Lord's Day Evening Meditations April 13, 2003

Nehemiah 4

Meeting Opposition

In chapter 3 we saw a busy group of people, doing the work of the Lord. We find in our chapter that "the people had a mind to work," (v. 6), that is, their hearts were in it. There is one thing that we can be sure of, and we see it here, that if there is a work of God going on, Satan will be there to oppose it. We have seen, on a previous occasion, the three main enemies of the believer: the flesh, the world, and Satan. If you keep the flesh in the place of death, and if you resist the efforts of the world and Satan, in order to walk with the Lord and His people in a path of truth and holiness, you can be sure that the enemy will oppose. Sanballat called them "feeble Jews" and Tobiah said that a fox could knock down their wall. Why then were they so concerned? They knew that there was a real work going on there, and the enemy knows today when there is a real service for the Lord going on - that is what he will oppose.

Nehemiah's first resource was prayer: "Hear, O our God; for we are despised." v. 4. In chapter 1, the news of the condition of things in Jerusalem had set him to fasting and prayer. In chapter 2, when the king noticed his sadness and asked what he wanted, Nehemiah said, "So I prayed to the God of heaven." Now when the opposition became really serious, he again turned to prayer. From this we see that Nehemiah was a man of prayer. He habitually turned to the Lord. What is the first thing we do when a problem arises? Is prayer our first resource, or do we go about trying various solutions and asking opinions until, when nothing works, we think, "O, I should pray!" Is not that often the way it is, that prayer is the last recourse instead of the first?

Nehemiah's prayer is in verses 4 and 5. It is a request for God's judgment on the enemies because of what they were doing. In Nehemiah's time that type of request was right and acceptable; because, if a Jew was to be able to enjoy his earthly blessings, the enemies had to be removed. You have probably noticed prayers like this in the Psalms. After the Church has been taken home, the faithful Jewish remnant will pray those prayers for vengeance on their enemies, but that type of prayer is not suitable for today. The Lord Jesus said, "Love your enemies, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."

Though Nehemiah made the difficulties a matter of prayer, we see that that was not the only thing he did. "We made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night." v. 9. Also, "So we laboured in the work." v. 21. Nehemiah and the people did three things: they prayed, they watched, and they worked (wait, watch, work). If we are doing something that the Lord approves of, we can be sure that the enemy will be there to oppose. We just have to face this opposition and be overcomers. An overcomer is a winner, the one who gains the victory. In Rev. 2 & 3 the Lord encourages overcomers 7 times. In this story the contest was between the Jewish remnant and the surrounding nations. Today the contest is between the believer and the three enemies that we have identified previously - the flesh, the world, and Satan.

The more closely we try to walk with the Lord, or to serve Him, the more we can expect the enemy's opposition. If Nehemiah had not troubled himself about the wall, Sanballat and Tobiah wouldn't have opposed him. When Paul preached the gospel and people were saved, he then warned them that they would have difficulties. He visited new converts, "Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God." Acts 14:22. This was not to discourage them, or us, but rather to encourage us to face the reality of the situation - the enemy does oppose what is of the Lord in us - and to overcome by prayer, by watching, and by working. In the Garden of Gethsemane the Lord Jesus said to Peter, "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." Matt. 26:41. The Lord did both, and He witnessed a good confession before His enemies. Peter didn't watch and he didn't pray, and he denied the One he loved.

Working isn't always easy, especially if it is repairing a stone wall that has been thrown down. "Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall." v. 10. They were working well in chapter 3, but now strength was starting to fail. There is much work to be done for the Lord today, and there are many burdens to bear, and there are also things that cause strength to fail. Some of our brothers and sisters who have carried many burdens for the Lord over the years, are getting older, and are no longer able to do what they used to do. Advancing age reduces strength. We need young ones who are willing to step up and take their share of these burdens. Sometimes also health fails, either health of body, or more seriously, health of soul, so that that individual is not able, or not willing, to carry on as before.

In this story in Nehemiah they were relatively few, compared to the amount of work that had to be done. That's the way it is in this day of small things - much responsibility falls on just a few, which means that after a while they wear out from overwork. Nehemiah encouraged his workers, and the Lord wants to encourage us to go on for Him. The Lord also wants to encourage the younger ones to take up these opportunities that He gives to bear burdens for Him.

In verse 12 there was a warning of a surprise attack and so Nehemiah arranged and armed the people for this. Every builder became a warrior as well; "For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded." v. 18. Every one was called to do double duty, to build and to fight, and that is exactly the way it is for us now. We are to be active in "building up" ourselves in our most holy faith. Jude 20. We are to "edify one another," that is, to help each other to grow in the Lord. 1 Thess. 5:11. Besides, there is the work of the gospel, bringing in unsaved ones to be built into God's building. 1 Cor. 3:10.

At the same time we are called to "Fight the good fight of faith." 1 Tim. 6:12. Ephesians tells us to put on the whole armour of God because we have to wrestle "against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Eph. 6:12. The builders had their "swords, their spears, and their bows," and along with the armour of God, we have "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." When Satan tempted the Lord in the wilderness, the Lord answered him with the Word: "It is written " Satan is helpless against the Word. We are to do like the Lord did - "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."

Along with all the necessary preparations for an attack, Nehemiah encouraged them. "Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible." v. 14. In New Testament language this is, "Taking courage, we may say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not be afraid: what will man do unto me?" Heb. 13:4 N.Tr. Also Romans 8:31 - "If God be for us, who can be against us?" When the enemy set themselves against the Jewish remnant, they didn't take God into account; Nehemiah did, and we must do likewise in all difficulties.

But Nehemiah gave them another motive to face and fight the enemy: "Fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses." There are others to think of and not just ourselves. Every victory we win is a blessing to others. What blessings children have enjoyed because their parents faithfully resisted the enemy. We enjoy many blessings today because some who have gone before us fought and defeated the enemy. Now, will we likewise resist and maintain truth for those who will come after us, or will we leave them a heritage of defeat? S.L.