Read Nehemiah 4
Opposition to the Rebuilding
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—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!”
4 Hear us, 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.
6 So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.
7 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. 8 They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. 9 But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.
10 Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”
11 Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.”
12 Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.”
13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
15 When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work.
16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, 18 and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.
19 Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”
21 So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. 22 At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and as workers by day.” 23 Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.
As if rebuilding the wall weren’t hard enough, Nehemiah encountered a new problem: the Samaritans and Ammonites. The Israelites had overthrown the Samaritans and Ammonites when they escaped from Egypt. Not only were the Jews back in town, they were rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem to defend the city and the temple. Sanballet and Tobiah, leaders of these groups, did what scared and threatened people do to make themselves feel strong—they ridiculed the Jews. They also realized the Jews were busy building, and this would be a great time to attack, so they gathered the troops for battle.
While this would have been an appropriate time to panic, Nehemiah did something else: he prayed and prepared. He recruited guards, equipped every worker with a knife, and developed a plan of defense. Even when the Jews fussed and fretted, Nehemiah called for them to focus: “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes” (v. 14).
When met with adversity, how do we respond? Do we panic and persist in anxiety, like the Jews in today’s story? Luke 12:25 reminds us that anxiety is an empty offer: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Do we ridicule and retaliate, like the Samaritans and Ammonites? In Luke 6:27-28, Jesus commands us, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Do we sit back in apathy and hope for the best? 1 John 3:18 urges us: “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth.”
So what are we to do? We are to follow Nehemiah’s example to pray and prepare. We are to shift our focus from the fear and failure to God and the good. Philippians 4:6-7 promises, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
- What is your default response to adversity? Does this response result in glorifying God?
- What is one challenge or area of difficulty you are dealing with today?
- How can you pray and prepare in this situation
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