When the walls of Jerusalem were erected, and only the gates remained to be hung, Israel’s enemies again tried to stop the progress. Seeing that brute force would not work (Neh. 4:7-23), Sanballat and Geshem tried a more “diplomatic” approach where perhaps they could get Nehemiah to compromise with them. They asked him to stop the work and meet them in one of the villages in the plain of Ono (Neh. 6:2-3). Nehemiah was not falling for this, and refused, even though the men hounded him for a meeting (v. 4-5).
When Nehemiah refused, Sanballat sent an open letter (Neh. 6:5) accusing him and the Jews of rebellion against Xerxes. Understand, an “open letter” was a form of insult against Nehemiah. Yet, when insulted, Nehemiah spoke the truth that Sanballat made up these charges. He then prayed for God’s strength (v. 8-9). He faced yet another test when Shemiah tried to get him to hide in the Temple under the ruse that Nehemiah needed to do this to save his life (v. 10-11). Thankfully, Nehemiah refused to listen and stood his ground with his people, again turning to God in this time (v. 14).
Satan does the same to us. First, he tempts us to give in to our lusts and sin against God (Jas. 1:14-15). If temptations that lead to rebellion do not lure us, then he uses other tactics, like compromise, to lead us away from the Lord. We see this in Matthew 4 and Luke 4 when Satan tempted Christ. When other tactics failed, he tried to get Jesus to compromise. If Jesus bowed and worshipped Satan, He would have the “kingdoms of the world”! He could avoid the cross altogether (Matt. 4:8-10; Lk. 4:5-8)! Why not compromise, Jesus? Isn’t this a way to “have your cake and eat it too”?
Compromise with the truth has been Satan’s tactic for years. He wants men to feel good about their partial obedience and then justify the behavior we want to do. For example, we might not yield to the temptation to be homosexual (Rom. 1:26-27), but Satan wants us to say we love others and will accept this behavior in others (ignoring Rom. 1:32). Similarly, we might not drink alcohol (I Pet. 4:3), but Satan says we ought not to condemn others who drink and exercise their “rights” in the USA. If someone takes a stand for truth and says that there is only one way to Heaven, through the teachings of Christ (Jn. 14:6), Satan’s minions will hound us and call us “narrow-minded,” and a “Pharisee.”
Yes, when Satan fails at getting us to turn from the Lord, he will try to get us to compromise. Friend, what will we do about this? What have we done? I hope we haven’t fallen into the trap of compromising with sin, but if so, know that there is still time to repent while we live (II Pet. 3:9; Heb. 3:7-8). If you need to be baptized for the remission of sins, then do it (Acts 2:38; I Pet. 3:21). Don’t compromise with false doctrine on this issue or any other! Take advantage of the time we have and do what God says without compromise or apology -- just like Nehemiah!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
Nehemiah 5 records a sad event in the history of God’s people. As the wall was being built, and the people united against a common enemy, Nehemiah records that the “nobles and the rulers” (v. 7) were guilty of oppressing their countrymen. They did this by charging usury (KJV) or interest against their people. Think: Loan sharks!
The affected people came to Nehemiah, crying out against this treatment. Why had they gotten out of the bondage of Xerxes only to trade it for bondage to their brethren? Sons and daughters were sold into servitude so landowners could pay the interest they had accrued (Neh. 5:5). This was wrong, and Nehemiah condemned the “nobles and the rulers” for their behavior (Neh. 5:7, 9).
There had been a famine (Neh 5:3), and though there were people who needed to buy grain or other things, those making the loans could have left off charging their brethren interest (v. 10). Can you imagine the decline in morale as the work of wall-building is taking place, and then those trying to build the wall cannot work because of how their brethren are treating them! In this chapter, we see that it was not what Sanballat, Tobiah, and the others had done that was killing them. This issue was internal!
How are we treating our spiritual brethren? Christ says the world will know we are His disciples when they observe the love we show our brethren (Jn. 13:34-35). Loving the brethren is more than words. It is also action (I Jn. 3:18)! What does the world see in us? What do we see in each other (Phil. 2:3)? Friend, how can a man love God whom he hasn’t seen if he doesn’t love the brethren he has seen (I Jn. 4:20)?
Have we noticed that often we treat strangers better than we treat those we know the best? Just observe and contrast how we treat a stranger in town with how we treat a family member at home. Why the difference? Similarly, some treat their brethren in harsh ways. Do we backbite? Gossip? Treat them cruelly? Why is this? Aren’t we supposed to be heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17)? Why then, do brethren treat those we are supposed to spend eternity with worse than the people who have rejected God? Please understand, our work is to love all men without partiality (Jas. 2:8). So, why are we not completing our work?
Let’s take a moment for some self-examination (II Cor. 13:5). How are you treating your brethren? Are you treating them with love (Matt. 22:39)? Are you treating them as you want to be treated (Matt. 7:12)? If not, why not? Why are you not willing to treat those whom God loves with respect? Don’t act like the “nobles and the rulers” did. Instead, read Romans 12:9-21 and treat fellow-Christians in a manner that respects them and God!
I am thankful to see that when confronted by Nehemiah about their behavior, the “nobles and the rulers” repented (Neh. 5:11-12). What will we do if we examine ourselves (II Cor. 13:5; Jas. 1:22-25) and see that we are guilty?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
In my opinion, one of the most stirring images in Nehemiah is when the men were building the walls while also preparing to repel an attack from Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabians, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites (Neh. 4:7-23). The Scripture says they made their prayer to God and then took action. As the men worked, they also carried weapons in case of the enemy’s attack (v. 18-20).
