Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem began to see some progress as they rebuilt the city’s walls. Working long hours at a feverish pace, they closed the gaps between sections and reached the halfway point in the project (v.6). But every rubble-pile they cleared and every stone they set in place was done with their enemies shouting threats and jeers at them. Sanballat, the smart-aleck governor of neighboring Samaria, came with his army to taunt the workers (v.1-2). Like schoolyard bullies, he and Tobiah cracked jokes and hurled insults at them, hoping to intimidate and discourage them into quitting (v.3, 8). These men felt their control over the region slipping away and knew that if the wall was completed, the Jews would only become more powerful.
Whenever you attempt something for God that threatens Satan’s kingdom, like a ministry project or a mission trip or a witnessing opportunity, you can count on opposition. But when you are mocked for your faith, criticized for doing what is right, and discouraged by haters, do what Nehemiah did: realizing that God was on his side, he prayed for strength, refused to quit, and kept on doing what God had called him to do (v.4, 9). He knew that what he was doing was important — and if it was important it was worth fighting for (v.14).
I am impressed by the unity of the Jews in the face of opposition. They worked together to complete the task, taking turns, watching each other’s backs, ready to rally together to protect the group (v.15-20). They found strength in their common faith, believing together that God would fight for them.
I see in this chapter an example for the church to follow. Our Great Commission work requires uncommon unity. We face the “schemes of the devil” and we struggle against evil forces that oppose our gospel efforts (see Ephesians 6:11-12). If we are going to be successful, we need to work together and defend our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can’t fight against the enemy if we are fighting against each other. Too many times the walls we build in the church are walls of division, not walls of protection. So let’s work together, build together, fight together — and trust God for the victory!