Nehemiah 4:7 – 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.
Nehemiah 4 is a case study in leading people through slander, attack, and lies to stay on message and mission. At some point, every church, ministry, business, or other organization seeking to do good will have to endure a beating to continue in their blessing.
Opposition begins on the psychological level with mockery and ridicule before the work even begins and gets very personal to discourage the people (4:1-3). Today, the internet only multiplies this misery. The anti-movement had two visible leaders, not unlike two barrels on a gun (2:10). Sanballat was a powerful governor from a nearby town who cared only about his power, pleasure, and profit. Tobiah likely married into a Jewish family to deceive God’s people, just like Judas. People like Tobiah are confusing because they say they are believers, and then oppose God’s vision and attack God’s leaders.
Nehemiah wisely chooses not to engage the critics because if you engage, you will enrage (4:4-5). Nehemiah would not stoke a fire of conflict and enemies to distract him from his God-given mission. Rather than bottling up his frustration, or lashing out in anger at his critics, Nehemiah runs to God in prayer continually. First, he prays for the blessing of God’s people. Second, he prays for the judgment of their enemies who are ultimately fighting against God Himself.
God heard and answered Nehemiah’s prayer very quickly, and the people overcame their fear to push forward together with unified resolve (4:6). Rather than wasting energy on critics and lies, the people invested their energy in their mission.
Do you think it is harder to deal with enemies and critics of your faith today than it was in Nehemiah 4? Why or why not?