Introduction

So far we have covered 4 factors behinds the success of Nehemiah.

1st Factor : He realised his commission and he prayed to God to help him  (Part 1)
2nd Factor : He was able to seize the opportunity and he was well prepared.  (Part 1)
3rd Factor : Nehemiah visited the ground to gain a personal understanding (Part 2)
4th Factor : Nehemiah encourage the Jews To Work For The Lord (Part 2)
5th Factor : Nehemiah knew how to make everyone work together (Part 3)
6th Factor : Nehemiah relied on God in face of Internal and External Threat (Part 4)

Let us continue our study the 6th factor behind his success. We understood that as Nehemiah went on to build the walls of Jerusalem, he had to handle both internal and external threats that will destroy the work of God.

Our previous post talks about how his enemies mock at the Jews and discredited the work that they did. They wanted to use their words to destroy the faith of the Jews. We have discussed how Nehemiah responded by calling God to listen and to judge. As he prayed, he continue to lead the Jewish exiles to work on the wall.

Let us now consider the other aspect of the threat of Sanballat and Tobiah

Threat 1: Military Action From Sanballat And Tobiah

“Now it happened, when Sanballat,
  Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites,
  and the Ashdodites heard that the
  walls of Jerusalem were being
  restored and the gaps were
  beginning to be closed, that they
  became very angry,  and all of them
  conspired together to come and attack
  Jerusalem and create confusion.” – Nehemiah (Neh 4:7-8)

When Sanballat and Tobiah realised that their words failed to hurt the Jewish exiles, they decided to spread the word that they are planning to attack the builders. They did it so as to create confusion and to divide the people. If the exiles are divided, they will never be able to unite against their enemies. The threat of a military offensive is often effective tactic. For everyone is afraid of trouble, everyone is afraid of bloodshed and tears.  By issuing a military threat, they are able to threaten the Jews to stop the work.

Threat 2 : Resistance From The Workers

As the result of this external threat, Nehemiah now face the internal resistance from among the builders. These resistance came from many angles

“The strength of the laborers is
  failing, and there is so much
  rubbish that we are not able
  to build the wall.”- Judah (Neh 4:10)

“They will neither know nor
  see anything, till we come
  into their midst and kill them
  and cause the work to cease.”- Adversaries (Neh 4:11)

From here we know that the people had lose heart and their strength are failing. there are 2 reasons behind their discouragement

Firstly, they saw much debris and they needed more manpower to clear them. The builders needed more help, and now they face the threat of military action. These news brought grieve upon grieve. Sometimes as we serve in the church we will encounter a lot of debris and obstruction. They are hard and difficult to clear. Sometimes the more we try to clear them the more they will appear. These problems can make us weary and tired.

Secondly, their strength are failing and they are indeed exhausted . Every Project Manager will tell you that the midpoint of the project is the most trying time for the team. When a project is just initiated, it is often greeted with lots of enthusiasm and zeal. For the team is fresh and are eager to put in effort and to make sacrifices.  The same can be said when the project is close to completion, for everyone could see the light at the end of the tunnel and they will be willing to push forward towards the goal

But the midpoint is where most people are tired and discouraged. In the example of Nehemiah, the threat from the enemies discourage them even more. Some of the Jews wanted to stop working and they wanted to compromise with their enemies  

That is why some of the Jews reacted saying .

“From whatever place you
  turn, they will be upon us.”- Jews living near the Enemies (Neh 4:12) 

Nehemiah 4:12  talks about the Jews who lived close by telling Nehemiah to stop work. They approached him 10 times/ They are made up of residents living near the enemies, their numbers include the leaders and commoners.

These are the internal and external problems faced by Nehemiah. Let us learn how he responded to these problem.

Response 1: Nehemiah lead Israel To Focus On God

“Nevertheless we made our
  prayer to our God, and because
  of them we set a watch against
  them day and night.” – Nehemiah (Neh 4:9)

In face of all the threats, the first thing he did was to lead them to pray to God. He wanted to turn their focus away from their weariness,  away from the debris and he wanted to turn their focus towards Lord. Everyone is aware of the reality of the work before them. There were a lot of rubble and it is difficult to clear them.  There were people trying to stop the work fearing for their lives, they refuse to cooperate to complete the work.

