“[Sanballat] spoke in the presence of his brothers and the wealthy men of Samaria and said, ‘What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore [the Jerusalem wall] for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day? Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble even the burned ones?’ Now Tobiah the Ammonite was near him and he said, ‘Even what they are building – if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down!’” ~ Nehemiah 4:2-3 (NASB) (Words in brackets added for context)
The exiled Jews have returned to a desolate Jerusalem, a devastating and seemingly hopeless situation. When Nehemiah finds out about it, he seeks the Lord and beseeches King Artaxerxes to let him go back to Jerusalem to help his people rebuild the wall. As soon as Nehemiah arrives, he inspects the city, telling no one of God’s plans. When he reveals what God has instructed them to do, the people get to work. What appeared hopeless at first now seems possible. One step at a time, the wall will be made new again.
But not everyone is pleased. The foreign officials do not support this plan as reflected in their words above. They insult the Jews by calling them feeble. They criticize their ability to build something substantial. They plant seeds of doubt. Sound familiar?
How many times has God directed us to do something but others criticized it? “Did God really tell you that?” “Why would you go there?” “God wouldn’t call someone to do that.” “How will you support your family?” Fill in seeds of doubt here.
In the book of Nehemiah, the Jews have the opportunity to reclaim their land and turn back to the God whom they rebelled against numerous times. Now they are being tested again. Will they trust God to get them through, or will they listen to spiteful men? Nehemiah’s prayer is quite severe towards his enemies, “Hear, O our God, how we are despised! Return their reproach on their own heads and give them up for plunder in a land of captivity. Do not forgive their iniquity and let not their sin be blotted out before You, for they have demoralized the builders” (4:4-5). And they continue to build.
When the Jews’ enemies realize that their criticism isn’t stopping the construction, they devise plans to destroy them. But Nehemiah tells his people, “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses” (v. 14). There are two important points here. First, the Jews should not fear men but God alone. Second, they should be prepared for the enemy to attack. If they are prepared they will not be caught off guard, and they will save their families and homes.
We can also learn from this situation. Whenever God calls us to do something, the enemy will do everything in his power to crush it before it even starts, just like Sanballat and Tobiah tried to do. If the work is crushed before any spiritual fruit is produced, the enemy has a lot less work to do. If we decide to press on and trust God, the enemy will continue to push forward as well. Therefore, we must be prepared and not give into fear (I’m preaching to myself as I write this). If God has called us, the task is possible through Him.
The Jerusalem wall could not have been built in a day as Sanballat sarcastically remarked, but the Jews made progress when every person performed his or her designated tasks each day. It took all of them. It took diligence. It took faith. It took constant attacks from the enemy. But they prevailed. “So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God” (6:15-16).
What a great testimony! Even their enemies knew that God made all of this possible. How much more should we understand the same truth?
We are blessed already because God has confidence in us to carry out His tasks. May we have the same confidence in ourselves because He lives in us. We will always be tested in our faith, but we should respond like Nehemiah who brought everything to God first.
May we trust Him, prepare ourselves for battle, and keep pressing on toward the goal.
© Lauren Heiligenthal