A Scripture says, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1), and there is no doubt about it. G.K. Chesterton said, “The Bible tells us to love our neighbors and to love our enemies probably because they are generally the same people.” In the case of Nehemiah, all four sides of Jerusalem were enemies. It is their neighbors who tried to discourage them. However, we notice that the Israelites were just like us.
Sources of Discouragement
Satan is the adversary of our soul, but much of the time, his attacks come through the behavior and words of other people. Nehemiah and his crew had to work through many of these issues. This chapter highlights these contentious issues as they come to a head in the building of the walls.
In verses 1-3, we see one of the first behaviors that cause discouragement. The enemies first went after Nehemiah and the other Jews with ridicule. Lying and accusing is the language of the devil. They tried to belittle their qualities, deride their ambitions, mocked their optimism, attacked their enthusiasm, and undermined their confidence. First, the enemy was vocal.
First, the opposition was vocal, and then they desired to actually fight them to hinder the work (vs. 7-8). Sometimes, we become discouraged when the enemy attacks us by force. The devil will attack us through our health, oppress our spirit, and by corrupting our mind. However, he knows that if he doesn’t sweep us away through direct attacks, that the constant onslaught will lead us to be burned out (vs. 10-12). Fatigue and frustration can give way to fear.
God does not leave the believer helpless. He empowers us with the Spirit and renews us day by day. Nehemiah and crew received a God-given grace of determination (vs. 6, 15, 21). Scripture points out that the people had a mind to work. Not to condemn those in leadership or complain and criticize about the arduous task at hand. Calvin Coolidge said, “Press on. Nothing can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are the overwhelming power!”
He also does not leave us with out tools. Primarily, the people made use of one particular tool, the power of prayer (vs. 4-5, 9). The thing about Nehemiah’s prayer is that he realized he must work where he can but to allow God to work where only God can work. He prayed about the enemy because they weren’t only against the people but against the work of God. He prayed for the people and the work.
Finally, Nehemiah encouraged the people with a good word of encouragement, direction, and organized for positive reinforcement (vs. 13-23) He called them to remember the Lord and to fight for your loved ones, children, friends, and home. He then equipped and positioned them to advance the work regardless of the threat.