Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall. He flew into a rage and mocked the Jews, 2 saying in front of his friends and the Samarian army officers, “What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing? Do they think they can build the wall in a single day by just offering a few sacrifices? Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was standing beside him, remarked, “That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!”4 Then I prayed, “Hear us, our God, for we are being mocked. May their scoffing fall back on their own heads, and may they themselves become captives in a foreign land! 5 Do not ignore their guilt. Do not blot out their sins, for they have provoked you to anger here in front of the builders.”6 At last the wall was completed to half its height around the entire city, for the people had worked with enthusiasm.7 But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs, Ammonites, and Ashdodites heard that the work was going ahead and that the gaps in the wall of Jerusalem were being repaired, they were furious. 8 They all made plans to come and fight against Jerusalem and throw us into confusion.
As we continue in our series “Building in the Battle” in the book of Nehemiah, we come to chapter 4, where we are confronted with overwhelming opposition. This opposition comes both from outside as well as within and is designed to create doubt and discouragement. Discouragement can be deadly because it causes us to spend our energy on worrying instead of working. Worry not only takes our focus away from building the wall but also from the One we worship. The devil wants to distract and discourage, but it’s here in how Nehemiah deals with the difficulty that we discover how to defeat doubt and discouragement in our lives. Chapter 4 reveals not just a problem but a plague, the disease of doubt and discouragement. It’s an epidemic that is destroying the church today and there are several things that make it such a potent problem.
- It’s universal. None of us are immune to doubt and discouragement.
- It’s recurring. Being discouraged or dealing with doubt once doesn’t give you an immunity to the disease. You can be discouraged, and you can doubt over and over again. In fact, you can even be discouraged by the fact that you are discouraged a lot.
- It’s highly contagious. Discouragement and doubt spread through casual contact. People can become disheartened because you are discouraged. You can be having a great day, and someone comes along who is discouraged and it’s not long before you are down.
Now what I love about the Word of God is that it doesn’t pretend that everything is perfect or try to paint a picture of a problem fee life. That’s what prosperity preachers are trying to portray, come to Jesus and you will have a problem free, pain free life. That’s pagan theology not proper theology, because it’s not based on the bible, it’s based on our wants not the Word. We all want a problem free, pain free life but remember the title of this series is “Building in the battle” not “blessed in the bubble” Now while the passage starts with the problem, it reveals both the cause and cure for doubt and discouragement. Today we are going to start with the first of 2 causes, the:
The wall workers were initially excited. They began the work with great anticipation and joy. It says of them in verse 6 that the “people worked with all their heart.” the people had worked with enthusiasm. Things were going well, the people were excited, and the wall was going up. Then something happened. Getting the work started on the wall was a major achievement, but keeping the workers working proved to be a much tougher assignment why? Where God is at work, the enemy is also at work. There is external opposition; we have an enemy who wants to:
- Ridicule Us vs 1-2
This is the third time in the book that we come across Sanballat, who was Nehemiah’s stiffest opposition. Every time we read about him, he is standing against the work of God, rejecting and ridiculing everything that Nehemiah is trying to accomplish. It’s the same tactic that Goliath the giant used to cause the Israelite army to react with fear. He also ridiculed David but instead of retreating, David ran toward him with only a sling and a stone (1 Samuel 17:41-47). Jesus was mocked and ridiculed by the soldiers during his trial. This is not the first time Sanballat and his cronies had tried to belittle and bully the workers. Remember back in chapter 2 they begun to ridicule the workers even before the work had started. Now he belittles them before the Samaria army, calling them feeble, it’s easy to bully when you have an army behind you. The goal of belittling is to undermine their efforts and he ridicules their work by asking four taunting questions:
“Will they restore their wall?” Undermine their ambitions and destroy their hope and dreams.
“Will they offer sacrifices?” Undermine their belief, do they think that they can pray that wall up?
“Will they finish in a day?” Undermine their enthusiasm – Bitten off more than they can chew?
“Can they bring these stones back to life?” Undermined their Confidence
Ridicule lined the road to the cross and it will always revolve around the work of God. Don’t let ridicule run you over, expect it, face it and don’t stop working.
- Repression vs 7-8
They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem. It amazes me how Christians struggle to come together and work together but how the world doesn’t have any difficulty working together to come against us. Now I want you to notice that the references in verse 7 are to the four points of the compass. Sanballat and the Samaritans on the north, Ashdod on the west, Tobiah and the Ammonites on the east, and Geshem and the Arabs to the south. The workers were surrounded and lived in constant fear of being ambushed. It’s easy to deal with discouragement when it’s at a distance, but when it completely surrounds us it can be crushing. Are there any external pressures coming at you that are causing you to doubt and become discouraged? Turn your focus to your Father and remember that He is greater than what you are currently facing.