Ref: Nehemiah 2:10, 19; 4: 1-3
In the last two Sundays, we looked at how Nehemiah became very concerned about the broken walls of Jerusalem. We saw how he prayed and God answered his prayer by asking king Artaxerxes to allow him to go back to rebuild the wall. King Artaxerxes also facilitated him by providing letters of recommendations but also permission to get timber from a nearby forest to use in the building.
Nehemiah chapter 3 records how the work began but as it progressed, two types of threats emerged. The first threat was the internal threat where the Jews felt like they were too few to accomplish the huge task ahead. And secondly, they felt like they didn't have adequate resources to do the work. The internal threat was resolved by Nehemiah's encouragement to the Jews. He assured them that both God and King Artaxerxes were with them and would help them. People were motivated and went out of their way to work.
The external threat was more dangerous and almost made it impossible for the work to continue. The main opposers were Sanballat the Horonaim, and Tobiah the Ammonites. These characters were so opposed to the work of rebuilding the wall, at one time threatening to kill Nehemiah's workers and they made the work so difficult. On the question why they were so opposed to the work, scholars have found that these characters had their vested interest. We read that Sanballat, the leading opposer, was a Moabite and a governor from Samaria from 407BC (Isaiah 15:5; Jeremiah 48:3,5,34; 2 kings 17:33; Elephantine Papyridocuments). Tobiah the Ammonite was also a governor under Persia possibly of mixed Jewish ammonite ancestry. He had been corruptly given a room in the temple precincts which was illegal (Nehemiah 13:5) In the absence of any solid leadership at Judea, Sanballat and Tobiah took advantage of the people of Judah and placed heavy burdens on them. They collected shekels of silver among other things from the Jews
(Nehemiah 5:14). Sanballat and Tobiah knew that when Nehemiah took over as the governor of Judah (where Jerusalem was located) their authority over the Jews would be completely minimized and their oppressive and exploitative activities over the Jews, their evil luxuries and power were to be curtailed. We know that their fears were realized when Nehemiah became a governor, for example in Nehemiah 13:8, the first thing that Nehemiah did when he took over leadership was to throw tobiah out of the temple room he had acquired corruptfully.
Nehemiah was able to lead his people in quashing these psychological and physical threats. He motivated them to continue working assuring them that God was with them and would give them victory. When the enemies tried to attack the builders, Nehemiah organized his team in a way that some continued with the work while others acted as the security for the builders and lastly the work was completed despite the threats.
As in the days of Nehemiah, our enemy the devil will use many methods including our family members, colleagues at work, business partners and many other people to oppose us when we are doing God's work. People will oppose our work out of sheer jealous, unhealthy competition and some will oppose us just for the sake of it. We must be alert to such possibilities so that when it happens, we will not be caught unaware and be shaken and unable to continue. In our spiritual and physical developments, we will be opposed but we must stand firm because God is on our side. As we seek to build our new sanctuary, we may experience similar opposition. However, we know that God has called us to do it and will give us success. We will move on and God will definitely reward us for the work well done.