From Nehemiah 4-6
During Nehemiah’s struggle there were many different voices trying to distract him from what he should have been doing. He persevered. What are the voices we listen to today? Who distracts us from the LORD’s service?
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
When Nehemiah begins the restoration of the wall he gets some unwanted notice.
4 Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. 2 And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” (Neh 4.1-3)
Im starting to think we have come a long way in insulting people. They call the Jews ‘feeble’. They suggest the wall will be so flimsy that if a fox ran up it it would fall over. Sanballat and Tobiah must have been very close by for them to be overheard like this. Perhaps they were in their face insulting them as they rebuilt the wall. In response Nehemiah prays to the LORD as we should do when persecuted.
4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. 5 Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders. 6 So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. (Neh 4.4-6)
Sometimes God’s people can petition the LORD to forgive (Lk 23.34; Acts 7.60). God’s people are commanded to forgive (Mk 6.14-15). But here, it seems Nehemiah is not in a forgiving mood. Its hard to forgive people who are still in your face ridiculing you and threatening violence. He asks the LORD not to cover their guilt or have their sin blotted out. His request implies something about the LORD’s character. Nehemiah implicitly acknowledges the LORD has a tendency to overlook peoples sin (e.g. Acts 14.16; 17.30). Nehemiah realises this and seeks to prevent it from happening because of the way they are treating him and the workers.
7 But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. 8 And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. 9 And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night. (Neh 4.7-9)
The opposition intensifies. Nehemiah and the Jews seek the LORD’s protection.
10 In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” 11 And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” 12 At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.” (Neh 4.10-12)
Surrounding these Jews and competing for their attention are the voices of some in Judah, their enemies and the Jews in other locations. Who are they going to listen to? Is anyone supporting them?
13 So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14 And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “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 homes.” (Neh 4.13-14)
Nehemiah knuckles down and rallies the people. They centre themselves by remembering the LORD. Who he is, his character and what he has done for them. They are to remember they fight for their families and their homes.
Story of Israel
Nehemiah and the workers struggle in building the wall is not the only time God’s people have been oppressed by hostiles. Psalm 124 is associated with David and the persecutions he faced.
1 If it had not been the LORD who was on our side—let Israel now say—2 if it had not been the LORD who was on our sidewhen people rose up against us,3 then they would have swallowed us up alive,when their anger was kindled against us;4 then the flood would have swept us away,the torrent would have gone over us;5 then over us would have gonethe raging waters.6 Blessed be the LORD,who has not given usas prey to their teeth!7 We have escaped like a birdfrom the snare of the fowlers;the snare is broken,and we have escaped!8 Our help is in the name of the LORD,who made heaven and earth. (Ps 124:1–8)
We need the LORD’s help. When facing trouble, distress and opposition call out to him as his people have been doing for thousands of years.
Story of Jesus
During Nehemiah’s struggle there were many different voices trying to distract him from what he should have been doing. He persevered. What are the voices we listen to today? Who distracts us from the LORD’s service? Hear the message of Hebrews.
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Heb 12:1–11)
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.