Summary: Exposition of Neh 4 about the external opposition he faced as he and the jews rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem
Text: Nehemiah 4:1-23, Title: Battling Opposition in Life, Date/Place: NRBC, 9/30/07, AM
A. Opening illustration: see bottom of page, Someone said that you can only tell what a leader is made of when he faces opposition,
B. Background to passage: After the rebuilding of the walls commences in chapter three, and the word gets around, those with a vested interest in Nehemiah’s and Israel’s failure began to organize the opposition. And you know in life, any kind of rebuilding, whether in business, or in a marriage, or in a church will bring out those that oppose. In fact, I might even say that if there is no opposition, either your not rebuilding enough, or people just don’t care one way or the other. So this is the first of several instances where Nehemiah demonstrates for us how do deal with opposition in life.
C. Main thought: The opposition that Nehemiah will show us how to face will primarily be from without today.
A. Fighting Ridicule (v. 1-6)
1. This is about the third time that we have seen ol’ Sanballat. And it is clear that he doesn’t want Jerusalem to be rebuilt. And in his anger and jealousy, he began to mock God’s people and incite others to do so as well. Mocking and ridicule is a fairly effective tool, because it hits at the insecurities that really underlie much of our lives. The Jews were a feeble people, the task was overwhelming, was God really going to help them, if not, they would fail. He questioned their ability, their faith, and their motivation. But notice what Nehemiah did, and what he didn’t do. He didn’t fire back a barrage of harsh words. He went to prayer and kept working.
2. Pro 18:21, Eph 4:29, Matt 5:10-12, 44, Ps 35:4-8, 59:5-13, 58:6-8, 69:22-28, 140:10, 139:19
3. Illustration: “I followed your advice for three nights, but my conscience began to bother me because I was betraying my Lord. So I began to kneel down as I did before.” “And what happened?” “I was really amazed. Not a single fellow ridiculed me. Now the fifteen men in my tent kneel down with me, and I pray aloud for all of them.”
4. Let this be a lesson to us not to act under the influence of anger and jealousy. Take some time, think things through, and don’t say things that God may make you regret. Be careful who you recruit to join you in your sin. Be careful with the words you say. We all face ridicule from time to time. Young people, if you are living radically for Jesus, you may face it the most. How do we handle it? Refuse to retaliate. Vengeance is the Lord’s, He will repay. Go to God in prayer, acknowledge their words, your pain, and refocus on the glory of Christ. And remember there is a place for imprecatory psalms in prayer. But make sure your motivation is right, the glory of God and the furtherance of His work should be at stake, and not just your wounded pride. Then after prayer, we must move along. Do the mental labor of dispersing recurring thoughts of those hurtful words in our memory. Words do hurt, but our confidence is not to be found in the approval of others, but in Christ Jesus our Lord.
B. Fighting Threats (v. 7-9)
1. When Sanballat realized that demoralization wasn’t working, he decided to crank up the heat. And at this point the Jews were about half-way through the project. A potentially discouraging time. He recruited a surrounding force, and began to plan an attack. Usually those who really oppose the work of God have no problem turning to violence to thwart the plan of God. And so from every side they began to launch terrorist style attacks against the workers. And so Nehemiah trained a sniper force to kill them—NOPE. He prayed. Then he took some practical steps, they posted guards to help watch for sneak attacks.
2. Psa 27:1-3, 46:1-2, 56:2-4, 118:6, Rom 8:31-37, Heb 10:34
3. Illustration: the teaching of karate for defense in the Karate Kid, Jim Cymbala’s story about the attacks from all sides upon the early days of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, tell about the missionary in Bangladesh whose daughter’s life was threatened for the conversions of muslims, and our prayer, tell about the inner city pastor who was tired of potential staff asking about the safety of their family first,
4. Prayer is probably the most underused defense and support with opposition comes. However, it is the most significant weapon, because it implores the greatest of all Defenders to come to our aid. And it should be our first option upon the threat of violence. We must take practical steps to protect ourselves and our people. But remember there are no guarantees of protection for Christians. And then, much like with ridicule, you forgive, and move on with the work. And if violence comes, our foundation for joy in the Christian life is God Himself, and suffering cannot harm that. So plant your joy firmly in salvation and be willing to part with goods and kindred for the joy in Christ. Carry on now!