Sometimes we face opposition when we are trying to do something for God. This can be from other people, our internal voice being influenced by sin, maybe even from Satan, our culture, or some other place. In this reading, we see that God’s people are being ridiculed by Sanballat and his associates.
The Jewish people are working to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall, which is important to their identity as God’s people, and which physically protects them from harm. This is a big job, and reading Nehemiah, we see many people and circumstances opposing this task. Despite opposition, Nehemiah and the Jewish people work hard to achieve God’s purposes for Jerusalem.
We can see why the people opposing the Jews ridiculed them; the task was very difficult from a human perspective. Jerusalem’s broken wall might have looked impossible to repair when the Jewish people started, building from rubble, with enemies surrounding them. If I was in that position, just the fear of being attacked by jealous enemies might have discouraged me from working. But God is stronger than any enemy. In fact, God is stronger than any circumstance, and He calls us to trust in Him – to be “strong and courageous”, living as His chosen people.
How do we see the Jews responding to the threat? Nehemiah prays for God to hear them, and to punish the enemies of God’s people. I think our fight is different to this struggle. It seems to be a spiritual battle, where we don’t ask for God to punish other people, but rather, “…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). The people work with all their heart, continually pray, and post a guard; we persist, as a community and individuals, in asking God to save us from enemies and accomplish His work through us, and we put our whole selves into the work God wants us to do.
Recently, I’ve faced challenges about how I follow God, and it’s raised questions for me about whether I’m trusting in God, or whether I’m fearing some other person or life circumstance – whether I’m trying to solve issues on my own, or whether I’m allowing God to work for good in my circumstances; through scripture, His Spirit, His church, and by obeying Him despite my fears. Are you following God and trusting in him to do his work in this world?