Discuss this week's content with your Group!
God wants His people to trust Him to enable them to carry out His purposes in the face of worldly pressures.
As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.
When we commit to faithfully serving God, He gives us big, God-sized goals to accomplish, goals that are only possible when we depend on Him. Often times the bigger the goal, the bigger the opposition and challenges we face. No matter where opposition comes from, God gives us the strength to persevere and remain obedient to our tasks, as Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem demonstrate for us.
Unpack the biblical text to discover what the Scripture says or means about a particular topic.
Wars against the Babylonian empire left Jerusalem devastated. The city still had not recovered 93 years after exiles began returning. Some private and public buildings had been rebuilt. Worship had resumed in the new temple. Then Nehemiah arrived with authorization to rebuild the city wall. More intimidating than the physical obstacles was the human opposition. After the defeat of Judah in 587 B.C. other ethnic groups expanded into the void created by the exile. Reconstruction of the city wall might sustain a resurgence of the city that diminished the influence of these neighbors. Therefore many people living in the vicinity were determined to spoil Nehemiah’s plans.
Mockery is most effective when it contains some truth. Sanballat’s abuse struck at a sensitive reality for the Jews. They were in fact few in number and without significant resources for undertaking such work. From a human perspective the challenge they accepted from Nehemiah seemed too big. Apart from divine help failure seemed unavoidable. Tobiah immediately joined Sanballat.
Nehemiah 4:5 shows one tactic for coping with disheartening mockery is to recognize its source—the mockers were guilty sinners before God. Maintaining regular times of prayer is vital to making such strategy effective. The practice of systematic prayer strengthens faith and builds courage for carrying out the Lord’s work. Nehemiah’s prayer was effective in carrying out God’s purpose for his mission. The Jews were able to continue working. Jerusalem soon was enclosed completely with a wall (4:6).
When false accusations and ridicule failed to halt the repairing of the wall, Nehemiah’s enemies plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s enemies hoped that plans of organized violence would distract the people of Judah from their mission. Nehemiah’s response showed a combination of trust in the Lord and good planning. People prayed together that God would intervene on their behalf and foil their enemies’ plans. God’s hand had begun the work, and ultimately they would need God’s hand to finish the work. At the same time, the workers stationed a guard to protect themselves day and night. They trusted in God for ultimate deliverance, but they also used their God-given minds to take reasonable precautions against attack.
The continued opposition apparently began to undermine Judah’s resolve to finish the work. In the territory of Judah surrounding Jerusalem, people contemplated the enormity of the task in view of existing obstacles and persistent opposition. The task seemed virtually unending because so much rubble remained from the Babylonian destruction. The rubble had to be cleared before the people could even consider the next step—actual work to rebuild the wall. Now, Judah’s enemies even plotted to kill them and stop the work. Family and friends from surrounding villages feared an enemy attack, potentially from any and all sides.
Nehemiah took seriously the threat posed by Sanballat and his associates and exercised common sense and safety. He made an inspection to ensure the people were ready and urged them not to be afraid. He called them to remember the great and awe-inspiring Lord, borrowing an expression from the Law of Moses (Deut. 7:21 “great and awesome”). Families were standing with God and with one another through this important task of finishing Jerusalem’s wall.
What are some of the benefits of this opposition that will test our faith?
The question regarding opposition is not “if ” but “when.” We should not be surprised when it comes, for God’s work has always and will continue to be opposed. But even the opposition, when rightly dealt with, can be used for God’s redemptive purposes in our lives.
Help your group identify how the truths from the Scripture passage apply directly to their lives.
Spend time in silent prayer, giving your group members the opportunity to voice prayers of repentance for sin. After a few minutes, close with a prayer of thanks to God for the power He gives us to fight back against the enemy.