Read Nehemiah 2:16b-20 and 4:7-11 NLT I had not yet spoken to the Jewish leaders—the priests, the nobles, the officials, or anyone else in the administration. But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king. They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work. But when Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab heard of our plan, they scoffed contemptuously. “What are you doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” they asked. I replied, “The God of heaven will help us succeed. We, his servants, will start rebuilding this wall. But you have no share, legal right, or historic claim in Jerusalem.” But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs, Ammonites, and Ashdodites heard that the work was going ahead and that the gaps in the wall of Jerusalem were being repaired, they were furious. They all made plans to come and fight against Jerusalem and throw us into confusion. But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves. Then the people of Judah began to complain, “The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.” Meanwhile, our enemies were saying, “Before they know what’s happening, we will swoop down on them and kill them and end their work.”.
There have been many times in which I experienced stress, difficulties, obstacles, intense negative emotions, and even disputes while doing something I know served God’s purposes. I would question what could possibly be happening, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. I am confident I was right smack in the middle of God’s will. My wife and I have hosted small groups for a number of years and it always seemed as if something would go wrong a half hour before our first group member would arrive. It initially seemed strange to us. We have spoken to others who have expressed the same experiences with the same confusion over what in the world was going on. Then I heard it explained how the moment we make the decision to obey and serve God, the enemy of God (the devil) declares war on our efforts. If we are experiencing obstacles and resistance of any type, I learned we should take heart because it means we are, in fact, doing something right. If it weren’t the case, the devil wouldn’t bother with us.
As we read in several places throughout the book of Nehemiah, including the passages above, this was the case for God’s people as they were returning from the Babylonian captivity to rebuild Jerusalem and its walls. They were working completely within the plan and blessings of God. Yet those opposed to them did not care about God’s plan and were angry about the work as well as the restored Jewish presence in Jerusalem. So in response they mocked them, ridiculed them, threatened them, and prepared to physically attack them. Sanballat and Geshem even attempted to trick Nehemiah into meeting them away from the city… “But I realized they were plotting to harm me, so I replied by sending this message to them: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?” (Nehemiah 6:2b-3). Since their plot did not work, a letter was sent (unsealed so all of the Jewish people would know what it said) stating the Persian king would learn they were in open rebellion with Nehemiah intending to be king over Judah. This was an absolute lie… “I replied, “There is no truth in any part of your story. You are making up the whole thing.”They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination.” (Nehemiah 6:8-9). We even learned from our reading how the Jewish people themselves complained about being tired as they became discouraged. There was just so much rubble, way too much to do to clean up and complete the new wall. This hits home for me because I can hear very similar words echoing in my own head when serving God seems harder than what I think it should be.
How did Nehemiah and God’s people respond to the resistance they encountered? “Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” (Nehemiah 4:14). Nehemiah also repeatedly talked to God about it, asking Him for help, protection, and to remember the wrong their enemies were committing. The people took reasonable, practical measures to guard their homes, families, and neighbors. They guarded the unfinished gaps in the wall and they kept right on working – “with even greater determination”.
We can learn much from Nehemiah’s leadership and the response of God’s people. When you are feeling the attacks resulting from obeying the will of God, you can respond as they did. Talk to God – stand side by side with your church family – guard the “gaps” in the wall – take measures to defend your family through sharing in the Word of God and worship – speak truth against the lies – and keep on going! Don’t give up! Stay firm in the work of serving God, no matter what. God’s Kingdom is being built, the Holy Spirit’s protective walls are gaining ground and getting stronger. No matter how discouraged we feel, the will of God is being completed. What a privilege it is to be on His construction crew when the enemy makes it clear… we ARE doing something right.
Pray: Almighty God, our Father and perfector. We are grateful for how You have brought us out of our spiritual captivity to take part in building up Your Kingdom. We confess we sometimes complain in our weariness due to worldly stressors. We ask for Your presence, protection and help just as Nehemiah did in his day. We know You are aware of how the enemy throws obstacles in our way to trip us up – hold us steady, Lord. May Your Kingdom come, Your will be done as we stand in the gaps for our families, our neighbors, and Your Church. We don’t welcome the enemy’s aggression but we take heart since he feels it necessary. We still want to faithfully serve You! We praise You now and always, in the name of Jesus our King. Amen.