-When Sanballat heard the news that God’s people were rebuilding the wall in Jerusalem, “he became furious and very angry and mocked the Jews.” He spread his hatred and venom in the presence of his brothers and the wealthy of Samaria saying, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore it for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day? Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble even the burned ones?” An Ammonite by the name of Tobiah was near him and further exclaimed in denunciation of the work, “Even what they are building—if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down (Nehemiah 4:1-3)!” Jealousy, hatred, wrath, mockery, and disdain sum up these enemies from without.
-Nehemiah pleaded with God upon hearing these insults and defamation, “Hear, O our God, how we are despised! Return their reproach on their own heads and give them up for plunder in a land of captivity. Do not forgive their iniquity and let not their sin be blotted out before You, for they have demoralized the builders.” Despite the obvious challenges, the work went on, and the wall was built to half of its original height, joined together, “for the people had a mind to work.” When Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard of the progress that was being made to the walls and how the breaches were beginning to be closed for the protection of this city, they were “very angry.” They conspired together as a result to come and fight against Jerusalem for the purpose of disturbance in it (Nehemiah 4:4-8).
-But, Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem “prayed to our God,” and set up a guard against their foes day and night. However, rumors of discouragement began to circulate within as well. It was said in Judah, “The strength of the burden bearers is failing, yet there is much rubbish; and we ourselves are unable to rebuild the wall.” They also repeated the threatening and relentless words of their enemies, “They will not know or see until we come among them, kill them and put a stop to the work.” Nehemiah was getting reports that the enemies were boldly planning to come up and surround the city so that the inhabitants could not flee in any direction. Because of this, Nehemiah stationed men in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, “the exposed places.” He stationed them in family units with their weapons of war at hand: swords, spears, and bows. Nehemiah, who was now taking the mantle of military general, discerned the understandable fear in his nobles, officials, and the rest of the people. So he spoke courageously and with great inspiration and faith to them, “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses (Nehemiah 4:9-14).” Nehemiah continued to show his rising stardom as a leader for God’s people in a desperate time of need. The LORD’s plan was proceeding forward despite many obstacles.
-When their enemies heard that the Jews knew about their intentions to attack the city and that God had frustrated their plans, they refrained from their aims, thus the people of Jerusalem went back to work on the wall, each one doing his or her part. From that day on they worked with half of the servants tending to the wall and the other half guarding the city equipped for a fight with spears, shields, bows, and breastplates. In fact, the captains of the whole house of Judah were in support militarily. Even those working on the wall held a weapon with one hand or girded one at their side while they labored. And, the trumpeter was never far from Nehemiah to alert all with the sound of command. If the sound of attack from the trumpet was heard across the city, the people were instructed to rally to where an attack was occurring. This demonstrated forethought and preparation in the case of opposition. But, they acknowledged where their real help came from when Nehemiah exclaimed, “Our God will fight for us.” So they carried on the work undaunted with vigilance and tenacity from dawn until the stars appeared every day. One further thing was noted in the text regarding all the servants, who were instructed to spend the night within Jerusalem as continuous guards by night and laborers in the day. These, along with Nehemiah and those who followed him as brothers, servants, and men of the guard, did not even remove their clothes taking their weapons even to the water for drinks and purification (Nehemiah 4:15-23). The point is, they were always alert and ready.
*Application* Anything God calls us to do will have opposition. This is the essence of spiritual warfare that we see in the passage today. There will be enemies from outside trying to distract, mock, threat, and discourage. There will also be fears from within and doubts when our eyes of faith aren’t quite what they should be. Nehemiah provides us with incredible leadership principles to note from this narrative. He does not back down from the challenges, he inspires his people, he carefully considers situations and develops a viable plan with vigilance, and he counts on his God in total and unyielding faith. We can do that too as God raises us up to the mantle of leadership, wherever it may be.
Verses to Memorize: Nehemiah 4:15, 20