“Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall. He flew into a rage and mocked the Jews, saying in front of his friends and the Samarian army officers, “What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing? Do they think they can build the wall in a single day by just offering a few sacrifices? Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that?” Tobiah the Ammonite, who was standing beside him, remarked, “That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!” – Nehemiah 4:1-3.
Nehemiah traveled hundreds of miles to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. This was important work, as the wall was Jerusalem’s first line of defense. But Nehemiah’s restoration work did not go unopposed.
His first enemies are introduced in Nehemiah 2:19a, “But when Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab heard of our plan, they scoffed contemptuously…” This threesome was joined by more people: the Arabs, Ammonites and the people of Ashdod. Nehemiah’s progress on rebuilding the wall has made them “furious. “(Nehemiah 4:7) They all made plans to come and fight against Jerusalem and throw us into confusion. (Nehemiah 4:8).
Do you have a Sanballat in your life? Well, probably not literally, but perhaps figuratively. If we have a Sanballat in our life today, he or she wants to stifle our spiritual growth. Sanballat wants to make it look like the job is impossible; in other words create doubt. And Sanballat wants to rally opposition against what you are trying to do. Just like he did to Nehemiah. The spirit of Sanballat’s goal is to discourage you—to get you to quit what God has called you to do. The goal is to tear down—not build up—the wall God is calling you to build. Sanballat can take the form of discouragement, fatigue and fear. These are a few of the enemies of restoration and rebuilding.
This is a good time to remind ourselves who was rebuilding the wall. God was the Architect, and Nehemiah was the contractor. God was at work. It was His will to rebuild the wall and the gates around the city. Anyone in opposition to that goal was in opposition to God. Nehemiah was determined that no one but God would stop the work.
Nehemiah finished the wall. Nehemiah achieved this, not by removing the fear of attack and reprisal but by helping the people face their fears, turning them towards God who was their defender and shield. Like Nehemiah, we need to act with God, and for God, even though it means strenuous effort and opposition. We need to trust God, do our day’s work faithfully, and leave the future and the results to Him.
- What can you learn from Nehemiah about handling opposition to God’s work? How might your situation differ from what Nehemiah faced in his day?
- How does praying persistently for a significant period of time prepare us for moments of decision and crises of belief in our lives?