Nehemiah 4:1-3 (NIV) 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!”
On verses 1-3: Here some vocal critics begin to voice their complaints and hurl their insults as Nehemiah and the people rebuild the wall. What can we learn from this? As a leader, even when you do your best at the work God has called you to do, you will not please everyone. So do not be surprised if you meet your share of critics and opponents as you do the work God has called you to do. Jesus certainly did, as so did many other great leaders who have come before you – Paul, Moses, David, the list goes on. The biggest opponent to watch out for is Satan, for as Paul writes, in the end “our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against rulers, authorities, dark powers and evil spiritual forces” (Ephesians 6:12). Knowing how to deal with opposition is crucial to being an effective leader.
Nehemiah 4:4-5 (NIV) 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.
On verses 4-5: You may be taken aback by how Nehemiah is praying and asking God to strike down his enemies. But at least Nehemiah was bringing these things to God and trusting God to defend him, rather than trying to take matters into his own hands and exact revenge on his opponents. David did something similar when it came to his enemies (see Psalm 139:19-24). What can we learn from this? When you’re frustrated or angry, go to God first and be real with Him. Cast your cares about Him because He cares for you. Instead of taking matters into your own hands and seeking revenge against those who have hurt you, look first to God to be Your shield, Your defender and Your guide as to what to do.
Nehemiah 4:6-9 (NIV) 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 men 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.
On verse 6: The opposition Nehemiah and his people faced began with insults, but now it escalates to plots and threats. In response, Nehemiah and the people pray and post a guard. Likewise, when you are going about the work God has called you to do, to protect yourself against the enemy, be sure to pray and post a guard. As we like to say at Thrive, much prayer means much power, little prayer means little power, no prayer means no power. Prayer is our weapon and our shield against the enemy. Also, how do you post a guard? By spending regular time with the Lord, you increase your sensitivity to what the enemy is doing. By memorizing and storing up God’s Word in your heart, you’re able to combat lies that the enemy tries to plant in your mind. By sticking together with your church family, you protect yourself from being singled out and attacked by the enemy.
Nehemiah 4:10-14 (NIV) 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 brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
On verses 10-14: Nehemiah and the workers have managed to rebuild the wall to half its height, but there is still much work to be done and it is easier to get discouraged. The workers’ strength is giving out, enemies are getting ready to attack, and fear is setting in among the people (v10-12). In response, Nehemiah makes sure that the most vulnerable parts of the city are especially protected. Then he encourages the people to remember the Lord and to fight for their families.
What can we learn from this?
Often times the toughest part of a project is not the beginning (when you’re fresh and motivated) or nearing the end (when you can almost see the finish line). It’s when you’re right in the middle. It’s in those times that perseverance and trusting in the Lord are especially important.
When you’re feeling weak, when your strength is giving out, when the challenge in front of you seems far greater than your ability to bear, like Nehemiah says, “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome” (v14). Remember that God is greater than any problem you could ever face.
Just as Nehemiah stationed people behind the lowest points of the wall, all of us have unique weaknesses, areas where we are especially sensitive or vulnerable to attack. Be careful to protect yourself especially in those most vulnerable areas. Find Scripture verses that speak to that area of weakness and memorize them. Ask God for help in that area especially. Ask for people’s support and prayers in that area especially. Fight for yourself and your family when it comes that area of weakness.
Nehemiah 4:15-18 (NIV) 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 his 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.
On verses 15-18: Nehemiah takes several measures to protect the people against their enemies’ plots:
He gets half the people to work and half to stand guard (v16, 21)
He gets the supervisors to stand behind the workers and watch for any threats (v16-17)
Workers had materials in one hand and a weapon in the other so that they are armed as they work (v17-18)
He uses a trumpet as a sounding call to gather his workers from far away to one place to get ready to fight (v20)
He tells the people to stay inside the city at night so that they would not be vulnerable to attack and could also help stand guard (v22)
What can we learn from this? While you’re working, be on guard. Keep a spiritual sensitivity toward God throughout the day. How can you do this?
Maintain an attitude of prayer, worship and thanksgiving even as you go about your work throughout the day.
Take prayer breaks during the day (whether it’s at lunch or on a break)
Try fasting from time to time
Try memorizing Scripture on your way to work or school
Stick close to your brothers and sisters at church. Don’t let yourself be isolated, but be part of a small group where you and your family in Christ can pray for one another and find mutual encouragement and support.
Just as Nehemiah used a sounding call to bring the workers together to prepare to fight, that’s like church for us. When we gather together to worship Jesus, we are actually getting ready together to do battle against the enemy. So guard your time worshiping at church.
Always have the mentality that we need to be on guard against the enemy (v23), not letting our guard down.
Heavenly Father, thank You for showing us how important it is that we be alert and on guard against the enemy’s attacks even while we go about the work You have called us to do. May we do a good job not just of building your church but of protecting what You have already given us and allowed us to achieve. Thank You that You give us everything we need to stand up against our enemy. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!