About Jesus Steve Sweetman
This Chapter - Chapter 4
To The Rebuilding (ch. 4:1- 23)
verse 1 we read that Sanballat "was angry and incensed" when
he heard that Nehemiah and the Jews began to rebuild the wall of
verse 2 we see five questions that Sanballat asks in order to discourage
the Jews. Often questions
are raised by those who oppose God's work. They
are meant to make us think
in a direction that would make us discouraged and give up.
These questions are often valid questions.
first question that Sanballat asks is.
"What are these feeble Jews doing?"
In this question there might well be a measure of truth.
The Jews building the walls were probably feeble in comparison to
Sanballat and his military strength that backed him up.
This question was meant to have the Jews look at themselves and
realize that they really were feeble.
How could they possibly pull this off?
second question raised by Sanballat is this.
"Will they restore their wall?"
Once the Jews understood they were feeble, but put their hope in
God, this question is logical to ask.
Can the Jews really rebuild the wall. This wall had been torn
down for close to 170 years, and they think they can restore the wall
when no one before them did. How
could this be?
third question Sanballat asks is this.
"Will they offer sacrifices?"
I'm sure the Jews were thinking of offering sacrifices to their
God once the wall was built. Sanballat
might be suggesting that
they are thinking way too far ahead.
They haven't even rebuilt the wall.
Why are they thinking of sacrificing to God?
fourth question Sanballat asks is this one.
"Will they finish in a day?"
I sincerely doubt that Nehemiah and the Jews thought they'd
finish this job in a day. It
actually took 52 days, and that's probably pretty quick.
This question was probably meant to frustrate the Jews.
Of course they didn't think they'd do this in one day.
Why would Sanballat think that, they'd ask themselves?
fifth question Sanballat asks is this.
"Can they bring the stones back to life from this heap of
this is a funny question. Stones
don't have life, at least not life as humans have.
But these stones would have meaning and significance.
Each of the stones laid on top of each other in this wall would
have its own importance and significance.
In this respect they might have a life. These words are almost
prophetic. I'm not saying they are, but as living stones in New
Testament times, we are built into a city of
verse 3 we see that Tobiah was standing by Sanballat.
He also joins in on the ridicule of the Jews.
Tobiah says that the wall the Jews are building is useless.
A little fox could nock it down to the ground.
I don't think all these Jews were master builders. They were just
ordinary people doing their best. They could have thought that Tobiah
might have a point.
see Nehemiah's response to the questioning from those who opposed him. Actually, he did not respond to them.
He prayed to God instead. That's
quite a response. We often
want to argue with those who criticize us, but for the most part, we
should probably just keep silent, and pray.
Arguing doesn't often do much good.
Prayer can do a lot more good.
asks his God to hear his prayer because the Jews were despised.
The Jews were often despised, and still are in many respects. Christians
are despised too when they do the will of God.
God never promised us that we wouldn't be despised.
Jesus actually told us that we would be ridiculed.
Paul said the same. He
said that all those who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer
persecution (2 Timothy 3:12).
might well have felt like retaliating but he didn't.
He prayed that God would turn their insults back on them.
He knew that he should not repay evil with evil, as we are
taught. This is so important
because it goes to the heart of being God's representatives on earth.
Retaliating does not represent God.
It represents us, and we are not to represent ourselves.
continues to ask God in verse 4 "to give them over to
plunder…" Once again,
it's not Nehemiah who wants to plunder his enemies. He wants God to do
that. Besides, his job is to
build the wall. He can't be
distracted with retaliating against his enemies.
believe we see something here. It
is my thinking, and I believe you see it in Scripture, that God deals
with humanity in two respects. He
deals with individuals and he deals with nations.
He can cause both to either prosper or to fall to His judgment.
With this in mind, when it comes to the individual, we don't
retaliate. We leave that for
God. Yet when it comes to
nations, there is a place for nations to retaliate against a national
injustice. God Himself asked
to do this. In this
case with Nehemiah, this is a personal individual issue.
It is a few men ridiculing him and his friends.
If this was a nation coming up against
verse 5 Nehemiah asks God not to cover over the guilt of his enemies
sin. We know that eventually
God holds all people and all nations accountable for their sin.
He wants to cover sin over, and Nehemiah knows this, and so
that's why he asks God not to cover these sins.
verse 6 we now see that half of the wall was built.
We also know that those who helped in the building process put
their whole hearts in to their work.
This was a unified effort performed from a heart felt conviction
that this was indeed God's will. It
is in these situations that the Kingdom
verses 7 and 8 the conflict between Nehemiah and his enemies escalate
once they see that the wall is now half built. It's no more a matter of
words alone, Sanballat,
Tobiah, and others actually begin to use some force against the
builders. Such is the battle
between God's people and their opposition.
