Nehemiah 4

Nehemiah 4

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Opposition to the Work

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?” 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!” 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.

So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

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. And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.

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.” And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.” 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. 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.”

The Work Resumes

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. 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, 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. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. 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.”

So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out. 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.” 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.

(ESV)


Nehemiah 4 Commentary

by Hank Workman

Discouragement is a terrible thing.  The insidious feeling of being overrun and fighting defeat sinks to one’s bones.  It completely changes your outlook, sidelines your faith and blurs the reality of calling and purpose.

Nehemiah and the people had all of this going on.  Every story needs an antagonist and certainly Sanballat, Tobiah, and a slew of others fit this role.  It first began with criticism.  It was followed by mocking.  When neither of these worked, in time violence was plotted.

Nehemiah prayed for protection and asked God to strengthen them.  The work continued to half the walls height rebuilt.  The attacks were amped up.  By this time, the people were growing weary.  They were physically tired from the hard labor but the needling of the enemy was getting to them as well.  Things looked hopeless.  Nehemiah prayed again.

Accomplishing any large task, filling any position of calling has pressures.  Fostering discouragement is easy.  The task looks too big, the reality of things changing appears impossible.  The man of the hour, Nehemiah, was on some levels on his own.  Yes, he had others working for him but the isolation and feeling alone were there as he was supposed to be strong.  Many times we feel this way as well.  Add to this the naysayers who ridicule, mock or quietly are non-supportive or worse, silent.  You feel alone and isolated.  At times it seems not worth it.

But there are keys to be found in this chapter when such discouragement you yourself may be experiencing.  Already spoken of, Nehemiah prayed.  In this chapter, he prayed two different times. He’s honest in these prayers – and when we pray we need to not candy coat what we’re feeling and how we need an intervention.  But there is such power to prayer – we must not forget that.  The second thing Nehemiah did was even though he prayed, he continued to prepare and plan.  When the waves of threats came down upon them, the people not only kept on keeping on, they posted a guard against the threat. They kept a vigilant watch.   Half the men did the work while the others stood guard with spears, shields, bows, and armor.  They joined forces to work and protect.  Even the workers carried their materials with one hand and a sword in the other.  They looked out for one another.  Another critical aspect.

“Fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

Nehemiah 4:14

This call to perspective rallied the troops.  The reality of this war was real.  And wherever you may be, the great task God has called of you, this same battle cry holds true.  Fight through for those whom God has called and placed upon your life and within your care.


Nehemiah 4 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

This chapter is a case study for how the enemy works when you decide to follow through with God’s calling.

In Nehemiah 3, Nehemiah planned a strategy to get the walls up all at the same time and patch the gaps very quickly. Here in Chapter 4, we read that the people worked hard. They were able to get the entire wall joined together and built to half its height. During this process, the enemy was also hard at work.

Mockery

When the enemy stirs others to mock us, the ultimate goal is discouragement. The most difficult part about mockery is when it’s founded in truth. Satan is the master of half-truths and doesn’t play fair. He will drum up anything and everything in order to stop us dead in our tracks. “What are these pathetic Jews doing? Can they restore it by themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they ever finish it? Can they bring these burnt stones back to life from the mounds of rubble?”

These were all questions that God’s people were probably asking themselves. Mockery based on truth produces doubt which is an absolute faith-killer. You can bet that when you step out to do the work of the Lord, mockers will come hot and heavy. God’s people responded with prayer!

Prayer

Listen, our God, for we are despised. Make their insults return on their own heads and let them be taken as plunder to a land of captivity.  5  Do not cover their guilt or let their sin be erased from Your sight, because they have provoked the builders.

Nehemiah 4:4-5 HCSB

Today, the direction has changed but the need for prayer has not. Jesus has set us free from justice and revenge through His love.

Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord.  20  But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.

Romans 12:19-20 HCSB

Action

The spiritual life of a mature believer is not solely rooted in prayer. There is warfare. Nehemiah let the insults roll off his back, but he knew the strength of the enemy and he prepared the people for war. Often, we respond to threatening situations with prayer but neglect the spiritual armor God has provided for us. I have been in several situations where I have expressed a troubling situation to a fellow believer only to hear that they will “pray about it.” Prayer is essential, however, after seeing several of these scenarios play out, I have wondered if their words are simply a lazy way to avoid acting. I would rather someone tell me they just aren’t committed than to hide behind a facade of spiritual lingo.

Nehemiah could have just checked the prayer box and moved on. He could have hid behind the spiritual lingo. He knew better. He understood the task at hand and the strength of the enemy. I get the impression Nehemiah didn’t do anything halfway. He gave 100% with his prayers and 100% with his actions. Nothing was going to stop him from fulfilling the burden the Lord had placed on his heart. Nothing.

Is this your attitude, or have you let the enemy’s mockery discourage you? Are you hiding behind spiritual lingo? How dedicated are you to fulfilling the burden that God has placed in your heart? Where is the Nehemiah of today?

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