The Scripture Reading today is Nehemiah 4:1-23.
Often times we seem hear the stories that, “I trusted God, and He corrected everything, and solved all my problems.” While it may be that somewhere God saved or reclaimed the life of a Christian astray, and instantly delivered them from whatever they had gotten themselves into, like pornography, or drink or gambling or drugs, and they never had a single problem again.
Then sometimes we hear a claim that if you come to (or come back to) Jesus, all your problems will go away. You will get a job, restore your marriage or family situation, get a better place to live, suddenly get healthy and never experience a major set back or persecution again.
I do not deny that such events have occurred in certain people’s lives. I also know that looking back we have a tendency to see “nostalgia,” more so than reality. More times than not, God puts us through trials to test and improve our faith than settle us in perfect green pastures.
Nehemiah experienced this too. You might remember, he prayed about God’s protection for the “returned exiles” in Judah. So, God called him to do something about it. This involved risking his life and possessions, then leaving all he knew and traveling a long ways away, to organize people he did not know, to work hard to rebuild their city wall out of the leftover rubble of the Babylonian conquest.
God had blessed. Nehemiah got the resources he needed and moved safely to Jerusalem. His idea to rebuild the wall met with enthusiasm by those who would do the work. Keep in mind too, they did this work as volunteers, who also farmed to make a living and feed the family.
But as the building project progressed, opposition arose from all the other “city-states” in the district, who feared loss of position if Jerusalem acquired a greater wall then they had. At this time, Samaria with its major Sanballat, was probably the “chief city” of the district. Sanballat began to talk down the city wall project to the other city heads and to his military.
In doing so, Sanballat was speaking out against God’s plan. This isn’t a political difference of opinion between competing parties. As we saw in Nehemiah 1:9, that God had chosen this nation and this “place . . . as a dwelling place for my Name (NIV).” To try and thwart the work of “wall building in Jerusalem” they were thwarting God’s program for the world. This was not a political or social conflict. It was a challenge by Sanballat against God, Himself.
Sanballat’s first attack was a smear campaign. “This wall cannot be built.” They cannot do it. The wall is too weak to protect them (4:1-3). Nehemiah’s reply was not to argue, but to turn it over to God. See his prayer in 4:4-5. “Lord you have heard these insults, you prove them wrong. A lot of time and energy could have taken up arguing and debating about the advantages and disadvantages of a wall around Jerusalem. But Nehemiah merely turned the words over to God and let Him deal with it. Remember Romans 9:19.
As the wall continued, Sanballat ratcheted up his slander and began to plot to attack Jerusalem. Sanballat’s list of “followers” has grown to include not only Samarians, and Jordanians (Ammon), but also Southern Palestinian Arabs and Philistines. But the plot fell apart. Some of this was due to the reports of Jews living close to the Samarian boarders (4:12).
Nehemiah’s reaction was two-fold, pray and prepare. Look at 4:9, “but we prayed and posted a guard. . .” (4:9).
In dealing with conflicts which come along and try to disrupt God’s work, we do not merely pray about it, give it to God and then roll over and play dead. The words of the adversary have changed to actions. It is now a time to prepare to take action ourselves. Praying was fine, when only words were the attack against us. Now swords and spears are being deployed. Bible teachers often speak of the need for a “divine-human cooperative.” God is going to do His part, but man is also called upon to take his stand for God’s will and work.
But also know clearly that the battle is not in our strength alone. We call upon God to protect and save as we both continue to build the wall and prepare our defenses. Note clearly, we are waiting for their attack, not planning an invasion of their territory. We are in a defensive posture. Our purpose is to defend our city and wall of God, not to attack theirs.
These are words of wisdom. There is a lot of anti-Christian verbiage in our world against the principles of God’s Word, against the concept of the family that God established, against authority as God has established it. We need wisdom to know when to pray, when to prepare and when to defend.
The mixture of: 1) prayer, so God’s kingdom will continue to expand, 2) and preparation to know how to live as a Christian in this evil world, 3) and action, so we can defend the laws God has established in a way that brings about Godly life. This requires a great deal of wisdom.
Let us pray that God will help us discern the “what’s” and “how’s” of living in what appears to be an anti-Christian world.
God Bless you,
CH Jim Odell