The Divine Blessing of Oppositional Enemies
Planting Date Palms: Nehemiah #3
January 31, 2021
A Freshwater Stick Marsh exists in Fellsmere that you may have visited once or twice. For many in our community, this Freshwater Stick Marsh has served as the geographical location for the lasting memories of the soggy sandwiches consumed while fishing with family and friends.
But it’s also the geographical location that has provided the seed for some of the tallest tales you’ve ever heard in your life. And there is not one person who has heard those stories and responded with something like this:
“Tall tale that tallest tale you’ve told in quite a spell. You’ve really told a whopper and you’ve told it mighty well. And in all the years I’ve traveled on the tall tale telling trail. I’ve never heard a tall tale teller tell a taler tale."
The Greatest Tall Tale In Our Faith's History
If I do right, if I pray enough, if I love God enough, if I love my neighbor enough, if I go to church enough, and if I do what He tells me enough, then Jesus will make my life free from opposition or enemies. I want to tell you today that if you do those things God blesses you with opposition and enemies. They are providentially designed to shape you and mold you as you act on your burden. They are planted by God to cause you to push through and towards something that’s worth attaining.
One is obvious. The other three are more subtle. But all are enemies planted so that we can overcome them.
Types Of Oppositional Enemies
1. Talking without knowing what you are talking about (11-16)
11 I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days 12 I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on. 13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal[a] Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; 15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.
What Nehemiah Could Have Done:
(1) He had a Calvary and Commission from King Artaxerxes. There were enemies in the land (literally). He could have waged war and annihilated first and then rebuilt the wall under miltary occupation and via Executive Order.
(2) He could have done what many of us do when we see a need and have a commission from God to act on it: Recruit others to our cause.
What Nehemiah Did Instead:
(1) Told no one; the only two who knew he was going to do in Jerusalem were the King and Queen;
(2) Even the armies and scores of people who accompanied them did not know.
Why Nehemiah Took That Approach:
(1) He hadn’t seen the rubble up close and personal;
(2) He’d only heard about because he lived in Persia;
(3) Therefore, it behooved Nehemiah to be silent and investigate the actual problem before offering to others his solution.
Investigation requires silence and observation before recruiting participation. Had Nehemiah told people without understanding the issue, he would have not only misdiagnoses the problem, word would have gotten to enemies and they would have organized to keep the rubble where it lie.
2. Failure to Face Facts Exactly as They Are (13-14)
13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal[a] Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through.
Fact One (13):
The City of Jerusalem is a mountain surrounded by valleys. For Example, The “Valley” Gate is adjacent, to the Kidron Valley. When boulders tumble in destructive force, they will usually stop at the lowest point. Much of the rubble had to be hauled brick by brick from the valleys back up to the mountain. It was going to be difficult.
Fact Two (14):
Nehemiah couldn’t even get his horse through some of the ruins not in the valley. It was completely and totally destroyed.
Improving a ruined situation requires facing the reality of the rubble exactly as it lies. Not as you want it to lie.
3. Lack of Self-Respect (17-18)
17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.
Sounds Like: “We’ve learned to live with the situation.”
The individuals Nehemiah had with consisted of officials who (a) had remained in the land through Babylonian Captivity and (b) Had lived with the Walls of Jerusalem reduced to rubble for nearly 100 years, (c) they lived with the mocking from the Horonites, the Ammonites and the Arabs about the “disgrace” of the people of God. (d) Consequently, they had begun to believe they actually were a permanent disgrace over time.
Sounds Like: “We’ve tried this before.”
Ezra, who never left the Promised Land, tried this 14 years before and failed.
Love your neighbor as yourself works two ways: (a) for someone who has a lot of self-love, you need to project that same amount towards someone else; (b) for someone who doesn’t, you need to project the same amount you towards yourself as you do your neighbor. If not, you can’t act on the burden’s God has given you.
4. Evil People (19-20)
19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”
Types Of Evil People You Will Encounter as a Follower of Jesus:
(1) Sanballat, the Horonite – Christian background, maybe even a church person, but has become hostile to the message. And you represent it. The “Horonites” were renegade descendants of Lot of Sodom and Gomorrah fame.
(2) Tobiah, the Ammonite – Religious figure hostile to your theological outlook – they were relatives of Israel, not a part of them.
(3) Gesham, the Arab - Openly anti-anything related to Covenant. Can’t identify with anything you value or hold sacred.
How They Operate
(1) Starts as mocking and ridicule.
(2) When you won’t back down it becomes threatening
(3) Then graduates to a scheme, usually via passive aggression, to hurt and harm (4:8)
How to Deal With Them
(1) Tell them the truth (v20);
(2) Trust God to deal with them. He will. Always.