Summary: We stand firm and do the work of God, not discouraged by ridicule, intimidation and threats, because God is with us and we are doing God's will.
Last week we saw the beautiful picture of the people of God coming together to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem – people of different skills and occupations, young and old, men and women – all having to stop their usual work and take up the work of God.
• There is unity in the diversity. Never mind the differences in talents, skills or age, everyone participated together to see that the work is done and God’s Name glorified.
• This is a beautiful picture of the church, the Body of Christ, with different members of the Body doing different things, covering different segments of the work but working together as one people.
As expected, we see oppositions to God’s work. Nehemiah 4.
• Any genuine work of God will be opposed, naturally, by the godless as well as evil One.
• They are not necessarily always the same. Don’t have to blame the devil for everything. The godless will also oppose God.
• We are going to see the enemies’ attempt at stopping them, with ridicule, intimidation and threat. And it grows in intensity, from discouraging words to plots to kill them.
Let’s read Neh 4:1-6.
The enemies were not new. They were there in Neh 2 when the plan was announced.
• Now they were really angry because the work has started, despite their initial mockery.
• They just returned with greater zeal, taunting them with more ridicule.
• Neh 4:2 “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?”
The questions are directed at making you think, just in one direction – that you are too weak, too small a group, too incapable of doing such a thing.
• RIDICULE is the simplest way to discourage a person and get him to give up. It hits at the mind. It belittles you.
• And these words need not be wrong. They were indeed an inexperience lot, at least most of them, and even Nehemiah himself.
• We have in the workforce priests (3:1), perfume-makers (3:8), goldsmiths (3:8), merchants (3:31), and all of them led by a cupbearer.
• They might be right but this has nothing to do with their abilities or capabilities or skills. It has to do with God and His will. It is the work of God!
Tobiah’s mockery was even more graphic: "What they are building - if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!" (4:3)
• They were feeble Jews building a shabby wall. Even women were roped in to do manual labour. What can they really achieve?
• Precisely, if you look at it only from the human level.
Nehemiah was driven instead by the will of God for His people and for Jerusalem.
• He did not respond to them. He did not argue, debate or retaliate. He prayed.
• He ignored them and talked to God. Basically saying this: “Lord, you’ve heard what they say. Judge them accordingly.” Calling the perfect Judge to judge.
And after that? Neh 4:6 “So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.”
• He ignored them and went back to work. The people continued to work on the wall with all their heart.
• That’s their focus and that’s where they put their heart into.
Shakespeare calls ridicule the ‘paper bullets of the brain’. They hit at your mind, at how you think, but they are actually ‘paper bullets’.
• Ridicule cannot harm us if we do not allow it to. Words can kill, people says. It hurts and it discourages. But we can choose NOT to take in the poison.
• We cannot stop the mocking and scorning but we can choose not to be distracted by it.
We don’t want to be disturbed by the words of men. We choose to listen to the truth of God’s Word and be led by it.
• We don’t press the playback button and meditate on the words of men, and suffer sleepless nights over them.
• We take delight in the Word of God and meditate on it day and night. Blessed is that man, Psalm 1 says.
Read Neh 4:7-15.
The enemies were very angry when they heard that the repairs to the walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed. They began to resort to INTIMIDATION.
• They plotted together to fight Jerusalem and stirred up trouble against it. They planned to sabotage the work.
Note the size of the threat. Besides Sanballat, Tobiah and the Arabs (Geshem), now we have a new player – the men of Ashdod. (Ashdod is at West in Philistia.)