A. V1, Sanballat the governor of Samaria was furious and very indignant when he found out that the Jews had actually begun working on the wall, despite his previous threats and scoffs.
1. “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” David Guzik, Study Guide for Nehemiah 4
B. V2, Sanballat and his gang had started by laughing and deriding the Jews for doing this, and even hinting at claiming rebellion on the part of the Jews. Now though, they know that their previous threats were not enough to stop them from starting the work, the next weapon of choice is discouragement.
1. Continued mocking and scoffing from critics wears on you, especially when their mocking has a bit of truth in it. It was true that they couldn’t build it in a day and it was true that they were feeble. “Will they fortify themselves?” Is saying what good will walls do to protect such a weak and feeble peoples. “Will they offer sacrifices?” Are they going to offer sacrifices and expect that God will magically build the walls for them? This was not only a hit at them, but it was a hit at God since the Jews had a very unique religion in comparison to the surrounding nations. They made fun of the materials they had to use to build the wall, burnt rubble. This was scoffing, and the scoffing that discourages the most is when there is a lot of truth in what someone is mocking you for.
C. V3, Even if a little fox jumps up on their wall his weight will be enough to take the whole thing down. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you even finish the wall or not…. It will be so poorly built and weak that a fox has enough strength to knock it down.
D. Satan will use threats and derision to attempt to prevent us from doing a work for the Lord, if that doesn’t work and we actually set our hands to the work of the Lord he will attempt to use discouragement to stop us. There might even be a little bit of truth in this discouragement. Satan might tell you that you’re a sinner and are not worthy to serve God, that’s true… I am a sinner and am not worthy to serve God. That should not stop me though, because I am forgiven and it is only by the grace of God that I can serve God anyway. Expect discouragement when you set to work for the Lord.
III. 4:4-6, Nehemiah reacts with prayer, then responds with practicality.
A. Here we see a prayer commentary by Nehemiah. This is why I think this book was kept as a journal throughout the work, since it seems as though this was written in the present tense while describing a past tense situation. The writing goes from third person to first person in the form of a prayer.
B. V4, Nehemiah responds to the discouragement with prayer, and basically asks God to fight for them. He asks that God would do to them what they intend to do to the Jews and that He would turn their words and their actions back on themselves.
1. “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.” David Guzik, Study Guide for Nehemiah 4
C. V5, Nehemiah prays some pretty intense prayers. I do not think we should pray the same prayers as Nehemiah, since Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies, to bless and not to curse. Even Nehemiah wasn’t perfect and didn’t have the same heart that God had, yet God used him. He did not know the heart of God, which is understandable since this is something that Jesus came to reveal and had yet to come at this point. It is good to make God your advocate and leave vengeance in His hands, but it is not good to pray curses on your enemies, Nehemiah may not have prayed the perfect thing…. But he did the right thing by praying in the first place.
Either way though reacting in prayer is a good idea when we encounter discouragement, especially praying for those who come against us and putting the fight into the hands of the Lord.
1. “Oh, our God” What Nehemiah does is he comes before the Lord to advocate that these men are not just the enemies of Israel but they are the enemies of the Lord God Himself. “They have provoked You to anger” By scoffing and mocking and discouraging the children of God you mock and scoff God. When you sin against a child of God you sin against God Himself.
D. V6, Apparently praying for Nehemiah worked both for him and for the people, since it says in the next verse that they built the wall and joined it together up to half its height.
1. “The people had a mind to work” if you are going to get something done you have to have a mind to work, and not just you but everyone who is working with you. The people had a mind to work so they were getting things done pretty quickly. The whole point of Satan sending discouragement was to destroy their mind to work. If you or the people you work with don’t have a mind to work, pray more.
2. “The immediate answer to the prayer made no difference in the enemies. The prayer was answered in the people of God doing the work. Nehemiah’s prayer asked God to take care of his enemies, and God answered by taking care of His people. We often miss God’s answer of our prayers, because we pray for Him to do a work in the lives of others we are in conflict with – and He answers by moving in our lives, but we resist that moving. It is as if He tried to give us a mind to work in a situation, but we resisted it.” Study Guide for Nehemiah 4, David Guzik.
IV. 4:7-9 Violent Opposition
A. V7, When you can’t be stopped with words wicked men will often turn to violence. The more success that Israel was having the more angry Sanballat and his allies became. By this point they are ready to take matters into their own hands… even though this is a very illegal action on their part.
B. V8, Their main objective was to create confusion. First comes derision, then comes discouragement, then Satan will attempt to create confusion, and by force if necessary. For the wall to be built it would need to continue to be done so in an orderly fashion, if Sanballat could create confusion amongst the workers through fear of the sword or if he could kill the leaders then the work would stop.
a) We must guard against confusion, and keep the works of the Lord orderly. Fear will cause confusion, so we must guard against fear as well.