If this were to continue , when  will the wall ever be completed? Indeed the surrounding is scary and discouraging. It seems no matter how hard they try to see, they are unable to see any glimpse of hope.

Therefore Nehemiah led them to look upon God.  Even though we cannot deny our disappointment and how weary and tired we are, but let us focus on the Lord, his temple and this city that belongs to him. For we are not working for our own sake, and we are doing the will of God. God will help us, and God will complete this work.

All we need to do is to acknowledge the problem and tell them to the Lord.

Sometimes as we serve God, we will meet with many problem and we will face the threat from our enemies. But we need to know that our Lord is greater than all these problems.

That is why we need to look upon the Lord. Just like how Nehemiah reminded the Israelites

“Do not be afraid of them.
  Remember the Lord, great 
  and awesome, and fight for
  your brethren, your sons,
  your daughters, your wives,
  and your houses.”- Nehemiah (Neh 4:14)

Nehemiah reminded them that their God is great and awesome. The enemies are obstructing the work of God and they  will not escape from the wrath of God. But if the Jews were to stop working on the wall because of them, they will have to face the wrath of God.

Therefore let us not  focus on the  frightening the enemies are, but let us be afraid of the wrath of judgement of God. Nehemiah reminded them of whom they should really fear. Therefore whenever we feel weak and are fearful in the situation, let us remember that our great and awesome God.

A spiritual leader need to have strength in order to lead. If Nehemiah appear weak before his enemies, then the work will be affected. The Jews would be confused and frightened, and they will tremble in fear. Let us not be part of the confusion and fear, but rather let u rely on God who is strong and is able to complete the work.

When Winston Churchill became the prime minister of Britain, it was during a difficult time. For Hitler had occupied most of Europe and was planning to invade Britain. On his first speech to the house of commons he said.

“I have nothing to offer
  but blood, toil, tears
  and sweat.”- Winston Churchill

It was his strength and conviction that unites Britain against Nazi Germany. Britain is the only country that did not fall to Hitler. From here we can see something that is common in all struggles, be it spiritual or worldly.  Whenever we face the threat of enemies, it is natural to feel weak, discourage or even fearful. But that is also the time we need to use our faith to understand that our God is great and awesome.

Response 2 : To Pick Up Weapons For Defence

Beside praying, Nehemiah led the people to do whatever he could at that time.  

Therefore I positioned men
  behind the lower parts of
  the wall, at the openings;
  and I set the people according
  to their families, with their
  swords, their spears, and
  their bows” – Nehemiah (Neh 4:13)

Nehemiah told the Jews to to pick up their swords and spear. They did that not to attack but to defend themselves.  They wanted the enemies to know that even if they were to attack, the Jews will not surrender. Nehemiah then reminded them to fight for their brethren, sons, daughters, wives,  and their houses,

He told them not to be afraid but to defend themselves. For even if they were to surrender, they enemies will still come and attack them. But if they knew that the Jews were not afraid of them and have armed themselves. They would not dare to attack.

And it happened, when
  our enemies heard that
  it was known to us, and
  that God had brought their
  plot to nothing, that all
  of us returned to the wall,
  everyone to his work. “- Nehemiah (Neh 4:15)

The enemies purpose for threatening the Jews is to make them lose their faith and willpower. They wanted to create division and to be fearful and confused. But Nehemiah is a spiritual leader who fought hard for the house of God. He understood their plot so he encourage the Jews to be strong and not to fall from it. 

God helped them and he disrupted the plan of the enemies. We read that the enemies did not come for God had brought their plan to nothing. The bible did not record of how God helped the Jews and how he disrupted their plot. But we know that God had brought their plan to nothing. Therefore we need to learn to entrust our problem to the Lord. Even though we do not know when God will help and how he will destroy their plot. But we believe that whoever who opposed God will be judged by his righteousness.

Let us not stand there and wait for God to act, we need to do what is within our ability. We need to pick up our spears and swords and show our enemies our determination to fight.

Response 3 : Making Plans To Defend The Wall

Besides arming the Jews, Nehemiah made plans to defend the wall from the enemies. He did not relax just because the enemies did not come. He continued to prepare for the defence of the wall.

“So it was, from that time on,
  that half of my servants worked
  at construction, while the other
  half held the spears, the shields,
  the bows, and wore armor; and
  the leaders were behind all the
  house of Judah.
 
