Taming Scorpions

Planting Date Palms: Nehemiah #4
Nehemiah 4:1-15
February 14, 2021

Attack and Sting

There was this old boy who decided to go and Practice the Presence of God at Lake Okeechobee just down the street. Just before he started praying, he noticed a scorpion struggling to get out of some swirling water. It tried to climb onto a rock but couldn’t make it up because the current was too strong. So being the Christian that he is, this old boy had compassion on this feisty little creature and tried to help it. But the scorpion kept striking at him. Turns out another old boy was up there doing some fishing and said to the Good Scorpion Samaritan: “Don’t you realize that is the nature of a scorpion to attack and sting?” “Yes, I do,” the holy fella said. “but it is my nature to save, rescue, and build up. Why should I change my nature just because the scorpion doesn’t change his?”

When attacked by scorpions from all angles we can be tempted to sting and attack in return. But Nehemiah teaches us an important lesson about dealing with enemies: Keep building the wall and let God handle them. And most importantly, don't change your nature to rescue and save when you get attacked by scorpions.

Text

(1) When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews,
(2) and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?”
(3) Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!”
(4) Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity.
(5) Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders.
(6) So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.
(7) But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry.
(8) They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.
(9) But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.
(10) Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.” (11) Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.”
(12) Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.”
(13) Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows.
(14) After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
(15) When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our own work.

Why Scorpions Attack

Because Ruins Of Someone Always Benefits Another

(1) Sanballat was the governor of Samaria, the area of Palestine we know now as the West Bank. Tobiah was an Ammonite official, the area east of the Holy Land we know of as Jordan.

(2) The Fall of Jerusalem - and the destruction of the city wills - 100 years prior to Nehemiah’s day had worked to Sanballat and Tobiah’s advantage. They controlled trade routes in the area without a centralized Israel. They benefited immensely from the ruins of God’s people.

(3) Consequently, a secure and independent Jerusalem threatened them. They wanted the rubble to remain exactly as it lied on the ground.

Because Ruins Make Somebodies Out of Nobodies

Ruins had made Sanballat and Tobiah somebodies. They derived their identity from the ruins of others. Growth was a threat to them because it meant a loss of power.

It’s A Dichotomy Preserved In the Scriptures That Teaches Us How Righteousness and Evil Work In a Fallen World.

That’s why it’s repeated here in the book and will be again. There are those who spend their lives in noble purposes because they want the lame to walk, the lepers to be cleansed, the blind to see, the sinner forgiven. And there are those who want to see no such things because the ruins make these individuals powerful.

It’s Also a Dichotomy that Foreshadowed the Ministry of Christ

The lame walked. The lepers were cleansed. The Blind saw. The outcast was accepted. The sinner was forgiven. The dead were raised. And the result was opposition, anger, ridicule, conspiracy and crucifixion.

Application

No deed for the Lord will go unpunished by the world. So stop trying to earn the world’s applause.

How Scorpions Attack

Only Two Ways To Make Enemies Come Together To Achieve Something

(1) Gospel – “But now in Christ Jesus you who were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.”

(2) Love of Darkness more than light. That’s the case here.

Conspiring Together Made Venom More Toxic

(1) Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite, the Arabs, and the men of Ashdod (Philistines) were all enemies. Their history had been replete with war, theft and murder between them.

(2) Same was true throughout history when Israel wasn’t in the Promised Land.

(3) But the moment Nehemiah and Israel began to rebuild, enemies became friends in conspiracy. Evil tends to make enemies friends for a common cause to keep people from rising from the rubble.

Then It Follows A Progression

(1) Ridicule [4:1] – “A piercing sneer and insult;”

(2) Conspire together [4:8] – Enemies become united in their purpose;

(3) That leads to discouragement [4:10] – “there’s so much rubble;

(4) And Fear [4:11] – “our enemies said they’ll kill us.”

But All These Were Paper Tigers

(1) All of the enemies of Israel in this passage were subject to the Persian Crown;

(2) Had they acted against Israel they would have been charged with sedition against Artaxerxes;

(3) Who gave Nehemiah permission to rebuild.

Application

We have permission from the King. Therefore, being overcome by ridicule, conspiracy, discouragement and fear are sins against God if we allow them to keep us from moving forward.

3. Which Scorpion Sting Contains the Most Venom

Every Direction On Nehemiah’s Compass Contained Enemies

(1) Horonites/Samaria;

(2) Ammonites/Jordan;

(3) Ashdod/Philistines;

(4) Arabs.

But the Sting That Hurt The Most Was From Friendly Fire (4:10)

The people of Judah said – the strength of our laborers is giving out and there’s too much rubble.

Where The Seeds Of Friendly Fire Always Begins

With apathy that leads to discouragement (3:5)

Application

I don’t care are the worst three words in the English language. Just behind them are “I can’t.”

4. How To Tame Them

When There Is Ridicule, Nehemiah Prays Like A Leader (4:4-5):

Doesn’t sound like “bless those who persecute.” Here’s why: He’s praying as a leader responsible for his people’s safety.

When There Are Plots, Nehemiah Doesn’t Dignify Them With a Response (4:9):

But he does post a guard. The idea is to take the devil’s work seriously.

When There Is Discouragement and Negativity, Nehemiah Chooses Tough Love (4:14):

(1) “Don’t be afraid” / “Remember the Lord” / “Fight for your families.”

(2) They had forgotten these during their fright, so he reminded them.

But The One Thing Nehemiah Never Does With Scorpions That Sting Is This:

Quit the rebuild. 4:6 – “So we rebuilt the wall” // 4:15 – “we all returned to the wall, each to our own work.”

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