The devil doesn’t easily give up.
verse 9 we see Nehemiah's response to this threat.
It was purely defensive. They
did two things. They first
prayed to their God, and then they posted guards along the wall.
If they would have acted in more of an offensive stance, that
would have created a battle that most likely would have destroyed the
work they had just done.
was at this half way mark that the pressure was really beginning to
mount against the Jews. It
wasn't only the pressure from without, but there was pressure from
within. They were
beginning to wonder if all this work was worth it.
In verse 10 we see that the people of Israel
were losing strength. I
believe what is being spoken of here is physical, mental, and emotional strength.
There was so much rubble to move that their bodies were giving
up. There minds as well were
being overcome, not only by their enemies, but by the enormousness of
the task at hand.
10 begins with the word "meanwhile."
This connects verse 10 back to verse 9.
In verse 9 we saw Nehemiah praying along with others.
Yet in verse 10 we see that the people were losing heart and
strength. So it would appear
to me that while Nehemiah and other leaders were praying, the people
under them were struggling to hold on to the vision. This
is where the pressure comes on leadership.
How does leadership keep the vision alive?
That's always the question we struggle with, even to this very
thing that bothered the people of
verse 12 we see dissention in the ranks of the Jews.
This is where the enemy usually gets the people of God.
When God's people are divided, as we are today, God's enemies
have the upper hand. Jesus
Himself spoke of this when He said that a house divided cannot stand.
Why can't we take Jesus' words seriously. This principle
doesn’t merely apply to the devil's kingdom, which is the context of
Jesus' words. It applies to
God's people as well.
verse 13 we see the response of Nehemiah to his own people. He now had
two groups of people to contend with, his own and his enemies. He had to
do something to relieve his people's fear.
He could not just sit back and do nothing.
He had men stationed in the low parts of the wall nearby where
they lived. This would give
them more reason to protect the wall at their position because their
families were close by. They
got their weapons ready. This was a defensive position.
It was not an offensive position.
Still a good defense was better than a good offense in this case.
everyone was in place, we see in verse 14 that Nehemiah tried to inspire
the people by telling them that God would fight for them and protect
their wives and children. This
was God's battle because this was God's city.
No matter what, these people had to clearly understand that their
final strength did not rest in them, but in God.
verse 15 we learn that God had frustrated the plans of
verses 16 through 18 we see the next phase of Nehemiah's plan.
He divided the men into two groups.
One group would work while the other group stood watch.
The workers had tools in one hand and weapons in the other hand.
Those who were on guard were provided weapons as well.
Part of those who kept guard were trumpet blowers.
When the enemy would come, they'd blow their trumpets to sound
the warning to fight. These
men stayed close to Nehemiah. Nehemiah
was now a general in an army. He
was not only a contractor but a general.
He had come a long way from being a cup bearer to the king.
trumpet was always used in those days as a means to announce the call to
fight. This is clearly seen
in the book of Revelation, when the last trumpet will sound, and the
General over all generals will return and fight the last battle for
verse 19 and 20 Nehemiah tells the men working on the wall that their
work is extensive and is over a long distance, with gaps in between the
workers. If the workers
heard the sound of the trumpet they needed to be ready for the fight.
They needed to be always on guard.
As Jesus tells us. We
are to both watch and pray. We
are to be ready for the attack of the enemy.
Yet many of us don't realize that our enemy is watching us.
He has disabled us without an attack.
Our mere neglect to understand the battle we are in has given our
enemy the upper hand. He has
defeated us without a shot.
verse 21 we see just how many hours these workers put in during the day.
From first break of dawn to the last bit of sunlight in the
evening, they worked hard on the wall.
They worked through their fears.
They worked through their weaknesses.
beyond working hard all day long, these same workers became watchmen by
night. I'm sure they must
have taken turns watching. They
did need to sleep, but you see the commitment this people had to their
cause. A heart felt
commitment to the cause is always the foundation for any success. You
also see here the reason why the people got so weary.
verse 23 we see that Nehemiah himself was armed.
We also see that he and his men didn't take off their clothes.
They were always dressed with their weapons by their sides.
They were ready to fight at any given time, at the shortest of
this was Nehemiah's strategy. He
was clearly a very good leader. He
first of all had the ability to point out the problem and convince the
people that things needed to change.
He then had the plans in hand.
He was able to gather the people together and inspire them to
both work and fight for their cause.
He also was able to encourage them when their hearts and bodies
began to fail. And through
all of this, he was able to trust God for himself, his people, and the
task at hand. The cup
bearer, an ordinary man was certainly used in a most unordinary way.