Summary: Nehemiah, Pt. 4
NO MORE MR. NICE GUY: FROM ALARM TO ASSERTION (NEH 4)
I went into a small post office in Pasadena that had only 2 workers on call. Taped to the side of the sales window was a smiley face minus the smile. In its place was a glum, flat, expressionless line of a smile. Words on top of the round face say ¡§I can only please one person at a day and today ain¡¦t your day.¡¨ At the bottom of the full size paper was a message in parenthesis: ¡§Tomorrow ain¡¦t looking too good either!¡¨
Some people have the mistaken notion that a Christian should be nothing but sweet, mild, and nice. Nice guys do not have to finish last. They do not have to be like doormats, wallflower, or tofu
Mark Galli tells this story about Francis of Assisi who had commanded his friars not to touch money. One day a worshipper left a coin offering in the church, and one of the friars, for whatever reason, saw the money and immediately tossed it over a window sill. When Francis learned he had touch money, Francis rebuked him, commanded him to use his lips to pick up the coin, and place the coin in a pile of ass¡¦s dung with his lips (¡§Saint Nasty¡¨ Mark Galli, Christianity Today 6/17/96).
In Nehemiah 4, Sanballat and Tobiah, the Ammonite official of chapter 2 (2:19), returned with more trouble. This time, Sanballat laughed at the Jews in their face, ridiculed their rebuilding project before it reached the halfway stage, and returned later with more trouble when the wall was near completion.
Israel¡¦s enemies labeled them feeble, called their city a dump, and described their work as inferior ¡V even a fox can break it. How did Nehemiah respond? Nehemiah was still nice but never to a fault. He never allowed people to walk all over him and he did not back down when he and others with him were at risk, in danger, or being threatened. Note also that Nehemiah did not pick a fight, worsen the situation, or start a shouting match either. He immediately brought the matter before God, quickly organized the Israelites to take action, and aggressively overcame the threat of their enemies.
What healthy, active and yet powerful steps did Nehemiah take to counter hostile opposition?
DIGNIFY YOURSELF AND DEFER TO GOD
4:1 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 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!" 4 Hear us, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 5 Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders. (Neh 4:1-5)
A company sent me a Christmas catalogue one year, and an Old Gaelic Blessing plaque from the catalogue humored me. It says, ¡§May those who love us, love us. And those that don¡¦t love us, May God turn their hearts. And if He doesn¡¦t turn heir hearts, May He turn their ankles So we¡¦ll know them by their limping.¡¨
If you have seen Fiddler on the Roof, you may remember what the rabbi of a tiny Jewish community in Russia said to student who asked him concerning prayer for the Tsar of Russia. When the song ¡§Tradition¡¨ was being played, a student came up to the rabbi, the town¡¦s most important person, and asked about prayer for the powerful Tsar: ¡§Rabbi, Rabbi, may I ask you a question?¡¨ ¡§Of course,¡¨ the rabbi said. ¡§Is there a proper blessing for the Tsar?¡¨ The Rabbi said, ¡§Blessing for the Tsar? Of course. May God bless and keep the Tsar¡K.. far away from us¡¨
Nehemiah¡¦s prayer when he was despised and insulted was not nice; it was controversial but it was honest. Before you agree or disagree with Nehemiah¡¦s prayer, consider the facts. He was not on the offensive but on the defensive; he did not invite insults on his enemies, but returned insults to their owners; he did not ask for himself, but for people whose lives were endangered; and he didn¡¦t say it to his enemies but made it known to God.
The enemies used a rare word - ¡§feeble¡¨ - to describe the Jews in verse 2. It means weak, almost sick. Nehemiah dignified himself by bringing his prayer before God. When he was provoked, despised and insulted, he requested God be his defender, aggressor, and vindicator.