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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

Nehemiah 4

Verses 1-23

  1. Intro:
    1. Once Linus (from the peanuts cartoon) said to his sister Lucy after she had done something mean to him again, Big sisters are the crab grass in the lawn of life.
      1. Know anyone like that?
    2. Expect criticism & be ready for it.
      1. The enemies of God will do everything in their power to come against God & His work, and never sit idly by w/o a relentless fight…Expect it!
    3. In scripture & so in our life…after a series of success often comes a severe crisis. [The enemy doesn’t like things going well for his enemy’s kingdom]
      1. So far Nehemiah has had: his prayers answered, received royal permission to return to Jerusalem, was granted governmental resources, authority, protection, & an enthusiastic response from his fellow countrymen…but it so happened (see vs.1).
        1. All through history men/women of God who ventured upon the service for God has been confronted with the very same problems that constantly vex us. Alan Redpath
      2. Read Spurgeon (Swindoll pg.62)
    4. Pick out the different weapons the enemy uses here.
      1. As Paul said, for we are not ignorant of his devices. 2 Cor.2:11
  2. RIDICULE (1-6)
    1. ​​​​​​​(1) What is mockery’s goal?…for you to stop, give up, just quit.
      1. How do you battle that? Remind yourself who’s work you’re doing.[God’s, not yours]
    2. Practically, why the attacks?
      1. A fortified Jerusalem would endanger the balance of power in the region.
    3. (2,3) How Satan loves his rumor & ridicule campaign.
    4. Thomas Carlyle, the British critic & author said, ridicule was the language of the devil.
      1. ​​​​​​​Shakespeare called it, paper bullets of the brain.
    5. Who do you remember in scripture suffered at the hands of ridicule?
      1. Goliath did this to David, So the Philistine said to David, Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?
      2. The Philistines did to Samson, They said, call for Samson, that he may perform for us.
      3. Jesus suffered at the hands of ridicule from thieves, the people, & soldiers.
    6. Sanballat ridicules…
      1. (2a) He ridicules the workers - What are these feeble Jews doing? (but when we are weak He is strong)
      2. (2b) He ridicules the work itself - Will they fortify themselves? (Feeble Jews can’t build strong walls) Will they offer sacrifices? (Sanballat was blaspheming against Jehovah GodGod won’t help His people) Will they complete it in a day? (means, this is a difficult job, they’ll soon quit)
      3. (2c) He ridicules the materials - Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish; stones that are burned? Yes, just watch.
      4. (3) He ridicules the finished product - Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall?
        1. You won’t need an army to knock this down one little fox could.
    7. (4,5) He prayed & asked God to fight the battle for him.
    8. Imprecatory prayer (curse) – he was praying as a servant of God, not requesting personal vengeance but official vindication for God’s people.
      1. To oppose God’s people was to oppose God.
    9. (6) Note: Pray & get back to work.
  3. CONSPIRACY (7-9)
    1. ​​​​​​​(7,8a) The threat was that they’d attack from every side:
      1. North (Sanballat/Samaria) South (Arabs) East (Tobiah & Ammonites) West (Ashdod)
    2. Why is it always easier for enemies to come together for a single purpose than it is for Christians to? Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him. Mk.12:13
    3. (8b) Confusion often causes anxiety to our souls. We start to spiritually hyper ventilate.
    4. (9) What did Nehemiah do to meet this threat? Make your prayer & set your watch.
      1. Pray & keep working (pray & sweat)
      2. Here is the clear balance between faith in God & readiness.
      3. There is neither foolish independence of God nor foolish neglect of human responsibility. (G. Cambell Morgan)
      4. The NT inverts it, Watch & Pray.
        1. Means trust God, while at the same time be alert to what the enemy is doing.
  4. DISCOURAGEMENT (10)
    1. ​​​​​​​The Devil was having a yard sale, and all of his tools were marked with different prices. There was hatred, jealously, deceit, lying, pride - all at expensive prices. But over to the side of the yard on display was a tool more obviously worn than any of the other tools. It was also the most costly. The tool was labeled, DISCOURAGEMENT. When questioned, the Devil said, "It's more useful to me than any other tool. When I can't bring down my victims with any of the rest of these tools, I use discouragement, because so few people realize that it belongs to me."
