Further Opposition to the Rebuilding
6 When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates— 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages[a] on the plain of Ono.” But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.
5 Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter 6 in which was written:
“It is reported among the nations—and Geshem[b] says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king 7 and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us meet together.”
8 I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” 9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”
But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” 10 One day I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was shut in at his home. He said, “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you—by night they are coming to kill you.” 11 But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” 12 I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me. 14 Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophet Noadiah and how she and the rest of the prophets have been trying to intimidate me. 15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.
Opposition to the Completed Wall
16 When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.
“How Determined Are You To Rebuild?”
Rebuilding is not easy. Rebuilding is a challenge. Rebuilding takes perseverance and determination. Rebuilding takes focus. Rebuilding takes courage.
In this passage of scripture, we see Nehemiah being confronted with several challenges…
Continual taunts from the enemy…
Nehemiah had been working now on rebuilding this wall for years. He was leading the exiles in the rebuilding process. He was fighting against taunts from folks who criticized, mocked and threatened his very life. The people he was leading struggled to continue to have faith. They had experienced some level of success, but the work still had not been completed.
Enemies were telling the workers that it was no use. They tried to convince them that the success that they had already experienced was nothing. They made fun of their “wall.” But Nehemiah was undaunted. He refused to listen to their jokes, their lies, their discouraging words. How did he do it? Verse 3 declares…
But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?”Nehemiah was convinced that he was doing a GREAT work. In order to remain determined, you must realize that you are carrying on a GREAT work. You must know in the core of your being that what God has called you to do is great. Nothing great is ever easily accomplished. Nothing great ever happens over night. That which is great takes time. That which is great takes hard work. That which is great takes perseverance.
So often we allow the enemy to defeat us and we give up before a great work is accomplished because we ourselves don’t grasp what God is doing. We become so focused upon what we don’t see, what we don’t have, what others are saying that we embrace those discouraging thoughts and attitudes into our way of thinking.
Nehemiah refused to come down. He wouldn’t even engage them. He didn’t listen to them. He refused to stop working. Make up your mind not to even engage in conversations, discussions, even thoughts that go against the work that God has given you to do.
There are those who don’t want to see you succeed. There are those who will do everything in their power to dissuade you, discourage you, make you afraid, try to make you think that your endeavors are an exercise in futility. But you have to have the courage, the discipline and the determination to push past all of that and keep on climbing, keep on moving, keep on building. Misery loves company and sometimes people want you to stay defeated and down because they are defeated and down.
Remember that God is calling you to higher ground. Sometimes defeating and discouraging words will come from unexpected places. Sometimes folks right in your family or your so-called closest friend will speak discouraging words to hold you back. “Are you sure that you can do that? Don’t you think you ought to do something less demanding? You’ve already tried to do that once, why don’t you just give that up. Maybe it’s not God’s will for you.” Sometimes people are afraid to be left behind and yet they have little or no motivation to join the moving forward or rebuilding process, so instead of truly trying to help you move up, they are working to keep you down with them. But God is calling you to rebuild and move on up.
They sent Nehemiah the same message four times! Sanballat, Tobiah and the others used this same tactic before. In chapter four, they told the people 10 times that their work was futile and that they could not do it. They told them over and over that they needed to give up on their vision and stop rebuilding. Some of the people stopped focusing upon what God said, and began to focus upon what the enemy said. They began to focus on the difficulty of the work. They started believing that the work was impossible – listen – they were already halfway done! They had already halfway completed what seemed impossible! They were well on their way! But they began to get tired. They began to look at the rubble. They began to allow fear to consume them. They allowed the enemy’s words to discourage and begin to defeat them.
But Nehemiah was undaunted. He refused to come down. He told them, “I am doing a great work and can’t go down…why should I stop and come down to you?”
Nehemiah was determined to keep moving forward no matter what the enemy was saying.
In this chapter we see Nehemiah time and time again refusing to let the enemy stop him from finishing the work God gave him to do.
The text does not tell us, but no doubt Nehemiah had discouraging days. No doubt he had days when he wondered if he would ever complete the work. But with dogged determination, Nehemiah just kept on building.
He prayed, “Lord, strengthen my hands.” (vs. 9)
When Nehemiah felt himself getting weak, he prayed for the Lord to strengthen his hands. As we move ahead doing a “great work,” there will be times when our “hands,” our resolve, our will becomes weak. The good news is that we can call upon the Lord to strengthen us to continue the endeavor assigned to our hands. God will give us what we need to keep moving ahead.
refused to engage them
refused to come down
knew the voice of God and God’s character
When Nehemiah’s enemies came with false accusations, fear tactics and warnings that the Lord was not leading him, Nehemiah responded…
11 But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should someone like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” 12 I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me.Sometimes in the throws of discouragement, we can begin to question our direction. But Nehemiah realized that God had not spoken but it was still tactics of the enemy.
We must stay prayed up. We must keep looking up. We must know God’s character such that we can distinguish false “prophecies” from God’s directives. “I heard the Lord say that you need to stop that and move on to a new thing…I heard the Lord say that you are going in the wrong direction…I heard the Lord say that you need to come and talk to us…”
Nehemiah realized that God did not send them, enemies sent them. Nehemiah also knew that his reputation was on the line.
When you give up on what God has commissioned you to do, you not only ruin your good name, but you allow the enemy to speak against our God. “See, I knew he or she couldn’t do it…see, what kind of God do they serve? He couldn’t deliver on his promises…see look at how they gave up…” Nehemiah understood that his work was a testimony.
Yes, there are times when the Lord says this season or that season has ended and it is time to shift focus. Be sure, however, it is the Lord and not the discouragement of enemies that is causing you to stop. Nehemiah discerned that it was not God speaking, but enemies trying to thwart his progress.
Naysayers will always stand on the sidelines and tell you what you can’t and shouldn’t do. But we have to take our marching orders from the LORD! We have to be discerning and open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We have to ask the Lord to lead us in whose help we will accept and have the courage to trust Him, moving ahead even if it appears impossible. God is with us. Rebuild by faith.
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Until next Wednesday,
In Faith, Hope and Perseverance,