Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thursday, December 11th Nehemiah 4

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Amos 5-6, Revelation 9
Today's scripture focus is Nehemiah 4

Nehemiah 4 English Standard Version (ESV)

Opposition to the Work

 Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.
So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
 But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.
10 In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” 11 And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” 12 At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.” 13 So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14 And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the 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 homes.”

The Work Resumes

15 When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. 16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, 17 who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me.19 And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. 20 In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”
21 So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out. 22 I also said to the people at that time, “Let every man and his servant pass the night within Jerusalem, that they may be a guard for us by night and may labor by day.” 23 So neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes; each kept his weapon at his right hand.

Accompanying Ray Stedman sermon: Don't Back Down - Build Up

As mentioned yesterday, as believers, we will always experience opposition in our service for Christ.  In our passage today, Nehemiah comes across some serious opposition.

Stedman makes an interesting note about Nehemiah's prayer in response to the ridicule of Sanballat and company.
It is true that Jesus taught us to bless those who persecute us, to pray for our enemies and those who despitefully use us, and to do good to them. So how do we square Nehemiah's prayer with what our Lord taught? The answer, of course, is to remember who it is that is praying. This is not Nehemiah, the ordinary citizen, the individual, who has been injured by someone's personal attack. This is the Governor of Judea, praying about maintaining order and peace in his land and forwarding the work that God himself had sent him to do. This is a different kind of prayer because it is a prayer of an authority seeking to handle the problem of evil....

The first task of government is not mercy, but justice! Mercy is appropriate when it is an individual matter, but justice must prevail in government. There would be an outcry over the whole nation if the authorities treated a man like that with grace and forgiveness instead of bringing him to justice and seeing that this crime was paid for.

And, after praying, Nehemiah and the volunteers return to work.

And then everything got better, right?

Wrong.  Things got worse.  Sanballat responds by moving past ridicule and into the use of force.  How does Nehemiah react to this?  With both prayer and preparedness!  He prays, and he posts guards - both spiritual and physical/material help is needed to combat physical threat.

Nehemiah identifies areas of potential weakness, and responds accordingly.

We need to do the same in our spiritual lives.  Where are you weak?  Where am I most susceptible to sin?  We need to be purposeful about posting a guard at that point.  And then we need to remind ourselves, as Nehemiah does with the Israelites, that God is with us and He will fight for us. What an encouragement!

As Christians, we should always be at work building the kingdom of God, but we need to also be prepared for attack.  And, as v21-23 shows us, that sometimes comes at a cost.  Sometimes are vigilance cannot even allow for comfort.  There is self-sacrifice involved in our service to God.

Opposition will come.  And sometimes, opposition will stay.  For a long time.  And yet, it is precisely during times of opposition that our faith is strengthened, is it not?  So long as we keep our focus on Jesus instead of the opposition.

Chuck Swindoll said 'Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though chequered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy or suffer much because they live in the grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat'

Oh, that we as a body, would encourage each other and lift each other up as we serve in the areas God has purposefully placed us.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Nehemiah 5
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Amos 7-8, Revelation 10

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