Nehemiah Pt 5: In the Face of Opposition 


Nehemiah 4                 
Whenever I read a passage of scripture I like to consider the passage and ask myself a question. 

’What does this mean for me?’

If I’m honest, I don’t really get a lot from those bible passages, particularly in the Old Testament, where there are quite a few lists of genealogies, lists of instructions on how to prepare offerings, Levitical rules etcetera.
I find I get a lot more from narratives where I feel there is an application that I should think about and ask,

How does this apply to me?

Theologians use some grandiose words for this sort of study.
Looking at the meaning intended by the writer for the time, people and the culture in which it was written they call hermeneutics.
And when we try to apply the interpretation of the passage to everyday circumstances they call it exegesis.
I must admit I enjoy the latter much more, because I want to try and discover an application that helps me with my journey with God through this life today, now.  I believe this is why we have these in the Bible 
Romans 15:4 For everything written in the past was written to teach us..                     I Cor 10:6 Now these things occurred as examples...
 So Nehemiah not only tells us a story about how the Jews returned from exile to rebuild what was left of Jerusalem but also offers us one of those stories that make us think.
Now, Chrissie concluded her brief talk 2 weeks ago with a question. What are the walls we’re building? For Nehemiah, very simplistically we would say.....well obviously they were building the walls that were broken down after they had been taken off into exile many years before. Why had they been broken down? .....because of what Moses had warned the people about before they even entered the promised land,
‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands..... I will gather them from the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name (Chapter1v8,9)
So now here in Chapter 4 the rebuilding is in progress. But let’s ask ourselves a question.......
Is there anything you have been charged to rebuild in your life that God has prompted you to do?
Here’s something of what I feel we can learn from this short study that we can apply to our own unique calling from God.
I say unique, because although others like yourselves may have a similar desire to take part in the same project, the part you alone play not only counts but is special......Something only you are called to do.......Similarly, every member and each family were assigned their own special section of the wall to work upon.
So what has this passage said to me? I feel it says something like this.
When we are called to do something for God, 10 things......

  1. Expect opposition. (4v1)  When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed......Satan will use every means possible to try and stop you being effective for God. So don’t be surprised when this happens.
  2. Expect mocking (4v1 and 3) He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?”....Satan knows that our old human natures are very susceptible to ridicule that may cause us to react in a way that we regret.
  3. Expect conflict (4v 8) But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.....Invariably we can expect opposition in some form or other, just as Jesus did. (4v 9)...but we prayed!
  4. You can easily feel you want to give up (4v10) Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”....Too easily we begin to think and believe that the task is too big for us....the ‘what’s the point?’ syndrome.
  5. Expect discouragement (4v 12) Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.”....What is particularly distressing is that this so often emanates from friends or those close to us.
  6. Guard the vulnerable places (4v 13) I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows.....families for us are not necessarily natural families, but apply similarly to the church family we are part of.
  7. Press on with the task (4v 15) When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own other words, don’t stop whilst you sort out the problems!
  8. Rally to help those who are struggling. (4v 19-20) Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”....we are in God’s work together!
  9. Link strategies with others. (4v 22) At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and as workers by day.” Isn’t that what we are trying to do by building community groups?
  10. Never believe the spiritual is separate from the secular (4v17-18) Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he often we segregate our working lives from our church lives. We remain Christians just as much from Monday to Saturday as we do when we are at church. Our behaviour and our thinking should be identical. We need to involve God just as much in the everyday as we do when we attend a Sunday service.
Can you recall experiencing these things happening to you when you knew God was calling you to do something that counted for his Kingdom?
Here’s something we feel God is calling us all to build
  • We as an eldership believe that God has called us to try to work and build into our communities so as to reveal something of God’s Kingdom in this needy society in which we live. All of us want to do something which counts.
  • All of us want to be able to impart something of God’s love through genuine and meaningful interaction with those who haven’t yet experienced that love.
  • We don’t believe we can achieve this through building a wall of protection around ourselves, but rather by engaging with those people around us who really have no idea of what being a Christian actually means. 
  • For years people outside of church have witnessed a group of people who they think are weird, people who gather in holy huddles in special buildings, act in old fashioned and what they consider are narrow minded ways,  and are just plain odd.

But let’s show them something different!
Let’s not isolate ourselves by building a wall to protect ourselves, let’s build something of Kingdom living in their midst. Remember, we are not called to build the church. Jesus said, ‘I will build my church’ (Matt 16:18)

So let’s leave you with this question. What is God saying to you regarding building community groups with others to promote His Kingdom? 

Brian Foster, 17/03/2015