C. V9, Here we see once again the combination of prayer first then practicality. Despite the very real danger that they were in and the very real enemies that were conspiring against them they made their prayers to God, no doubt prayers of protection and help, then set a watch night and day.
1. We are starting to see a pattern, opposition, prayer, reaction to opposition. When Satan opposes us we need to turn to prayer first, then after prayer we need to very practically meet that opposition. Sometimes God takes care of it just through prayer, other times He wants to answer that pray through us. I think we can learn from Nehemiah to be great people of prayer, but then also great administrators after prayer.
2. “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 – give special attention and accountability to that area of your life until you are walking in consistent victory. Our prayers do not replace our actions; they make our actions effective for God’s work.” David Guzik, Study Guide for Nehemiah 4
V. 4:10-15, Overwhelming Opposition, within and without.
A. If Satan can’t stop us by mocking us, or discouraging us, or confusing us, he will then try to overwhelm us… attacking us from all sides within and without. This is especially true when we are at the half way point, as was the builders of the walls.
B. V10, Judah is starting to want to give up. The people are starting to fatigue and there is still an overwhelming amount of rubbish. They feel like they are not able, this isn’t true… they are able since they end up finishing it… they just feel like they are not able. Just because something feels impossible doesn’t mean that it is.
1. “Judah was supposed to be the strongest, bravest tribe. It was the tribe of great kings and ultimately, the Messiah Himself. It was a special challenge and a discouragement to have this word come from the tribe of Judah.” David Guzik, Study Guide for Nehemiah 4
C. V11, There is still a threat and a plan for their opposition from without to physically attack and kill them. Their objective was to cause the work to cease but their plan rested on a surprise attack since they said “They will neither know nor see anything”.
D. V12, “they told us ten times” The Jews that had dwelt near them came and reported the plans of Sanballat and his allies, in fact they seemed to report it ten times. Being that they told Nehemiah 10 times it indicates a state of panic on the part of the informants. The information was not very encouraging, only that they will attack from all sides. Tactically this was smart on Sanballats part since he knew the Jews were few and would have difficulty protecting the entire perimeter.
E. V13, Nehemiah doesn’t join in on the panic. A good leader responds to bad information calmly so that way he can put a plan into motion. We need to be on watch from being set into a panic and overreacting or reacting purely out a panic, our response to the attacks of the enemy must be well and rationally administered. Nehemiah placed people by their families, near to those whom they would fight the hardest with and probably the most organized with and equipped them with all the weapons they would need, sword, spear and bow.
F. V14, Nehemiah equips the people with more then just physical weapons though, he encourages the people to remember the Lord and then gives them the reasons they are fighting for, reasons as to why they should fight to the bitter end.
1. “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome” How can we not be afraid, especially when we our very lives are in danger? Remember the Lord. Remember who the Lord is and that He has promised to be with us, God had delivered his people in battle before and He could do it again, but they had to remember Him, they had to put their trust in Him. The Lord is great and awesome, He is capable of helping them defeat their enemies.
2. “Fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses”. People have to have something to fight for or else they will quickly demoralize. I can think of nothing better to fight for, to defend your brethren, your family, and your houses. I think physical defense is Biblical if it is for these reasons. Christians shouldn’t be war mongers, and we should seek peace with our enemies and submit to authorities, but if it comes to defending your family I believe from physical attacks I believe that is ok, and more so it is our duty.
G. V15, “God had brought their plot to nothing” It wasn’t Nehemiah’s excellent administration skills, his courage, his inspiring words, or anything else other than God who brought their plot to nothing. Nehemiah keeps giving God the glory, because it is God who did it, even if He used human instruments to do so. When God uses us we must keep in mind that it is He who does it, even though He often works through human instruments. After this crisis the people return to work, yet as we will see next week they do so even more prepared than before.
1. “When we are under spiritual attack it is easy to feel that just enduring the storm is the victory. It isn’t. The attack often comes to prevent your progress and work for the Lord. Victory is enduring the attack and continuing the progress and work for the Lord.” David Guzik, Study Guide for Neheimah 4
A. Satan will use mockery and threats to try to stop us from stepping out to do God’s work. If that doesn’t work he will try to discourage us. The best response to discouragement is to pray then set up a watch against attacks. After that it is often the tactic of the enemy to overwhelm us, from without and within. Once again our response should be to pray, then take practical steps to overcome the obstacles. In the end, once we have victory we must continue to do the work of the Lord.