In this quarter of lessons, we have been taking a look at people of valor.  Over the past couple of weeks, we have been taking a look at a unit of lessons that’s taking a look at having courage when facing threats.  Last week we studied the encouraging faith of Hezekiah and how that faith saw the Lord defeat a great enemy.  In our lesson this week, we are going to take a look at Nehemiah and his courage.  This week’s lesson is being taught from Nehemiah 4:1-9.

Who Was Nehemiah

I’m absolutely thrilled that we get the opportunity to study about Nehemia in our lesson this week.  In the Old Testament, there are two small books that I don’t feel we pay much attention to but they deserve a great amount of attention.  The two books I am referring to are Ezra and Nehemia.

Both books follow the Jews’ return to Judah and Jerusalem following their exile to Babylon after being conquered by the Babylonians.  There were three different groups that returned to Judah and Jerusalem at three different times.  Zerubbabel was the leader of the first group that returned to the land followed by Ezra, and then Nehemiah made up the third group to return to Jerusalem.

Ezra was a scribe and priest and under his leadership, he reinstated God’s law to the Jews with a goal in mind of getting the people to repent and correct their ways.  Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem a couple of decades after Ezra’s return.  Nehemiah was appointed to be the governor of Judah by Artaxerxes, king of Babylon (Neh. 5:14).

Upon his return to Jerusalem, Nehemiah was crushed to see the devastation that was still apparent.  The walls of the city were still broken down and the Jews were in great distress because of their enemies.  So, Nehemiah began work to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem which is where our lesson for this week picks up.

Rebuilding the Walls of Jerusalem

Our lesson opens with an enemy hearing about the rebuilding of the walls at Jerusalem.  We are told about Sanballat in the opening verse of our lesson.  He was very furious that the Jews were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, and so far as to mock the idea of them rebuilding the walls (vss. 1-2).  This was not the first time that Sanballat would mock and laugh at the Jews.

The enemies

Earlier in the book of Nehemiah, we are introduced to Sanballat.  Sanballat, we are told, was a Horonite which was in the land of Samaria (formerly the northern kingdom of Israel).  At the time, he was with Tobiah the Ammonite and upon hearing that Nehemiah was coming to Jerusalem, they were deeply disturbed (Neh. 2:10).  When they initially got word of the plans to rebuild Jerusalem, they laughed at Nehemiah and the Jews and despised the Jews at that time (Neh. 2:19).

In our lesson, a couple of chapters later in Nehemiah, we are looking at a point in time where the rebuilding of the walls had begun.  Sanballat was an enemy of the Jews and he mocks them, saying, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned (v. 2)?”

We are then told that the same one who was with Sanballat in the second chapter, was with him here in this chapter.  Tobiah the Ammonite was with him and said, “Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall (v. 3).”  So, both men were mocking Nehemiah and the Jews for the rebuilding of the wall.  

There are a couple of reasons that I could think of for Sanballat and Tobiah to be mocking the Jews and we could tie both into Tobiah’s comment about the wall.  The walls of Jerusalem and even the temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians when they conquered Jerusalem.  So, the first reason I believe they could have been mocking the Jews would be over their faith in the Lord.  The idea being that the God of the Jews would allow them to be conquered in the first place.

The second reason that I could think of as to why they would be mocking the Jews was because of the condition of the wall that they were rebuilding.  The destroyed walls were still burnt from the Babylonian attack and so the Jews were building on top of a weakened structure.  So, these enemies were mocking the shape and the condition that the Jews were in.  Again, the Jews were showing faith and even courage in rebuilding the walls, and their faith and courage was being mocked.

When we stop and think about it, this is a common experience that many of the genuine followers of Christ experience.  The enemy will often mock the condition of the believer.  When I say condition here, I am speaking not of our physical health, but of our physical stature.  For example:  our wealth and what we possess.  Many will look at the believer and wonder why the believer is not “rich” if they happen to not have a lot of wealth.  Have you ever been mocked for your faith?

Responding to the enemy

So, how do you respond to an enemy that is mocking your faith?  How do you believe Nehemiah and the Jews would respond to the mocking being done by their enemies?  We are told in the next verse, that there was a prayer made to the Lord by Nehemiah.  This is the same course we should also take as well.

The prayer Nehemiah says, “Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity!  Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders (vss. 4-5).”

Nehemiah first says that they were despised, which was certainly true.  Sanballat and Tobiah clearly despised the Jews and were mocking them.  There were more enemies than just these two that the Jews were facing upon their return to Jerusalem.  Another verse in our lesson mentions that the Arabs, Amonites, and the Ashdodites and that all of them conspired together against the Jews (v. 8).  The leader of the Arabs, Geshem, was mentioned in a verse I referenced earlier in our lesson (Neh. 2:19).

I do again want to make a note that, like the Jews in our lesson, we are mocked and despised as well because of our faith in the Lord.  Jesus did say to the disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you (John 15:18-19).”

Nehemiah’s prayer is to pray the handling of his enemies into the hands of the Lord – he desires for the Lord to deal with them.  A lot of times we try to deal with our enemies on our own, when we should actually be doing just as Nehemiah does here.  The Lord said that vengeance belongs to Him and not to us (Deut. 32:35; Rom. 12:19).

Not shaken or rattled

After Nehemiah finished this prayer, he states that they did give in to their enemies – they did not back down.  Nehemiah tells us that they went ahead and continued their work on the wall.  They did not do just a little bit of work, Nehemiah states that they “built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.”  

So, their faith encouraged and strengthened them to work even harder in the face of being mocked and despised by their enemy.  I tell you that our faith can also do the very same thing for us in the face of being mocked and despised by our enemy.  We do not have to cater to nor give in to the mocking and hatred of our enemy.    We should let our faith in the Lord strengthen us to continue pushing forward.  We should remember that even though the world despises us, that through Christ we have victory over the mocking and hatred.

In closing, Nehemiah says, “we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.”  They made their prayer and they were now ready and on guard.  They were not fearful, nor were they shaken or rattled.  They were filled with courage because of their faith and their prayer to the Lord.  Again, God can and will fill us all with such courage and confidence.  So, in the face of our enemies, let us remain faithful and prayerful.


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