What unity! What determination! What zeal! What faith!
As I have contemplated those people’s actions, I thought about the parallel between God’s people then and today. Those of us who are God’s children today need to take a lesson from God’s people in the past (Rom. 15:4). As Christians (Mk. 16:16; Acts 11:26), we need to remember that we have a dual role! We need to build up our brethren (Eph. 4:11-12; I Thess. 5:11; Eph. 4:29; Rom. 14:19). We also need to put on “the whole armor of God,” which includes using “the sword of the Spirit” in our spiritual combat (Eph. 6:13-18; II Cor. 10:3-5)!
As we build, remember that “your adversary the devil” (I Pet. 5:8) continues to wage war against the people of God. His flaming arrows (Eph. 6:16) are continually shot at those who are doing the will of God. Were you aware there was a war going on? We must “fight the good fight of faith” (I Tim. 6:12). At the same time, we need to “admonish the undisciplined, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient toward all” (I Thess. 5:14, NET). Are you doing this?
Are we building with one hand and holding a weapon in the other? If not, why not? God’s people in the past did it, and God’s people need to continue in this work today!
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
It never fails that when people determine to do what the Lord says, they will meet with criticism and ridicule. Friend, has anyone ever criticized you for doing the Lord’s will? Of course, it can get worse than mere critique. Family and friends have rejected some for being Christians. I know people whose parents have disowned them and deny they are even their children! Yes, some people are hated to this degree for merely trying to do what God has said.
I wish I could say this is a new phenomenon, but it is not. When the Jews determined to rebuild the walls and began to make progress, Sanballat was there to mock them (Neh. 4:1)! He was greatly angered that they were even trying this! Remember, this was the same man who was grieved that Nehemiah wanted to come and help the people in the first place (Neh. 2:10). He had ridiculed the people already and falsely charged Nehemiah and the leaders with rebellion (2:19-20). Now, the people’s success fostered a whole new level of hate in him (Neh. 4:2)!
Tobiah made fun of the people and their work. He said it was such a disgrace that a fox could come up and knock the stones down (Neh. 4:3)! When these men heard that the people were content to do God’s will, and ignored the ridicule, they increased the intensity of the threats and plotted to physically fight the people (Neh. 4:7-8). Thankfully, the people were resolved and ready to defend their work if needed (Neh. 4:16-23).
Yes, these people faced their share of “haters,” as will we. Are you ready to stand for the Lord in spite of what others might say? Will you continue to stand when the hatred and harsh words and actions become more intense? I am thankful to God that these people had Nehemiah to encourage them during this hard time (Neh. 4:14-15). Who is your encourager to continue in the fight? Who are you encouraging? Others need encouragement as well, you know!
Facing opposition is something that is promised (II Tim. 3:12). It is not a matter of “if” but “when.” Jesus said, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me” (Jn. 15:18-21).
When we strive to act as the Lord, why would we be surprised that the world treats us as they once treated the Lord? Rather than being caught up in hate, or trying to exact revenge somehow, let us take the words of Christ to heart and remember that there is something better awaiting the child of God (I Cor. 15:58; Rom. 8:18; II Cor. 4:17)!
Don’t let the “haters” discourage you. Pray for their souls, and pray for their change of heart (Matt. 5:44-48). The saddest part of all is the fact that these people are so wrapped up in hate that they do not see that their souls are in jeopardy daily. Remember, though, that the suffering in Hell for them will be far worse than the suffering I endure at their hands. May I love them more than they hate me. May I be active in leading someone to Christ who used to hate but now has the opportunity to see Heaven because He loves the Lord and loves His children (I Jn. 5:2-4).
- Jarrod M. Jacobs
After yesterday’s study, I got to thinking more about all of the names in Nehemiah chapter three. Why did God want His writers to include lists of names from time to time? Why do we read all of those names in Genesis 5 and 10? Why do we read all the names in Exodus 6:14-30 or in the Chronicles? Why name people in Nehemiah, chapters three and seven? Why all of the names in Matthew 1, Luke 3, Romans 16, Hebrews 11, and other places throughout the Scripture?
One answer is that on several occasions, these names are recorded, so we see the genealogy that brings us from Adam to Christ. This is true (Heb. 7:14; Isa. 11:1-2; Gen. 49:10). At other times, however, this is not the case. In our reading, the names in Nehemiah three and seven are not listed for this purpose.
In the case of Nehemiah, let me suggest that those names are listed as a memorial to special people. It memorialized those who served the Lord faithfully and some who did not “put … their necks to the work” (3:5)! The overwhelming majority, however, stand out for their work in rebuilding a wall that had been in ruins for decades! We might think of it as a memorial to them and their sacrifice. This list is not unlike the list of names found in Romans 16 or Hebrews 11, where we read a “hall of fame” of sorts of faithful people.
If you have not done so, spend some time in Nehemiah chapters three and seven and some of the other Scriptures cited above. You would be well-served to take some time and study the people named in those books. Don’t get intimidated by their pronunciation. Instead, look up these people in a Bible dictionary or other Bible study book and see what you can learn about these faith heroes. You might be surprised to learn these people’s connection with the overall narrative of the Bible, and how, at times, their lives intertwine with the lineage of Christ!
Besides this, a study of these people will inspire us to higher service to God. After all, if they endured the hardships they did and remained faithful, does this not show me that I can do it as well (Heb. 12:1; Rom. 15:4)?
- Jarrod M. Jacobs