    2. They Lost their Strength (10a)
    3. They Lost their Vision (10b)
    4. They Lost their Confidence (10c)
      1. Leith Anderson said, Most things that discourage me are dwarfed by some new problem within 72 hours.
      2. Have you become discouraged about the amount of rubble/rubbish/trash that must be cleared away in your life?
  5. INTIMIDATION (11-23)
    1. ​​​​​​​(11) When the enemy can’t fool you he will try frightening you.
      1. ​​​​​​​ The Jews living outside the city would come to work w/frightening tales about the enemies plans.
    2. (12) Scare Tactic. Plots of war.
      1. Some fears, are no fears at all. [most worrying is about things that never comes to pass]
    3. (13) While Critics discourage, Leaders encourage.
      1. Satan wanted to use these problems as weapons to destroy the work, but God used them as tools to build His people.
      2. God had one Son w/o sin, but He never had a Son w/o trial. (Warren Wiersbe)
    4. (13-16) Fuse together w/a common goal.
      1. When fear strikes, immediately a good leader reassures his fearful workers.
      2. Frightened people discourage others & help bring defeat…What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, lest the heart of his brethren faint like his heart. Deut.20:8
    5. Note he arms & assembles whole families. Like Israel today…
      1. ​​​​​​​Yom Kippur War Oct 1973. A coalition of Arab states led by Egypt & Syria against Israel as a way of recapturing part of the territories which they lost to the Israelis back in the 6-Day War. The war began with a surprise joint attack by Egypt and Syria on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. Just 1 problem, 1 phone call to a house reached the whole family of soldiers, both enlisted & retired, because they all celebrate Sabbaths & holidays together.
    6. (14) Direct your attention toward the Lord. Remember the Lord, great & awesome.
      1. ​​​​​​​The Greatness of God helps us overcome...our fear of man.
      2. Fear & faith cannot live together in the same heart.
    7. (15-18) Build & Battle - Our hands must be familiar w/the sword against the attack of our spiritual enemies, & w/the trowel to contribute our bit of work toward God’s building. (F. B. Meyer)
    8. Sword
      1. ​​​​​​​What instrument, tool, or weapon are your hands very comfortable with? [Guitar, needle & thread, gun, hammer, nun-chucks]
      2. How did we get comfortable w/these? (using them often)
      3. How are you with wielding the Word of God? (it works the same, get comfortable w/it)
    9. What is your part of the wall to build for His kingdom?
    10. Spurgeon started a famous magazine back in 1865 called The Sword & the Trowel – the title he grabbed from here.
      1. He said it was a record of combat with sin & labor for the Lord. We would ply the trowel w/untiring hand for the building up of Jerusalem’s dilapidated walls, & wield the sword w/vigor & valor against the enemies of the truth.
    11. The people practiced Eph.6:10a,18. They armed themselves, prayed, & kept working
      1. ​​​​​​​Put on the whole armor of God...Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit; Being watchful to this end with all perseverance.
    12. (19,20) Determine a rallying point –
      1. Where did Nehemiah plan to be if a fight broke out? rally to us there. Learn much of a leader here.
        1. He was a leader who served & a servant who led. (Warren Wiersbe)
    13. (21-23) Look out for one another - See vs.14b also.
    14. (22) Guard by day, work party by night.
      1. So they intensified, instead of abandoning the work.
        1. They were able to complete it in 52 days.
        2. You can’t always work like this (at this level of intensity) but there are times when you have to put in the extra effort.
    15. What a great picture Nehemiah gives us: Having our sword girded at our side, a tool in our hand. Having a mind to work, eyes watching, & our ear listening for the trumpet of any emergency (or like Jesus’ Return) & a heart to work together with others.
    16. Or as Redpath explained why the Jews were successful: The people had…
      1. A mind to work (6)
      2. A heart to pray (9)
      3. An eye to watch (9)
      4. An ear to hear (20)
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Nehemiah 4". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/nehemiah-4.html. 2017.