"OPPOSED BUT OVERCOMING!"

Written and preached by David P. Nolte



NEHEMIAH 4:1-9
 



There was once an old fellow who was extremely hard of hearing and who was usually opposed to just about everything anyone proposed. At a board meeting someone proposed that the deacons of the church go to the old fellow's home and do some much needed repair work on his roof and gutters. The old man said, "I didn't hear what the brother was proposing, but I'm agin' it!" There are some who are always "agin' it" no matter what it is! Nehemiah found out that there were those "agin'" the rebuilding of Jerusalem's wall. I want to consider that opposition and the response to it in the message today. But in order to illuminate the sermon, let me share the story of an American battalion, cut off from the main army and surrounded by German troops. Food and water supplies were dwindling and now and then a German soldier would call out, "Surrender!" That is reminiscent of Nehemiah's enemies. They wanted Nehemiah to surrender. These foes to the good work, though historical characters, might be made to stand for all those who are anti-God, anti-Church, anti-Gospel and anti-Christ. They exist in our world, in our culture, in our own relationships sometimes. But notice this first truth about being opposed.
  1. SOME ARE SURE TO OPPOSE GOD'S WORK: 1-3:
    1. Note who Nehemiah's opponents were: In 2:19 we encounter Tobiah the Ammonite, Geshem the Arab and Sanballat the Hornoite. They were "agin'" rebuilding the wall.
    2. One thing is sure: God's people have always faced opposition:
      1. Moses had Korah and other whiners who wanted to usurp the leadership of the people.
      2. Jeremiah had false prophets who wanted to preach a popular message.
      3. Jesus had the Sadducees, Pharisees, Scribes and Herodians to deal with.
      4. Paul the Apostle had hostile Jews who wanted to undo his church planting.
      5. Christians world wide have faced opposition from Godless governments, Christless philosophies, hostile religions, and from a society set against anything that restricts its own desires and whims.
    3. Why would anyone oppose the truth? Why would anyone set themselves against that which produces morality, decency, ethics, honor, character and integrity? Why?
      1. Some people don't want their "constitutional rights" stifled by anything as narrow as the Bible.
      2. Some people don't want their income diminished by anything that would put the damper on the sale of pornography, narcotics, or other addictive materials.
      3. Some people don't tolerate anything that calls into question or challenges their life-style.
    4. Well, Peter advised us not to be surprised when people oppose us or at the fiery ordeal the enemy puts the church through 1 Peter 4:12. For whatever self-serving reasons, some are sure to oppose God's work. Note some of the tactics used by God's enemies:
      1. They used mockery, ridicule and scorn:
        1. "Look at these feeble Jews and their futile effort! Why, that wall is so inferior and shaky that a fox would knock it down!"
        2. "Nya, Nya, nya, nya, nya, nya! Your wall is gonna fall down!"
      2. They used threats and intimidation:
        1. They conspired to come and fight against the Jews saying, "They won't even know it until we leap out and kill them!"
        2. 6:6, 7 They brought a letter purporting to detail to the king how Nehemiah was planning to become king in Jerusalem and to lead the Jews into revolt. The enemies said, in effect, "When we send this letter to the king, you're in big trouble!"
      3. They feigned friendship to lull Nehemiah: Sanballat and Geshem sent a message saying, "Come, let us meet together." In other words, "Nehemiah, we've had our disagreements, but let's have peace; let's get together and work things out." 6:2. (Swindoll, "Hand Me Another Brick", p.128). They wanted him to drop his guard thinking their intention was kindly, but they were planning to harm him.
Nehemiah was surrounded by those who sought to harm him and who wanted to stop the work. Similarly, the American battalion was surrounded by the German forces. Only one signal flare was left and the Americans decided to shoot it. That night, they pointed the flare gun straight up and fired the round. Then they prayed. They hoped against hope that the Allied forces would see the signal and come to help them. When the hostile neighbors taunted, threatened and enticed Nehemiah, he shot his flare into the heavens: he prayed. There is a model for us there:
  1. TURN THE PROBLEM OVER TO GOD: 4-14:
    1. Look at Nehemiah. See how he turned it over to God:
      1. First, Nehemiah prayed about it! Now, Nehemiah's prayer sounds pretty venomous, doesn't it? But it is in the spirit of:
        1. The Psalmist: "O God, shatter their teeth in their mouth; Break out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord. Let them flow away like water that runs off; When he aims his arrows, let them be as headless shafts." Psalms 58:6, 7. The Psalmist is content to leave the answering of that prayer to God.
        2. Paul the apostle: "Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.'" Romans 12:19. Paul urges us to leave any reprisals to God.
        3. The saints at God's throne who cried out: "How long, O Lord, holy and true, wilt Thou refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" Revelation 6:10. They are satisfied to allow God to deal with their tormentors.
