Nehemiah 4

Please note that the incidents related in chapters 4-6 took place at the same time as the building of the wall as described in chapter 3. There were 8 open attempts to stop the work, 4 of them described in this chapter.

While God’s work was going on, constant opposition was being endured by the workers.

The first onslaught was by ridicule. Sanballat’s rage was kindled in verse 1. His rage found expression in making fun of or sneering at the work the Jews were doing for God.

Before his brethren (the Samaritans) and the local militia he openly scorned the Jews as weaklings. “What are these feeble Jews doing?”

Note his sarcasm in the questions he asks—v. 2:

1. Will they fortify themselves?

2. Will they sacrifice?

3. Will they finish in a day?

4. Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish which are burned?

v. 3—Sanballat is now joined by Tobiah. He continues the sneering. “That which they build, if a fox go up, it shall break down their stone wall.”

Did this opposition stop the work on the wall? What recourse did Nehemiah take to fight this opposition? He resorted to prayer. See verses 4 and 5. “Prayer moves the hand of Him Who moves the universe.”

They prayed and they built, the work never stopped.

Despite the ridicule and threats the work continued unabated until the wall was half completed, that is half its intended height.

Psalm 37:5—“Commit your way unto the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.”

Note the reason for such rapid progress in verse 6—“The people had a mind to work.”

This means that:

1. They had an appreciation of their commitment/responsibility.

2. They worked because they believed they were doing God’s will.

3. They worked because of the encouragement they received from Nehemiah.

4. Their love for God and their enthusiasm overcame all difficulties and opposition.

This is what the Lord needs in His church today. They were united in heart and purpose. Unity brings blessing. Psalm 133.

v. 7-8—Opposition by threat of open attack. Notice the lengthened list of enemies in verse 7. Since the work was progressing and every obstacle was being swept aside, the enemies reckoned that the only way to stop the work was an open attack upon the faithful workers. See Acts 4:31.

v. 10—No prayer here. Depression, discouragement, complaints, murmurings. This is the first note of discontentment from within.

The work was getting to them. The working and the watching was wearing them thin. To these disheartening words Nehemiah gave no answer save to continue building. See Joshua 1:6-7. Nehemiah’s faith was in God not in the arm of flesh. He had a firm conviction that they were engaged in the Lord’s work, and although the people’s hearts grew faint he continued to count on the living God. Galatians 6:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:13; Isaiah 40:28-31.

v. 11-12—Opposition from the threat of secret attack. News came to Nehemiah ten times concerning this attack. But instead of discouraging him, the man of faith counted on God to deliver. Prior to this, all the people had labored and watched.

v. 13—They must be prepared for conflict.

    First attack—ridicule.

    Second attack—open attack.

    Third attack—discouragement.

    Fourth attack—secret attack.

    Fifth attack—disruptions within.

    Sixth attack—man’s cunning.

    Seventh attack—scandal.

    Eighth attack—infiltration of evil.

“We wrestle not against flesh and blood.”

Nehemiah set guards, fully armed, at the most vulnerable points. While he did this, his confidence was not in weaponry, but in the living God.

v. 14—“Be not afraid of them.”

v. 15—When the enemies heard that their counsel was known to the Israelites they gave up their plan of open warfare. And the building of the wall continued.

But Nehemiah was more careful than ever despite his victories. Our most vulnerable period is in the wake of spiritual victory. Nehemiah took his own personal servants and bodyguards and divided them into two companies. One company helped in the building of the wall. The other, heavily armed, stood guard. Thus they worked and watched, one hand held a trowel, the other a sword.

The trowel is the Word used for edification—Ephesians 4:12. The sword is the Word used in contending for the faith—Jude 3.

v. 18—“And he who sounded the trumpet was by me.” The trumpet speaks of the sounding forth of the Word. The trumpeter received his message directly from Nehemiah. The servant of the Lord who would sound the trumpet must abide by the Lord so that he may speak as the oracle of God. If we abide in Him then the trumpet will not give an uncertain sound.

The voice of the trumpet was the authentic voice. It had to be obeyed. When the trumpet was blown the people gathered together in one mind and spirit ready to do God’s will, to build or to fight, and to lay down their life if necessary.

As it was then so it is now. God’s word must be obeyed. There is much work to be done and time is short. Who, then, is willing?

v. 21—“So we labored in the work.” Nothing could deter them from the rising of the morning until the stars appeared. No unemployment nor idle time in God’s service. The work was so pressing that no one left the city at night. Think of the effort these people made, of the sacrifice.

v. 23—The example of Nehemiah and the guard. They were so busy in the Lord’s work that they never took off their clothes except to wash them.

This was a trying time; they did this to build a wall. We are building the Church, dealing with living stones. What sacrifice are we making to send forth the Word to build up the Church and protect it from the world?

Personal witness, giving, prayer, supporting the meetings, keeping out evil. 1 Corinthians 15:58; Acts 2.