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October 11, 2019

Please read today’s Scriptures and use the comment section on this page to share your insights from today’s reading. You can also just mention a verse that impacted you or post a question!

Read (and Hear) the Bible in One Year
Christian Standard Bible for 2019

Text: Matthew 22-23
Audio: Matthew 22-23

Nehemiah 4 (ESV)

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.

10 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.” 11 And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” 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.” 13 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. 14 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.”

15 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. 16 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, 17 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. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. 19 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. 20 In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

21 So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out. 22 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.” 23 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.

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Next: Nehemiah 5

Back: Nehemiah 3

This Post Has 4 Comments
  1. God's Sovereignty and Our Responsibility

    Nehemiah 4:4-5 says, "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. 5 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."

    The ESV Study Bible says of these two verses:

    Nehemiah interjects in his own voice a prayer similar to certain prayers for deliverance from enemies in the Psalms (e.g., Psalm 74; 79). He prays that what his enemies wish for him would return on their own heads; indeed, he prays that they would suffer captivity such as the Jews had recently experienced. The motive is not mere revenge but rather the honor of God, who is the real object of the enemies’ insults and whose purposes they do not understand.

    Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 831). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

    It's clear this prayer from Nehemiah he trusted in the sovereignty of God and knows God can not only delivery them from their enemies; He can also cause them to suffer as the Jews did in exile. 

    Although God is completely in control, notice Nehemiah 4:9 says, "And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night." It doesn't say they prayed and went to bed or let their guard down. They know God is ultimately in control and yet they have a responsibility to do what they can to fight their enemies and protect those who are vulnerable while the wall is being built. 

    We also read in Nehemiah 4:16-18, "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, 17 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. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me."

    This view of building with one hand while holding a weapon with the other reminds me of Psalm 119:11, "I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." 

    It also reminds me of carrying the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) which is the Word of God. We may not physically have our Bibles in our hand while we work but if do not want to sin against God, we need to hide God's Word in our hearts. If we want to stand against the schemes of the devil, we better carry the sword of the Spirit. 

    Notice they are prepared for battle while they work? The threat is real but so is the need to finish rebuilding the wall. 

    This is a good thing for us to remember. Peter reminds us to "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). 

    Being sober-minded and alert (watchful) is a critical first step to guard against attack. But like the builders, we also need to equip ourselves if we are attacked while trusting God with the outcome.

  2. Putting on the whole armor of God is something I have been thinking about a lot lately. Whenever I feel afraid of the things that could happen now or in the future, I remind myself of His armor and that He will never leave me. 

    My human emotions tell me one thing, but God tells me another. I wonder if I will be strong enough to face what may come, to be able to handle any given situation, but God always reminds me that I have HIS strength, so in my weakness, I am strong.

  3. I love the picture Scott has given of our putting on the armor of God, and of being sober and alert. This chapter of Nehemiah is a great way to illustrate that principle. 
     

    Fear of the enemy — or knowing there was an enemy lurking and waiting for opportunity — didn’t stop the workmen from pressing forward in the work. But they also adjusted their lives to protect themselves. I don’t think this reveals a lack of faith at all. I think it’s having wisdom and prudence. 
     

    I think of missionaries or Christians living and serving in nations where there is great opposition to their work, and how they have to adjust their lives in order to continue the work. Many go underground and meet secretly. This isn’t a lack of faith! I think it shows faith, that they would continue on at all and not leave, keep to themselves, or even fall away when persecution comes (as in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13:20-21). 

    I hope when persecution comes my way, I will remember this chapter and what God has shown me today. I need to be wise and prudent, and not throw caution to the wind — but also to not shrink away from the work He has called me to.

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