As Nehemiah set his hand to the good work of rebuilding the walls and gates around Jerusalem, enemy forces were gathering around him to stop the work. We already know the first two enemies that came against him were Sanballat and Tobiah. Oh, but friends, the enemy list would grow tremendously throughout Nehemiah chapter 4!
At first Tobiah and Sanballat were just displeased that Nehemiah was checking on the welfare of the sons of Israel (2:10). But soon, their displeasure turned to mocking and despising (2:19). We also see another enemy added to the list toward the end of chapter two, Geshem the Arab. When we are truly on mission from God, the journey will not be EASY! The enemy is going to try to thwart your efforts so the Kingdom work stops. Your enemies might start with a little displeasure, but when that doesn’t work, they will turn up the intensity and recruit some of their friends to join against the work.
Not only did Geshem join them, but good old Sanballat began to “speak in the presence of his brothers” about what Nehemiah and the Jews were doing. All this mockery demoralized the builders. By the time we get to 4:7, we have “the list” of enemies: Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites. If you look at a map of where Jerusalem is in relation to Ashdod, Arabia, Samaria, and Ammon, you would see that the enemies were from all four corners of the compass. Jerusalem was literally surrounded by their enemies.
Wow – do you see how one person can stir up a bunch of people to anger? How many times do we see this in the church. One person who purposely stirs up anger in others – instead of striving for the unity of the church – can cause a heap of trouble. All of the sudden, the church is in an uproar because a brother or sister “spoke in the presence of his brothers (or sisters)”. Ephesians 4:3 urges us to be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
When the enemies’ words were not enough to stop Nehemiah and his Jewish brothers from the work, they kicked it up a notch again. They actually conspired against them to come and fight against Jerusalem. Verse 4:11 tells us they were planning to kill them. However, God revealed the conspiracy to Nehemiah 10 times through some of the Jews who had overheard the plan! I love it – the enemies really thought it was top secret plot, but Nehemiah knew all about it.
Now here is the leadership application. When the builders and their families heard about the plot, they were frightened. Nehemiah saw the fear on their face. Look at what verse 14 reveals to us about his leadership skills: When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials and 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 houses.”
Look at these leadership nuggets we can pull from this one verse:
- Nehemiah did not ignore the fear, but rather acknowledged it. Do you acknowledge the anxieties of those whom you lead? If the leader ignores the fears, they will only grow and it will impact the morale of the whole organization.
- Nehemiah reminded them of who was ultimately going to give the victory – the great and awesome Lord.
- Nehemiah gave them motivation as to why they should keep to the good work – they must protect their families. Good leaders constantly keep the goal in front of their followers. This keeps everyone focused on the the ultimate purpose of their work.
One last thought about leadership in chapter 4. Not only did Nehemiah acknowledge the fear, but he also offered up a solution as to how to handle the conspiracy. You see, leaders must be forward thinking enough to offer a plan of action during a time of crisis. Nehemiah admitted the “work is great and extensive, and we are separated on the wall far from one another.” But he laid out the plan – work with one hand and hold a weapon in the other (v. 17)! Nehemiah properly equipped his team not only to do the work, but to sustain the work.
Because of Nehemiah’s decisive actions and his dependence on God, the work continued and the conspiracy plot was de-railed. Don’t let your enemies get the best of you.
If you are on mission from God, you need to stay conspiracy aware and combat ready so that your good work will not be stopped. That is Satan’s ultimate goal – to stop the Kingdom work. Remember 2 Corinthians 10:4 says “for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” Lets use our divinely powerful weapons and keep up the good work!