        4. Everyone who allows God to do the judging and avenging instead of taking matters into their own hands.
      2. Second, Nehemiah encouraged the people to trust: V14 "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 houses."
    2. One of my favorite prayers in the Bible is that trusting, dependent outcry of Jehoshaphat when all the enemy surrounded him and he realized his own inadequacy. To boil the prayer down, here it is: "O our God, wilt Thou not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on Thee." 2 Chronicles 20:12. Wisely, he turned the problem over to God.
    3. I fouled up the phone lines this week. Shorted out a wire, messed up the system. I called Perry Welker who installed the system and he graciously came and fixed it. I just had to turn the problem over to him. There are things in life we cannot do so we must turn them over to God.
    4. What is too much for us is not too much for God; what overpowers us does not overpower God; what intimidates us does not intimidate God. We can safely turn our enemies, our problems, our disasters, our stresses and all our lives over to Him and then get on about our business.
And that is just what Nehemiah and the Jews did. So did the American battalion surrounded by German forces. They shot their flare, prayed and waited. The next day an American aircraft flew over and dropped water and food and a note saying, "Hold on! Reinforcements are coming!" This continued for a couple of days. In the meantime, the American troops didn't sit on their knapsacks! They were still in the battle -- reinforcements were coming but they still needed vigilance and action. Nehemiah sets the example for us at this point, too. What did he instruct the Jews to do?
  1. WATCH AND KEEP WORKING: 9, 15-23:
    1. The Jews took turns watching and working; some had one hand on a sword and the other on a tool; some had their weapon nearby, and the trumpeter was on the alert to sound the battle cry.
    2. Trusting God means leaving the anxiety to Him, but it doesn't relieve us of responsibility! We are to be prayerful and productive; we are to be trusting and toiling; we are to be watching and working. May we have the attitude of the poet who said, "I want to let go, but I won't let go, Three are battles to fight, by day and by night For God and the right, and I'll never let go. I want to let go, but I won't let go, May this be my song, 'Mid legions of wrong, Oh, God keep me strong, that I may never let go." Swindoll said, "Guard against the subtle teaching that suggests that God does everything and you step back and do nothing." ("Hand Me Another Brick", p. 93).
    3. Let me clarify that:
      1. If you are having a difficult with reading debased literature, recognize the peril, pray about it and steer yourself away from the magazine stand.
      2. If you are dealing with some addiction, some destructive habit, some pernicious practice, be aware of the danger, pray about it and exercise self-discipline.
      3. If you are in an unwholesome relationship and you are being influenced toward wrongdoing, be alert to the jeopardy, pray about it and sever the relationship.
      4. If you are in the grip of a grudge, under the sway of a rotten attitude, or held in bondage to hate or anger, be conscious of the hazard, pray about it and turn from the wrong.
    4. As you go through life facing opposition, watch and keep working. But let me urge you:
      1. Don't see a demon behind every bush, an enemy in everyone who holds a different view than yours, or a heretic in every other person. Don't be so vigilant that you are a legalistic vigilante.
      2. But don't become complacent, either. Satan is real, his determination to deceive, discourage and destroy you is real. He is not all powerful, but he is powerful. Defeat him with Christ.
      3. Avoid both extremes; be watchful, but be working; be working but be watchful. Peter puts it like this: "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world." 1 Peter 5:8, 9.
Things were tense in the trenches. The American troops were watching and fighting. The last signal flare had been shot. The enemy still taunted and called for surrender. Provisions were scant even with the air-drops. Hope was fading. But after a couple of days the American troops heard artillery fire and soon the reinforcements had routed the German troops and the battle was won. As the troops were rescued, so God delivered the Jews from their enemies. Nehemiah summed it up, "So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And it came about when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God." Nehemiah 6:15, 16. Someday those who set themselves against God will recognize that they have set themselves up for failure. Nothing is too difficult for our God. No purpose of His can be thwarted. No one can oppose Him with success. And those who seek to serve Him, however opposed they may be, will in the final analysis be successful. What it takes on our part is absolute confidence and trust in the Almighty and a heart committed to serving Him against unnumbered foes! Who will trust God this morning? Who will serve Him? Who will stand for Him no matter who stands opposed? Who will trust and obey?

Story adapted from Knight,3,000 Illustrations For Christian Service


Return To Sermons On Nehemiah

Return To Archive

Return To Home Page