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Summary: DISCOURAGEMENT: ITS CAUSE AND CURE. (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request - email: gcurley@gcurley.info)

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Reading: Nehemiah chapter 4 verses 1-23.

Ill:

• A mother of eight children came home one day;

• To find her youngest five children huddled intently in the middle of the floor.

• She walked over to see what the centre of attraction was;

• And to her horror, she discovered they were playing with five baby skunks.

• Panic-stricken, she shouted, "Run, children, run!"

• And run the children did-each clutching one terrified skunk!

• Can you imagine five kids with skunks, all running in different directions?

• And the farther each child ran, the louder the mother probably shouted,

• Causing all five to panic and squeeze their skunk;

• And skunks of course don't like to be squeezed!

• In trying to solve the problem;

• The mother had created five new ones!

All of us at times have had a problem blow up in our face and end up as a stinking mess.

• Those situations can knock the wind right out of our confidence;

• And leave us feeling flat and discouraged.

• Nehemiah found this out when he took on a seemingly simple task;

• Only to find that it would turn into a sizable problem.

• He set out to build a wall, sounds a simple project;

• But he soon found himself facing opposition and discouragement.

Background:

• In 586 B.C., the Babylonians conquered the southern kingdom of Judah

• And took the Hebrew people into exile,

• Ever since then the walls of Jerusalem had been in disarray.

• Now in the book of Nehemiah, it’s 142 years later,

• Judah was beginning to dust herself off after her great spiritual fall;

• And start walking with God again.

• And so God wanted Nehemiah to oversee the task of rebuilding the wall around the city.

• What might seem a fairly straight-forward task, it would be anything but!

• As we start looking at chapter 4 the job of rebuilding has been so far, so good.

• Nehemiah’s boss had given him time off to oversee the project.

• He provided him with some much-needed materials for the project;

• And he even arranged for him to have safe-passage to Jerusalem.

• The people of Jerusalem have willingly fallen in with his plans to rebuild,

• And they have been working diligently,

• So when we get to chapter 4 it has been so far so good!

• There have been no major snags, everything has gone better than planned.

Now in chapter 4 the picture changes;

• And for the first time in the narrative;

• Nehemiah will face real opposition and discouragement.

The main aggressor in the story is a man called ‘Sanballat’:

• Verse 7 tells us that he had actually united four different enemies together;

• In order to stop the work of rebuilding the walls.

• To the north were Sanballat and the Samaritans.

• To the east, Tobiah and the Ammonites.

• To the south, Geeshem and the Arabs;

• And to the west, the Ashdidites.

• The people of Judah were surrounded by the enemy;

• An enemy that wanted to see them destroyed.

Question: Why such hatred?

Answer:

• In his commentary on Nehemiah, Dr. Cyril Barber;

• Explains why Sanballat and the wealthy men of Samaria opposed Nehemiah's work.

• "Put bluntly, 'a powerful Jerusalem means a depressed Samaria.'

• One of the main highways linking the Tigris Euphrates river valley

• To the north with Egypt in the south and Philistia to the west,

• Passes through Jerusalem.

• With Jerusalem once more a well-protected city, its very location will attract trade;

• And gone will be Samaria's economic supremacy in 'the land beyond the river.'"

• Simple answer: Money and power;

• A strong Jerusalem meant a poorer Samaria and a less powerful Sanballat.

Reasons for discouragement:

(1). Loss of dignity (verse 1-3).

“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, 2 and in the presence of his associates (Lit: means mob – bully boys) and the army of Samaria, he said, "What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?"

3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, "What they are building—if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!"”

Sanballat and his mob used ridicule to cause discouragement among the people of Jerusalem.

• British critic and author Thomas Carlyle called ridicule;

• “The language of the devil”.

• Shakespeare called ridicule;

• “Paper bullets of the brain”. But these bullets have slain many a warrior.

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