Summary: When a leader knows, through prayer and the confirmation of God’s people, that he is in the will of God, he must defend his plan against ungodly opposition.
One of the great lessons we get from the book of Nehemiah is that opposition is not a onetime deal. It would be nice if we could just deal with opposition once and be done with it, wouldn’t it? But we can’t. Because as long as we are doing the work that God calls us to do, we will have to face opposition. Our passage tonight is the second time that Nehemiah has to face opposition. But notice that it’s only the first time that the people are facing it with Nehemiah as their leader. I would say that nothing will discourage people quicker than when their leader deals with opposition the wrong way. If a leader becomes frustrated and worried by opposition, the people will lose heart. If a leader blows up and rants and raves about the opposition, the people lose respect. If a leader backs down and gives in to opposition, the people lose their leader. Now, I want you to remember what kind of leader Nehemiah is. Because we get confused about leadership these days, it’s important to remember where we’ve been. Where did Nehemiah’s burden for leadership come from? It came from God. He was living a comfortable life with a cushy job, hundreds of miles away from Jerusalem. But the fact that the wall was down bothered him. He didn’t get an angelic message from God. He didn’t see a burning bush. He didn’t hear a voice from heaven. He just was bothered by the fact that Jerusalem was in bad shape. He was so bothered that he sent his brother with a team of people in to investigate. When they brought back the report, it was worse than Nehemiah thought. Our impression of leadership would be for Nehemiah to immediately ride into Jerusalem to take charge and fix it. Get rid of all the riff raff in town, lay down the law, take charge and get something done. But not Nehemiah. Remember that he prayed and fasted about the burden to make sure that it was what God would have him to do. And after four months of focused, concentrated prayer, God opened up a door for him to walk through. That was confirmation, right? It was—but it was only partial confirmation. He knew that he was supposed to walk through the door of opportunity and head to Jerusalem. He knew that he was supposed to fully develop the plans for how to fix the problem. He knew that he was supposed to communicate the plan to the people. At that point, he was not supposed to jump right in and start barking orders to the people. He wasn’t riding into town like Patton or Sherman or MacArthur would have. He still had to make sure the people were on board. If they weren’t on board, he couldn’t have done anything except go back to praying. That’s why he had to effectively communicate the plan to them. And, like we talked about last week, he did. And when he effectively communicated the plan to them, he had complete confidence that he was completely in God’s will because the people responded to him. They agreed with him that they needed to rebuild the wall. They said, “Let us rise up and build.” And they did. “They strengthened their hands for this good work.” So what is Nehemiah’s mindset at this point? He felt the burden. He prayed about the burden. The circumstances he experienced were favorable to get started fixing the burden. He made a detailed plan about how to fix the burden. And finally, the people agreed with him and initially rallied around his leadership. Do you think that was confirmation that his plan was of God? Do you think that he had peace that his plan was in God’s will? Of course he did. He had complete confidence that he and the people were in line with what God wanted them to do. Don’t underestimate that. Because that is what determines how we react to opposition when it comes. If Nehemiah hadn’t gone through each of those steps, he might not have known for sure that he was doing the right thing. And if he didn’t know that he was doing what God wanted him to do, how do you think he would have reacted to opposition when it came? “Well, since we’re facing difficulties, it must mean that God’s not really in it.” “Since we’re facing difficulties, I might not be the man for this job.” “Since we’re facing difficulties, maybe we’d just better quit till things cool down a bit.” But if Nehemiah would have reacted any of those ways, he would have been out of God’s will. God’s will was for His name to be glorified. And it was His will to be glorified by his children, the Jews. And the only way His name would be glorified through them is if they were no longer a reproach to Him. And the only way they would no longer be a reproach to Him would be if they would get Jerusalem fixed. Nehemiah understood that more than anyone. He understood that because he had laid the proper ground work. Or should I say that he laid the proper knee work. It had taken him nearly a year of preparation and prayer to get to this point. Because of that he knew that he was doing the right thing. And because of that confidence, he was able to face the opposition head on.