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Bible Commentaries
Nehemiah 4

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-23

Chapter 4

Now it came to pass, when [this antagonist] Sanballat [and Tobiah] learned that they had started building the wall, they were very angry, and they began to mock the Jews ( Nehemiah 4:1 ).

And they gathered together the army of the Samaritans who, of course, were already antagonistic toward the Jews. They sought to hinder the work through mockery.

What are these feeble Jews trying to do? Tobiah said, If a fox would go up against that wall they're building, he could knock it over ( Nehemiah 4:2-3 ).

It is interesting how that Satan so often uses mockery in order to discourage the work of God. It's one of the tools that Satan often uses against us. You've probably been subjected to mockery. "Oh, don't tell me you believe those fairy tale kind of things." And mockery is often used; ridicule is used as a tool to discourage the work of God. And unfortunately, many times it works. We are sort of cowed by the ridicule of others. We don't like to be ridiculed. We don't like to be mocked. And mockery is oftentimes a tool used to discourage a person in the work of God.

Now Nehemiah met the challenge of their mockery with prayer.

Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own heads, and give them as a prey of captivity ( Nehemiah 4:4 ):

Now Nehemiah answers this attack with prayer. Again, as we pointed out this morning, Nehemiah, as all of the leaders of the Old Testament were men of prayer, praying for guidance when the king says, "Well, why are you so sad? What would you want me to do?" "Oh God, you know, give me favor," and then he lays it out to the king. And always there acknowledging God and everything.

Now here comes this ridicule and he just offers this prayer unto the Lord that God will turn it upon their own head. It's sort of like some of the psalms of David where he prays not for God to bless his enemies, but for God to break their teeth in their mouth. And I sort of like David. I can identify with him easier than I can sometimes with the words of Christ where He said, "Love your enemies." I find that difficult. "Do good unto those who despitefully use you" ( Matthew 5:44 ). That's hard. But where David says, "Lord, let the angel of the Lord pursue them and break their teeth in their mouth and smash their noses and all, Lord." I can get into that. So here is Nehemiah saying, "Lord, turn it on their own heads. Turn it back to them, Lord."

And so he's saying:

Don't cover their iniquity, don't blot out their sin ( Nehemiah 4:5 ):

Judge them, Lord; send them to hell. They said,

So we built the wall; and all of the wall was joined together: for the people had a mind to work ( Nehemiah 4:6 ).

So when Sanballat and Tobiah saw that the work was progressing so well, they now decided on a more direct assault against this building project. And they began to attack with commando type of rage, harassing the builders and those that were seeking to do the work, because they began to fill in the breaches and the wall began to go up and it was obvious that these fellows were intent on what they were doing. And so they sought to hinder the building up by these attacks, and again Nehemiah answered this through prayer.

Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and we set the watch against them day and night, because of these attacks ( Nehemiah 4:9 ).

"Now we offered our prayer unto God and we set our watch." The prayer was not used in lieu of responsible actions. Nor should prayer ever be used in lieu of responsible actions. God expects us to act responsibly. Some people use prayer as an excuse for their laziness. It should never be. "We offered our prayer unto God and we set the watch against the enemy." God does expect us to do what is wise and what is prudent though all the while we are trusting in Him. We know that, "If the Lord doesn't watch the city, the watchman waketh but in vain" ( Psalms 127:1 ). But the watchman still wakes up.

We don't say, "Lord, watch the city," and then everybody just go to sleep. But the watchman is still there. But if the Lord isn't watching, he's waking up and he's there in vain. We realize that it is necessary that God watch the city, but we also realize it's necessary that we take the prudent actions that are required of us. So, "We offered our prayer unto our God and we set our watch day and night."

So then there was further problems that developed, because

Those of Judah said, The strength of the bearers of the burdens are decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall ( Nehemiah 4:10 ).

They just began to get discouraged. And what a tool discouragement is in the hand of the enemy as he seeks to discourage us from the work of the Lord. The enemy seems to have a whole bag of tricks. He'll try to stop you by ridicule. If that doesn't work, he'll assault you. If that doesn't work, then he'll try to make you discouraged. And just so many things the enemy uses to keep you from doing the work of God. And it's tragic when a person allows discouragement to stop him or to hinder him from that work and calling of God upon his life.

And there are always many people with words of discouragement for anything you might seek to do for the Lord. "Oh, don't you realize people have tried to do that before? Oh, we tried that ten years ago and it was really a flop, you know." Here you're all inspired. You feel like doing something for the Lord. There's always someone who'd pour cold water on your ideas to discourage you. And many times people, unfortunately, allow discouragement to keep them from the word of God.

And so he said in encouragement to them, they were saying, "Oh, you know, our strength is... we're tired and these harassing attacks and all." And he said, "Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord." And remembering the Lord is always the cure for fear. David said, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me" ( Psalms 23:4 ). Fear always ensues when I forget the Lord.

"Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Why art thou disquieted within me?" ( Psalms 42:5 ) Because I've forgotten that God is on the throne. I have forgotten that the Lord has said, "I will never leave you or forsake you" ( Hebrews 13:5 ). I have forgotten the power of the Lord and the presence of the Lord. And thus, fear gripped my heart and discouragement because I have forgotten the Lord. Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord. The Lord is with you. The Lord will give you strength. You need not to fear.

and so God put the counsel of their enemies to nought, and they returned again to the building of the wall, every man to his work. So it came to pass from that time forth, that half of the fellows would work, and half would stand watching with their spears ready for the attack ( Nehemiah 4:15-16 ).

And Nehemiah stood with them, and next to Nehemiah was the fellow with the trumpet. And whenever attack would come, the guy would go and blow the trumpet in that place and everybody would drop their trowel. And they work with the trowel with one hand and a sword in the other. And they take off with the swords to drive off the enemy.

Now it is interesting that in Daniel's prophecy concerning the commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem to the coming of the Messiah the Prince, he there declared, "And the wall shall be built again in troublous times" ( Daniel 9:25 ). And surely the building of the wall was fraught with all kinds of trouble as the enemies sought to harass them and to hinder them in their work. Working with the trowel in one hand, the spear in the other. Half working while half watched. And they worked from sun up to sun down till the stars were out at night. And they didn't even bother... they were so tired they just lay down with their clothes on. They didn't even bother to remove their clothes except that they would wash them once in a while. But they just were staying right on the task. And the builders, every one of them, had his sword girded by his side, waiting for the trumpet to sound, dropping the trowel, going to battle. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Nehemiah 4". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/nehemiah-4.html. 2014.
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