Faith in the Face of Opposition: (Nehemiah 4) Rebuilding the Wall

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said:

He who fears the face of God does not fear the face of man. He who fears the face of man does not fear the face of God.

Throughout Scripture, people of God have faced tremendous and constant opposition. But we have a great cloud of witnesses that has gone before us and many examples to encourage our faith and apply to the times in which we live.

*This is a blog-form transcript of David Fiorazo’s message at Freedom Fellowship Church, Kaukauna, WI 9/19/2020

Today, I hope to communicate the challenge to persevere, to press in to Jesus, to seek his face and take action by doing the work He calls us to do.

America is at a tipping point and the church is reeling from relentless assaults by the enemy on Christ and His people. Attacks should not surprise us. But knowing how late the hour is, the apathy and indifference that should alarm us!

NEHEMIAH 4

How did God’s people respond to a daunting task to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in the face of threats and opposition? What strategies did Nehemiah implement and how did they prepare for battle as they continued doing God’s work?

The name Nehemiah means “Jehovah comforts.” Scholars believe the books of Nehemiah and Ezra were once one single book. They suggest the book of Nehemiah was once called “Second Ezra,” clearly drawn from Nehemiah’s personal diaries, but Ezra authored them both.

The primary theme of the book is “the hand of the Lord.”

Historical and Theological themes include:

  1. Careful attention to the reading of God’s Word in order to do His will
  2. Nehemiah’s obedience
  3. Enemy opposition
  4. The good hand of God

Nehemiah would eventually become Governor of Jerusalem, but he started out as a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes.

Our focus here will be on chapter four, but the book opens with Nehemiah receiving a sad, surprising report from Jerusalem and it grieves him to the point of tears and mourning. That lead to his great prayer:

NEHEMIAH’S PRAYER (Read Nehemiah 1:5-11)

And I said: “I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments, …10 Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. 11 O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Nehemiah 1:5, 10-11

Chapter 2 describes God’s answer to his heartfelt prayer that included favor (vs 9-10) with King Artaxerxes who okayed the mission to go inspect the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah showed great faith even after hearing enemies of God mocking the Jews:

So I answered them, and said to them, “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem.” Neh. 2:20

Chapter 3 is basically a who’s who of Jewish families and workers. Builders of the wall are listed including the repairs they did on the walls and on what section of the long city wall they did work on.

Chapter 4 So let’s pick up the story in Nehemiah 4. Enemies of God heard the people were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem under Nehemiah’s leadership; they were jealous and they were furious. The first thing they did was use the weapon of mocking. (2 Peter 3:3)

Sanballat and Tobiah ridiculed the work of God. They attempted to discourage the workers.

*Not much has changed today as far as the tactics of the enemy. If he can discourage Christians from doing things for the Lord, building up other Christians, sharing the gospel or impacting our culture and shining light in the darkness, he wins before we even get started.

Satan seeks to steal, to kill and destroy; to destroy a believer’s assurance of salvation with his weapons of doubt and discouragement.

NEHEMIAH chapter 4

Verses 1-3, Sanballat and Tobiah were first deeply disturbed when they heard a man wanted to help the people of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:10). Then they used scorn and intimidation to prevent the work from starting (Nehemiah 2:19). Now that the work had begun, they were furious and very indignant.

Discouragement is such a powerful weapon because it is somewhat the opposite of faith. Where faith believes God and His love and promises, discouragement looks for and believes the worst – and tends to pretty much forget about who God is, what His Word says, and what He has promised to do.

Critics who bring nothing but discouragement often miss what God is doing; because they don’t like the wall, they can’t believe it is God’s work.  

It’s interesting that there’s no specific commandment in Scripture for a people, a city, or a country to build a wall to protect those inside and keep people out who don’t belong. But from the book of Genesis the Bible teaches about the importance of borders; national borders, city borders, family borders.

Healthy boundaries are very important in our lives.

We are called to work, pray, build, endure, minister, speak truth – and trust God!

Hebrews 10:36-38 states:

 “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise:

37 “For yet a little while,
And He who is coming will come and will not tarry.
38 Now the just shall live by faith;
But if anyone draws back,
My soul has no pleasure in him.”

NEH 4:4-6, “Hear, O our God” Nehemiah’s response was a great example. He didn’t debate, he didn’t form a committee, he didn’t even deal with the two enemies directly. Instead, he took it to God in prayer.

