Summary: DISCOURAGEMENT: ITS CAUSE AND CURE. (PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request - email: email@example.com)
Reading: Nehemiah chapter 4 verses 1-23.
• 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.
• 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?
• 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.