Rebuilding Hope - part 4: Sticks and Stones
Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders. So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night. In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.” So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.” When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out. I also said to the people at that time, “Let every man and his servant pass the night within Jerusalem, that they may be a guard for us by night and may labor by day.” So neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes; each kept his weapon at his right hand.
Introduction: In 1928, the undefeated Army football team stepped onto the field at Yankee Stadium to face Notre Dame. Notre Dame was experiencing their worst season on record under the leadership of legendary coach Knute Rockne. At half time, it looked as if Army had the game under their control. So as the beleaguered players sat in the locker room, Rockne knew what he had to do.
Rockne proceeded to share with the team the last words of George Gipp, one of the greatest players to ever play for Notre Dame. Gipp died of a strep infection while under Rockne’s leadership. Rockne shared Gipps words, "sometime, when the team is up against it -- and the breaks are beating the boys -- tell them to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper...” Notre Dame went on to beat Army 12-6.
Nehemiah chapter 4 is half time and Nehemiah is the head coach. The players are the workers and they are feeling defeated. The opposing team, led by Sanballat and Tobiah, has turned things up a notch and it looks as if the work will once again come to a standstill. What happens next is critical to the outcome – it’s win or lose, do or die, put up or shut up.
Think about it this way. Momentum or motion is met with friction. When an object moves through the air or water, friction or drag slows the progress of the object. In the spiritual realm, If you are on the move for God, you can expect following the will and vision of God will bring counter friction from the enemy.
THE STAGES OF OPPOSITION
THE STAGES OF OPPOSITION
Causes for opposition
Discomfort with change. It has been said that the only one who likes change is a baby with a dirty diaper. BTW, Do you know how many Baptists it takes to change a light bulb? CHANGE!?! Who said anything about change.
Sometimes implementing a renewed vision requires a change in the way churches do things. The message NEVER changes. It’s all about Jesus. But the methods and programs churches use to spread the message may need updating.
If two and a half years of Covid has taught the church anything, it is that we cannot become comfortable in the way we do things because life is uncertain and change and challenge comes whether we are ready or not.
Sanballat, Tobiah, and the enemies of the people had grown used to a weakened Jerusalem and Judah. Once the wall was rebuilt, they knew their time was short.
Feelings of power are lost.
Some times change makes people feel like they are no longer in control.
This happens in churches a lot. I know of churches that say they want growth. They want younger people to come to their church. But then, when those people start showing up, they get uncomfortable and upset because the feel like the new people are taking over. Resentment is a powerful emotion.
Sanballat and Tobiah knew that the control they had exercised over the Jewish people was slipping away.
It should have been abundantly clear to Sanballat and Tobiah that God was at work in the situation since they heard the testimony of Nehemiah who told of how the “good hand of God was upon him.”
They should have submitted to the will of God. But they didn’t. They rebelled.
Can church folk rebel against the will and vision of God? Absolutely! Are there consequences. Yes! Nehemiah warned Sanballat and Tobiah that they, “had no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”
Every one of the reasons I just mentioned can be attributed to Spiritual Warfare.
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
I mentioned this last week but it bears repeating: Whatever God wants to build up, Satan wants to tear down. So when the church catches a fresh vision for revitalization, our adversary will seek to squash that enthusiasm.
Andy Davis, pastor of FBC Durham wrote a book on church revitalization. This is what he wrote about spiritual warfare and the church: “The most powerful weapon in the hands of our Almighty Lord for the destruction of Satan’s dark kingdom is a healthy local church. No one knows this better than Satan, and therefore it is expected that he will be vigorously active in fighting reform efforts made in specific local churches.” (Davis, Andrew M.. Revitalize: Biblical Keys to Helping Your Church Come Alive Again (pp. 16-17). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)
Stage 1: Contempt (vv. 2:10, 19) From the very beginning, Sanballat and Tobiah held Nehemiah in contempt because he was the one bearing this renewed vision for Jerusalem. They didn’t like what he represented so they sought to stop him.
Stage 2: Complaining (vv. 4:1-3) Their complaining also included criticism and persecution. It was meant to discourage the people and disrupt the work. These people had no authority to actually stope the work so they sought to demoralize the workers. Critics demoralize, leaders encourage.
Stage 3: Conspiring (vv. 7-8) When the discouragement didn’t work, they began to conspire to attack the people. Sanballat hoped that the threat of a possible attack would be enough to cause the work to stop and the people to give up. Nehemiah encouraged the people to carry on.
Stage 4: Collaborating (vv. 4:8, 6:1-9) As the work continued, the enemy decided to work together to try to take the leader out. The plotted to lure Nehemiah away from the work to meet together where they would have undoubtably taken him out. Nehemiah had enough discernment not to fall for it.
THE STRAIN OF OPPOSITION (vv. 4:10-12)
THE STRAIN OF OPPOSITION (vv. 4:10-12)
Building becomes a burden (v. 10) (too much rubble…)
In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.”
Suddenly it was overwhelming to them. They began to question whether they were able to do the job. This is a principle that is true in every area of life: If you begin to think you can’t do something, then you won’t. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV)
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, But his heart is not with you.
Faith begins to falter (v. 11)
And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.”
“And our enemies said...” They began to listen to the lies of their enemy rather than look to the promise of their heavenly Father. God was with them but they began to doubt that.
Retreat instead of resolve (v. 12)
At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.”
Some began to panic thinking an attack was imminent and began to tell the others that they needed to abandon the work and return to their safe spaces.
THE STAND AGAINST OPPOSITION
THE STAND AGAINST OPPOSITION
Pray up! (vv. 4:4-5, 9)
Perk up (vv. 14)
Press on (v. 15)
Prepare for the next battle (vv. 16-23)
Closing: Everyone knows that a dog is man’s best friend, right? Well you know you are having a bad day when you get shot in the back by your own dog. This is a true story by the way…In the fall of 2011, a 46 year old Utah man was out with his dog duck hunting. They had been drifting down a creek in a canoe when the man pulled on to the bank of the marsh to deploy some decoys.
He exited the canoe leaving his 12 gauge shotgun resting across the bow of the boat. According to the local deputy sheriff the dog “did something to make the gun discharge.” Apparently, the dog got excited and jumped onto the bow of the boat accidentally causing the weapon to discharge shooting his owner in the buttocks with 27 pellets of birdshot. Police considered it an accident and no charges were filled but the dog remained silent about the incident.
This funny, but true story communicates a powerful truth – whenever it comes to implementing God’s vision, sometimes the people you thought were on your team are the ones who shoot you in the back. You must be prepared to respond to them with grace and love and the only way you can do that is to pray up, perk up, press on and then prepare for the next battle.
As I said in the introduction, motion causes friction. And if you are not experiencing some friction while implementing God’s vision, then maybe you are not doing what God wants you to do.