Distractions, challenges and issues seem to be part of life for people of both the modern day as well as Biblical times. Amid opposition, Nehemiah prayed and persisted through the storms.
As soon as the rebuilding crews rolled up their sleeves, they were mocked and ridiculed by Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?” (Neh 2:19)
Nehemiah knew that he and the people of Jerusalem were doing God’s work and decided not to listen to anyone actively opposed to what he knew was right. Therefore, he (I) answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” (Neh 2:20) Nehemiah did not bother to associate with those who would seek to stop their work.
The workers were also belittled with sarcasm. Sanballat ridiculed the Jews and said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble – burned as they are?” Tobiah, who was at his side, said, “What they are building – if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!” (4:1-3)
Nehemiah approached these unwelcoming remarks in two ways. First, he talked with God. “Hear us, Our God, for we are despised.” (Neh 4:4a) Second, he stayed on task. “So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.” (Neh 4:6)
Yet, the criticism did not die down but escalated. “When Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonities and the men of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.” (Neh 4:7-8) The critics gathered their troops, planned a conspiracy and arranged to cause a disturbance.
When the going gets tough, the tough gets going. As was his custom, Nehemiah intensified his prayer. “We prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.” (Neh 4:9) Nehemiah stayed focused and persisted by taking up arms.
If you try to do something good, you are likely to face obstacles and distractions. As for Nehemiah and the builders, they faced sarcasm. Then, there was mockery, which led to open opposition, criticism, and finally conspiracy. How could they maintain progress? Nehemiah was able to keep calm and stay focused because he took his matters to God regularly and was refreshed with new strength for further work. Therefore, let’s learn to pray and persist.
Swindoll, C. R. (1990). Hand me another brick. Nashville, TN: Nelson.