For Nehemiah, prayer was a first resource, not a last resort. When times of opposition come, God wants us to rely on Him – and the purest way of expressing our reliance on God is through prayer.

Nehemiah’s prayer gave God a reason to show mercy and to come against his enemies. Nehemiah recognized that this was God’s cause, not his own.

(vs 6) So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

A mind to work is a gift from God, and no significant job will ever be accomplished until people come together. We’re divided today over not only what work in our culture needs to be done but also on how to do church.

This is exactly what Satan wants to destroy with his attacks – the mind to work. He wants to make us feel defeated, isolated, passive, or discouraged.

An important takeaway from Nehemiah’s prayer (4:4) is that Nehemiah asked God to take out his enemies; but God answered by taking care of His people.

*This is another example of how God’s ways are above our ways. He doesn’t always stop our enemies or remove us from the battle; He gives us strength to fight and endure in the battle!

Another point is the work was half finished! It was an exciting, but dangerous time; much had been done, but much was left to do. Fatigue and discouragement were ready to set in, if given an opportunity.

I’m not as much of a football fan anymore but halftime adjustments and encouragement are often more important than preparation and pre-game speeches.

 (Ne. 4:7-8) The conspiracy to attack the work.

The work of God makes the enemy of our soul angry. He must often rage against the progress being made by God’s people as we confront evil while impacting a lost world for Jesus Christ. It’s not bad to make the devil angry.

We also notice that the enemies didn’t actually attack – they just talked about it. Sanballat and Tobiah were hoping that the threat of attack would be enough. Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion…” He uses the same strategy of fear against us, and if we are paralyzed by a threat, the threat has worked – even when nothing actually happens against us.

Remember Jesus mentioned “wars and rumors of wars” as signs of the end times? What did He mean by rumors of wars? If the enemy can make you think there’s a fight coming or a bigger threat than there is, fear could get the best of you.

In some cases, they never intended to go to war.

And create confusion: This is an important strategy of Satan – to create confusion among the people of God. The enemy is the author of confusion and “father of lies.” Question: is there any confusion in the church today?

So, how did the Jews prepare for battle and defend themselves?

God allowed opposition to continue because He was delighted that His people drew closer to Him with a deeper trust than ever before. God did His perfect work both in building the walls and His people.

(vs 9) We set a guard against them day and night:

This decision sent a powerful message to the people, but also to their enemies!

When we see an area of our Christian life that needs particular attention, it isn’t enough to pray. You need to set a watch as well. Faith and actions.

But starting in verse 10 we see challenges from inside (the church) as well; discouragement among the people because the work seemed too big.

(Nehemiah 4:10) Then Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.”

The work of rebuilding the walls was not only construction, but cleaning and hauling away the rubbish. The ruins of the walls, lying in waste for 100 years

Clearing away the rubbish was not an option – it had to be done. The destroyed parts of the wall and the accumulated rubbish had to be cleared away so the walls could be rebuilt upon their foundations. If they didn’t do this, the walls wouldn’t stand at all.

In our Christian life, nothing much can be built for God’s glory unless rubbish is swept away as well. What needs to be removed from your life?

(vs 11) The challenge from the outside: the enemies plan a surprise attack.

How did God’s people respond?

(13-14) Nehemiah organizes the defense. Hold the line!

Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”

Nehemiah could have done nothing:  “Well brother, we’re just trusting in the Lord.”

How often do we hear this many situations where action was required?

Or, Nehemiah could have panicked; but what he did was to wisely and calmly trust God in the midst of the storm, and to do the wise, practical things God would have him do to obtain the victory.

WHAT WAS THE RESULT?

(Nehemiah 4:15) The enemies shrink back.

And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work.

(Vs 16-18) The sword and the trowel.

So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah. Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me.

Takeaway: Christians need to be armed with the same attitude today. Prepared.

(By the way, the walls were restored and rebuilt in about 52 days!)

We need to be always ready, always clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, always wearing the armor of God, ready for that final trumpet blast that will gather us together with our LORD.

In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye – we wait for the blessed hope. And His appearing may be much sooner than we think. We’ve got work to do friends. This is no time to shrink back or hunker down. Prepare for battle!

“Open war is upon you whether you would risk it or not.”

Don’t isolate… infiltrate! Fight the good fight of faith – in Christ – for truth.

Close with Ephesians 6:10-18

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