Those who built on the wall, and
  those who carried burdens, loaded
  themselves so that with one hand
  they worked at construction, and
  with the other held a weapon. 
 
Every one of the builders had his
  sword girded at his side as he built.
  And the one who sounded the
  trumpet was beside me. “ – Nehemiah (Neh 4:16-18)

The arrangement seem to create a difficult work environment for his people. But we need to understand that just because the enemies did not come, doesn’t mean that they would not come in the future. If the Jews were to relax themselves and stop arming themselves, the enemies will take the opportunity to make a surprise attack and they will be caught unprepared.

That is why Nehemiah did not relax, and he further prepared the Jews to defend themselves. Half of his workers were working, while the other half held spears. The leaders were to stand behind them and to supervise and guard them. These are necessary preparation to deter the enemies from attacking. 

Such precaution will increase the faith of the workers, for they will not be worried if the enemies were to attack the wall.  Some may think that these additional arrangement will affect that speed and progress of the work. But if the Jews were not armed, the wall will be destroyed by the enemies,

That is why Nehemiah arrange that half would work while the other half would guard. The work of building the wall would continue and the defence will not be compromised.  Those who work, must work with one hand and hold a weapon on the other. For there was not enough soldiers, therefore everyone must do his part to protect the wall. Those who are doing heavy manual work that require both hands must grid the weapon on them.

This is a attitude necessary to complete the work.

There was once a village chapel that caught fire. The villagers are are rallying to use buckets to carry water from the river to put out the water. But some of the Christians felt that they ought to pray and ask God to help them. Therefore the leaders told them “Let us use the water to put out the fire, but as we put out the fire let us pray with our heart.”

That leader fully understood what Nehemiah meant to work with one hand and to carry the weapon with the other.

Response 4 : To Set Up Communications Between The Builders

“The work is great and extensive,
  and we are separated far from
  one another on the wall.
  Wherever you hear the sound
  of the trumpet, rally to us
  there. Our God will fight
  for us.”- Nehemiah (Neh 4:19)

Nehemiah planed for the builders to help each other in need. He gave them horns to signal each other if attacked.  If the enemies were to attack suddenly, it would be difficult to summon help by mere shouting. But if one were to blow the horn, it can send a signal far away and the defenders can rally and defend themselves.

Such arrangement will allow the Jews to defend themselves against their enemies. If you were to face a swift and stealthy  enemy alone, you will get tired easily. But if you know that help is coming, you will have the strength to fight on. That is why communication between the builders are important, even though the arrangement appear to be  unnecessary. But you will reap the benefit when the enemies were upon you. 

Besides working and carrying the weapon, we need the horn to call for help. 

Response 5 : Taking Turns To Guard The Wall

“Let each man and his servant
  stay at night in Jerusalem, that
  they may be our guard by night
  and a working party by day.
  So neither I, my brethren, my
  servants, nor the men of the
  guard who followed me took
  off our clothes, except that
  everyone took them off for
  washing.” – Nehemiah (Neh 4:22-23)

This is another arrangement by Nehemiah. Nehemiah told the guards to watch days and night. They did not take off their armour except for  washing. The Chinese bible also indicated that those who fetch water carried weapons as well. This arrangement was so because they do not know when the enemies will strike

Nehemiah made preparation that everyone must be armed. Including the cooks and servants who fetch water. Nehemiah considered all the possibilities and prepared with all his might. His preparation allow the Jews to remain watchful and to overcome heir enemies.

Conclusion

Today as we serve God, we would face the same internal and external threats. The problems that we will face will be similar to the problems faced by Nehemiah. We will likewise face people mocking us with their words, and we may even be threatened as we serve God.

Today we studied into the sixth factor behind success of Nehemiah’s work.  It reminds us that we need to rely on God whenever we serve him. At the same time, we ought to make whatever preparation that is necessary. Nehemiah did not relax even though God had helped the people. He continue to put in effort to prepare his people to defend themselves.

We need to be like Nehemiah, to lead everyone to focus onto God. AT the same time we need to set guards, hold up our weapons to defend ourselves. We need to carry the horn to call for help to defend ourselves.

Most importantly, we need to continue to work even in the midst of trouble. For that is the most effective way to deal with threats within and outside the church.

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