God Said To Build The Wall - Part III
In the first segment of this series, we explored the reasons why the wall and gates were essential to Jerusalem, and the second piece described the many oppositions to building the wall. Now we’ll look at the ways that Nehemiah reacted to that opposition.
People cannot control what happens to them, but they do choose how they react based on what they believe. When Nehemiah heard that the people of Jerusalem were in danger and disgraced, he mourned, fasted, and prayed. He prayed night and day repenting and asking God to forgive their sins that originally led to their defeat and captivity. He also claimed the promise of God (Isa. 11:10-12) that if they would turn back to Him, He would bring them back to Jerusalem. He also prayed that God would give him favor with King Artaxerxes so he would grant him time to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and gates, and provide letters of safe conduct to Jerusalem and the wood to build the gates. By the mercy and grace of God, the king granted all of these requests.
When Sanballat and Tobiah mocked and ridiculed them and accused them of rebelling against the king, Nehemiah told them that God would help. And since they were not part of God’s people, Sanballat and Tobiah had no right or historical claim to share in the work or the land.
When they actually started building, Sanballat was very angry; he called them weak and criticized the quality of their work. In response Nehemiah did not deny the reality of the situation, but he prayed and asked God to turn their insults back on them and to deal with their sins because not only were they fighting against God’s people, they were also fighting against God and His plan.
When the Jews were warned that their enemies were going to sneak up on them while they were working so they could kill them (Neh. 4:7-8, 11), Nehemiah and his people again prayed to seek advice and direction from God, and he reminded them that God was greater and He should be honored, reverenced, and worshipped more than their circumstances (Phil. 4:4; I Thess. 5:18). He directed them to arm themselves and their families, and keep working (Neh. 4:13-14). They also set up a system that if one place was attacked, they would blow a trumpet so others could come and help them (Neh. 4:19-20).
They also had opposition from their own people. Some of the Jews were taking advantage of fellow Jews by charging interest to those who were having financial problems and had to borrow money, and when the borrower could not pay the debt they either took their land or forced some of their family into slavery (Neh. 5:1-5). Since this was against the Mosaic law (Ex. 22:25), Nehemiah put a stop to it and had the land returned and the slaves released (Neh. 5:6-11).
When they had finished the wall (but had not yet built the gates), Sanballat and Geshem asked Nehemiah four times to meet with them about twenty miles from Jerusalem where they intended to kill him.
Since there was no reason to discuss God’s work with them, and it would slow things down, Nehemiah refused. Then they sent an open letter that was read publicly that attacked Nehemiah’s motives saying he only wanted to build the wall so he could declare himself king of Jerusalem. Nehemiah denied the charges and prayed that God would continue to help them (Neh. 6:8-9).
Then Shemaiah prophesied to Nehemiah that someone was going to come in the night to kill him and that he should seek refuge in the temple. But God showed Nehemiah that he was a false prophet because what he told him to do was against the Word of God, and that Sanballat and Tobiah had hired him hoping God would kill Nehemiah for entering the temple since he was not a priest, or that doing so would undermine the confidence of the people, and they would stop working. Nehemiah then prayed that God would judge those who were prophesying for money.
So Nehemiah repeatedly showed how believers are supposed to react to opposition from the enemy. Each time, no matter the number of times or the intensity of the attacks, Nehemiah was successful because he continually asked for and followed the help of the Lord.