Nehemiah was driven to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem following their demise. But as we’ve seen from the previous history of God’s people (e.g. Moses, Joseph, David, Gideon e.t.c), those who step out for God’s glory come up against a torrent of opposition of some kind. This trend continues with Nehemiah’s efforts to re-engage the jewish people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. It ignites fierce opposition chiefly from Sanballat, the Samaritan governor, Tobiah an Ammonite leader, and from the Arabs and Ashdodites.
Enemies Tactics – Condemnation
On hearing of Nehemiah’s intentions, Sanballat and his allies became furious and ridiculed the jews, calling them “feeble” and resorting to sarcasm and lies to demean their efforts and motives (v2-v3). All of this happens to get back to Nehemiah, presumably via the jews scattered across the northern territories who paid a visit (v12).
Ridicule and condemning commentary are a tried and tested tactic of the enemy aimed at tearing down the resolve, identity and faith of those who do good. Unfortunately such tactics cause havoc in pulling many away from being fruitful. We know from scripture that God is love (1 John 4:10). We can rest assured that any sniff of ridicule we encounter is not of God from whom every good gift comes (James 1:17). We have to be quick to filter out all condemning and unconstructive negative commentary that comes our way lest they veil our minds from the truth and security of God. Writing to the Corinthians Apostle Paul declares “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Let’s prime the pumps of truth daily, blasting down any longstanding and sneaky lies of the enemy that attempt to overshadow truth in our minds.
Enemies Tactics – Persecution, Fear & Confusion
We see the enemy step things up when they hear that the rebuilding continues (v7-8). They plan to attack and cause fear and confusion. When we see things hot up against us while we continue in doing good we can actually be encouraged that our actions are impactful enough to draw enemy attention and hostility. This knowledge is key as it shall help us move forward despite hardship and suffering. The New Testament repeatedly describes the churches as suffering and we see ongoing persecution clarified as a normal feature of Christian existence (Rom 8:16-17; Phil 1:29-30; 1 Thess 3:3-4; 2 Tim 1:8; 2:3). And although opposition can incite fear and confusion, believers are reminded by scripture that ”God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).
Nehemiah’s response to the enemy’s ridicule and subsequent threat of attack is prayer (v4-5; v9). We see Nehemiah prayers answered – the walls of Jerusalem are rebuilt in 52 days and the enemy fails to attack Jerusalem. If we believe in God, we should be dependent upon him in prayer. Scripture encourages and even commands us to pray and to pray often to see our requests answered (Ephesians 6:18; Luke 18:1; Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). C.S Lewis once said “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?” Nehemiah was certainly in this place as so many of God’s faithful that preceded him. And what he knew of God led him to his knees in prayer. When we are convinced of God’s love, prayer becomes a priority, and a lifeline. We pray and trust that he shall impact the outcome.
Pragmatism accompanies Faithful Prayer
Some may fall into the hyper-spiritual presumption that prayer negates active participation in the areas prayed for. However, we see that Nehemiah followed up prayer with practical steps to protect the wall and the people. Nehemiah instructed the men to arm themselves at all times (v17-18) and half the men stood guard as the other half laboured (v16). Additionally, he employs a defensive plan involving trumpet calls for military back up at more vulnerable locations of the wall for the event of an attack (v20). Following this Nehemiah could still say “Our God will fight for us” (v20). Yes we pray and rest our hope in God for a good outcome. Yet we act, utilising the wisdom and resources he’s already given. As
Like Nehemiah and the jews who stood strong donned in battle gear in the face of opposition, we are to clothe ourselves in Christ (Romans 13:14) and the armour of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). Fighting the good fight of faith in readiness for the last trumpet call when Christ shall return (1 Cor 15:52; 1 Thess 4:16).