his servants will arise and build:
but ye have no portion,
Nehemiah answered them with the Word. God has given us great and precious promises. Whenever we are bombarded by facts and circumstances that are contrary to God's Word we need to speak the Word to ourselves and to others. Be bold; speak the word to ourselves and others. Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem had no say-so in this matter. They had no right to even be in Jerusalem because this land had been given to the Children of Israel.
In Nehemiah chapter 3 we see the people heartily rebuilding Jerusalem. As usual not all of the people got their hands dirty, God makes a point of that in verse 5, "the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord." For the rest of the chapter God has the people who rebuilt Jerusalem mentioned. What an honor to be mentioned in the book of Nehemiah.
The mental attacks continue in Chapter 4. What we do and how we do things are influenced greatly by our attitude. If we are doing a job we dislike and dwell on that fact we don't put our best effort into it, our hearts are just not there. However, if it is a job we like and one we want to be proud of we work hard and pay attention to do a good job. If your attitude is: "Col. 3:23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;" then you will work your best and because you are doing the will of the Lord God will prosper you.
Yet the opposition continues:
:1 But it came to pass,
that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth,
and took great indignation,
and mocked the Jews.
:2 And he spake before his brethren
and the army of Samaria, and said,
What do these feeble Jews?
will they fortify themselves?
will they sacrifice?
will they make an end in a day?
will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?
:3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said,
Even that which they build,
if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.
The third opposition to the rebuilding of Jerusalem was wrath and indignation. So Sanballat and Tobiah start a propaganda campaign, they stirred up the army of Samaria against the Jews. This type of mocking and ridicule infects people's minds and affects their attitudes. But God's people were strong, they were convinced that God was there for them and had sanctioned the work. The following is Nehemiah's prayer.
:4 Hear, O our God; for we are despised:
and turn their reproach upon their own head,
and give them for a prey in the land of captivity:
:5 And cover not their iniquity,
and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee:
for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders.
:6 So built we the wall;
and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof:
for the people had a mind to work.
What is their attitude in the face of these mockings? They had a mind to work. They didn't let the adversary infiltrate their attitudes. They continued to believe God not wavering. We have seen repeatedly that as long as God's people believed that He could and would take care of them; their enemies had no power over them. This principle is critical for the Children of Israel here because they face even more opposition:
:7 But it came to pass, that when Sanballat,
and the Arabians,
and the Ammonites,
and the Ashdodites,
heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up,
and that the breaches began to be stopped,
then they were very wroth,
:8 And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem,
and to hinder it.
Previously Sanballat and company were just mad, now that they see the wall actually coming together they are not just angry but very angry, to the point of action.
The fourth opposition is the assembling of the Samarian army to fight against the Judeans.
:9 Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God,
and set a watch against them day and night, because of them.
They also begin to have internal problems:
:10 And Judah said,
The strength of the bearers of burdens [animals] is decayed,
and there is much rubbish;
so that we are not able to build the wall.
The pressure is getting great.
:11 And our adversaries said,
They shall not know,
till we come in the midst among them,
and slay them,
and cause the work to cease.
:12 And it came to pass,
that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times,
From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you.
Now even the neighbors of the workers are bombarding them with warnings.
:13 Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall,
and on the higher places,
I even set the people after their families with their swords,
and their bows.
:14 And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles,
and to the rulers,
and to the rest of the people,
Be not ye afraid of them :
remember the Lord ,
which is great and terrible, [awe inspiring]
and fight for your brethren,
and your daughters,
and your houses.
Nehemiah could see the effect these words could have on his people so he steps in with words of encouragement and a call to action. "Remember the Lord who is great and awesome. Remember what He can do for you? Stand up and fight!" He was encouraging them to not give in to the pressure. Remain strong in the Lord.
And the result:
:15 And it came to pass,
when our enemies heard that it was known unto us,
and God had brought their counsel to nought ,
that we returned all of us to the wall,
every one unto his work.
They never lifted a finger to fight. God took care of the situation.
From here on out they have half the people working on the wall and half standing guard. The workers also had their weapons by their side. They are prepared for the worse but believe for the best.
:19 And I said unto the nobles,
and to the rulers,
and to the rest of the people,
The work is great and large,
and we are separated upon the wall,
one far from another.
:20 In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet,
resort ye thither unto us:
our God shall fight for us.
Who is going to fight? Even though they have their weapons with them (a moral booster) if the trumpet should sound they are to gather around Nehemiah and God will fight for them.
:21 So we laboured in the work:
and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.
:22 Likewise at the same time said I unto the people,
Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem,
that in the night they may be a guard to us,
and labour on the day.
:23 So neither I,
nor my brethren,
nor my servants,
nor the men of the guard which followed me,
none of us put off our clothes,
saving that every one put them off for washing.
Isn't God wonderful? He will put in this detail in here for us so that we may see their commitment to work. They were always ready and wasted no time doing unnecessary chores. Fortunately they did take off their clothes for washing.
Nehemiah and the Jews relied on God to fight their battles. So far they have endured hatred, mockings, wrath and indignation and the threat of an attack. They have always returned to God and His strength to deliver them and God has thwarted their adversary's purposes. Let us return to God in our lives and communities, our towns and cities, our states and countries. Let us rebuild the Word of God in our lives and be a witness of His great grace and mercy upon those that believe.
The two other oppositions are continued next week. . .