Then I came to the governors of the provinces beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about it, it was very displeasing to them that someone had come to seek the welfare of the sons of Israel. Nehemiah 2:9-10 NASB
Faith in Motion
Nehemiah, with the King’s approval, protection and with supplies in hand, begins his task. He begins by leaving the only home he has known for a land a good bit away. Lets not lose the significance of this. Nehemiah left all he knew in order to go somewhere he had never been in order to obey God. Wow. That is faith in motion.
Now we notice in v.9 that he met with some opposition. We know this because he gave the letters the King had given him so that he could have safe passage. When we journey according to God’s plan, we don’t always find that the road is paved and smooth. We also often find that there is opposition to what we are doing. But God always provides for us! Here, God provided for Nehemiah through the King who gave letters and some soldiers. For us, God gives us HIs protection through His plan for us.
No matter who opposes our journey into God’s will, when we are traveling with His letters, no one can deny our passage because God has already determined that we should pass.
Now we are introduced to the main nemeses of Nehemiah: Sanballat and Tobiah. We’ll get to know these two characters throughout tNehemiah’s work in and around Jerusalem. They were displeased with Nehemiah. In fact, as we will see later, this “displeasure” was more like hatred. Now why would anyone hate a man sent by the Kingt of Persia, protected by the King’s own letters and soldiers, ostensibly doing the King’s work. The King of persia was the mightiest King on earth at this time. Seems to me that people would get out of Nehemiah’s way and seek to help, not hurt him.
Well the answer is rather simple. Sanballat and Tobiah hated the sons of Israel. They hated them. Racism was alive and well all the way back in Nehemiah’s time. Scripture states they were displeased because Nehemiah had come to “seek the welfare of the sons of Israel.” Wow. Do we see that today? Well, yep we sure do. What did Nehemiah do? What should we do when faced with opposition? Lets take a look.
So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days. And I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. I did not tell anyone what my God was putting into my mind to do for Jerusalem and there was no animal with me except the animal on which I was riding. So I went out at night by the Valley Gate in the direction of the Dragon’s Well and on to the Refuse Gate, inspecting the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were consumed by fire. Then I passed on to the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was no place for my mount to pass. So I went up at night by the ravine and inspected the wall. Then I entered the Valley Gate again and returned. The officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; nor had I as yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials or the rest who did the work. – Nehemiah 2:11-16 NASB
Chillaxing in the Rubble
The first thing Nehemiah did when he arrived at his destination was to take a break. Yep, that is what he did. Look at v. 11. When he arrived, he was there for three days before he did any evaluation of the wall or the work that lay ahead for himself and those with him. When he arrived in Jerusalem, he could appreciate why his brother Hanani was so bummed out. As he looked at the city’s shattered walls and useless gates, he was overwhelmed. But, before he could examine them more closely, there was a greater priority. Nehemiah needed a nap. The journey of four months took its toll on Nehemiah. Take a look at Ezra 8:32 – Ezra did the same thing when he arrived in Jerusalem.
Everyone needs to take a rest from time-to-time: Nehemiah in Jerusalem, Ezra in Jerusalem, Elijah needed rest under the juniper tree, and Jesus withdrew with his disciples for rest. We need to make sure we Chillax – rest and recuperate -on a regular basis. I know folks who think rest and relaxation is wrong. these folks work and work and work. They have no time for rest. Most of these folks have the mistaken idea that their worth in God’s sight is somehow diminished if they take some time off. How wrong can a person be! Take time off from time-to-time. If Nehemiah, Ezra, Elijah and Jesus all did it…well, lets just commit to chillaxing every once in awhile.
Scoping out the Situation
Nehemiah, after getting himself recharged by rest, takes a look at the situation he is facing. We see this in verses 12-16. Nehemiah knew that in order to lead this project, he would need a firsthand picture of what needed to be done. He then scoped out the damage to the walls one dark night. With the moonlight showing the mounds of broken stone and demolished gates, Nehemiah made some notes to himself. Seeing all this damage to Jerusalem had to be discouraging.
Look at what he found: broken walls, burned up gates, piles and piles of rubble, so much so that his mount could not pass through. Wow, that is some kind of rubble. Now he did this all at night, I think, so that others would not get discouraged. This is great leadership. The leader of the people must know the situation and formulate a plan in order to motivate those he leads.
We really need to pay attention to Nehemiah here and learn some great leadership: always know what your up against before you try to motivate others to join you.
– Nehemiah discovered this was going to be a demanding job. The wall would be at least a mile long and at least three to four feet thick and fifteen to twenty feet high. That is a lot of rock to move. Remember, no hydraulic lifts existed back then. My back aches just thinking about this.
– Nehemiah discovered the work was going to be dangerous. One reason he went was because Nehemiah knew there were enemies lurking about. If they saw him scoping out the damage during the day they may have attacked and tried to scatter his workforce. Nehemiah, knowing there was opposition, wisely chose to perform a recon mission under the cover of darkness.
· Nehemiah discovered he couldn’t do this himself. This may go without saying, but i’m going to say it anyway: the work Nehemiah faced was monumental – and he could not do it by himself. He discovered that for sure when he surveyed the damage. I wonder what was flying through his mind as he saw the destruction all around him.
You know doing a work from God seems monumental sometimes. Sometimes it seems that the task is too big to be done. It can be discouraging to see how much needs to be done. But we need to know what we need to do to even embark on the work.