Intro. Whenever you embark on a work for the Lord, you can expect the enemy to try to thwart it. One of his most common methods he employs to hinder the work of the Lord is discouragement. In our story we find Nehemiah launching out to build the walls of Jerusalem and how Satan sought to hinder him in the work through the means of discouragement.
I. THE FIRST THRUST WAS TO TRY TO DISCOURAGE HIM BY RIDICULE.
A. What are these feeble Jews trying to do?
1. Are they trying to fortify themselves?
2. That wall is so puny; if a fox would run into it, he would knock it over.
B. Ridicule is a mean tool.
1. People ridicule your commitment to the work of the Lord.
a. Who does he think he is?
b. What does he think he is doing?
c. Others more qualified than he have failed; what makes him think that he can succeed?
2. They ridicule the work you want to do for the Lord.
a. Oh, that will never work.
b. We already tried that and it was a big flop.
C. How did they respond to the ridicule?
1. They went to prayer.
2. Our greatest weapon against the ridicule is prayer.
3. So often we seek to defend ourselves against the ridicule.
4. We will show them, we will prove them wrong.
5. How much better to just turn them over to God to let Him deal with them.
6. I have discovered something in the ministry, if I try to defend myself against the attacks that come, God will let me.
7. If I will just turn it over to Him, He will defend me.
8. So you have a choice, try to defend yourself or let God defend you.
9. I have seen pastors destroy their churches by trying to defend themselves.
D. The result of just taking it to the Lord in prayer was the wall began to be built and the city fortified.
II. THE SECOND EFFORT TO DISCOURAGE WAS BY A DIRECT ASSAULT.
A. When their enemies heard how the work was progressing, they were angry and plotted a direct assault.
1. We read:
And they conspired all of them together to come [and] to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it.
B. Again the first line of defense was prayer. So we made our prayer unto God and we set our watch.
1. Prayer does not mean that we do not take necessary precautions.
2. It was prayer first, then the setting of the watch.
3. Prayer should always be first.
4. You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do anything of real spiritual value until you have prayed.
5. So they set their watch against them both day and night.
III. WE SEE HOW THAT SATAN SOUGHT TO HINDER THE WORK BY CAUSING THE PEOPLE TO BECOME DISCOURAGED.
A. "The strength of the laborers is waning." Wrestling those huge stones all day could not be an easy task.
1. They became discouraged because of the amount of rubble.
a. They had never dreamed the extent of the destruction.
b. In Zechariah, there was a special word of the Lord for Zerrubbabel that dealt with the issue of rubble.
And the angel that talked with me came again, and he woke me up from my sleep, and he said to me, "What do you see?" And I said, I see a gold candlestick with a bowl on top of it, and the seven lamps with seven pipes connected to the lamps. I see two olive trees one on the right side of it and the other on the left." So I asked the angel, "What are these my Lord?" The angel said, "Don't you know what these are?" and I answered "No." Then he said, "This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit saith the LORD of hosts. Who are you O great mountain? (That was the mountain of rubble.) Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain." The word of the Lord came to me again saying, "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands shall also finish it, and you will know that the Lord of
hosts has sent me to you. For who hath despised the day of small things?"
2. Maybe so far you feel that all you have been doing is clearing away all of the rubble. There is not much to show for all your of efforts, the work is hard, and you have little to show for it. There still seems to be so much rubble to be removed that you have become discouraged. It may even be that you have started to despise the days of small things.
3. When God commissioned Jeremiah He said,
See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.
a. So often before you can begin to build, you must pull down, and destroy to pull down. This is the hard work, it doesn't show well on the reports. "How many running on Sunday morning now? "O, about 50 less than we had last year."
4. The people were saying to Nehemiah, "We are exhausted, there is too much rubble, we cannot finish the job."
a. Oh how hard it is when the people lose the will to work, and just sort of give up. They can't seem to catch your vision and are ready to quit.
B. Besides all of this, the enemy was saying, "We will slip into the midst of them, they will not even realize what is happening until we have infiltrated their ranks, then we will turn on them and kill them and so we will stop the work."
C. The Jews that lived nearby heard their plots and warned them of the plot.
1. So Nehemiah set up the line of defense, and then exhorted the people. "Don't be afraid of them, remember the Lord who is great and awesome." Fight for your brothers, your sons and daughters, your wives and your houses."
2. The secret of dispelling their fears was to remember the great and awesome Jehovah who was their God.
3. Realize that you are fighting for your families.
D. Nehemiah said that when their enemy knew that their plot had been exposed, they called off the plan, so that they were able to continue the building. One would be armed and on guard while the other worked. A trowel in one hand and a sword in the other.
E. Nehemiah then rallied the people and encouraged them.
1. "Our God will fight for us."
2. So they began to build in earnest, from the time the sun would come up in the morning until the stars came out at night.
3. They also began to lodge in the city to be a protection to one another.
4. So neither I nor my brethren nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed him, none put off their clothes except to wash them.
5. Note that Nehemiah was not just directing the work from his air-conditioned office, but was right out there with them.