Nehemiah 4:1-6: – 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.
The Jewish people in Jerusalem were under great distress and reproach until Nehemiah came and encouraged them to rebuild the wall of the city. Priest and people, young and old, men and women, boys and girls came together to rebuild the wall and to repair the gates of Jerusalem. What an awesome sight that was—people of God working together in unity and vision and faith! Just when it seemed that nothing could go wrong, opposition came in the form of ridicule.
The Scriptures says “When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews,” Literally it means – He was hot and irritated and he began to mock and make fun of the people rebuilding the wall.
Ridicule or mockery is Satan’s choice weapon to discourage and dishearten God’s people. The famous playwright Shakespeare called ridicule “paper bullets of the brain.” Scottish Philosopher Thomas Carlyle said once that “ridicule is the language of the devil.” Bible Commentator Warren Wiersbe said, “Some people who can stand bravely when they are shot at will collapse when they are laughed at.”
I believe there are people here today that have abandoned their dreams, God-given goals because someone ridiculed you and made fun of you. Let the Holy Spirit bring healing to your life so you can dust yourself off and get back in the race by the grace of God.
4 things we will see through the example of Nehemiah on how to deal with ridicule.
1. HE REMEMBERED THE RIDICULE
Sanballat fires off 5 rhetorical questions:
2And he (Sanballat) spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, (maybe they brought the Samarian army to intimidate the people working on the walls) and said,
Question 1 “What are these feeble Jews doing?” The word “feeble” is the Hebrew word “melal” which means “frail” or “miserable” or “powerless.” The word “melal” is related to the Hebrew word “mulah” which means “feverish” or “sickly.” This question ridicules our physical features. Sadly, sometimes it starts very early in life. Even when we are kids, we are made fun of and ridiculed.
Question 2 “Will they fortify themselves? You are not wall builders. Have you seen what a real city wall looks like? You can almost hear the Samaritan army laughing at this point. This question ridicules our capabilities.
Question 3 “Will they offer sacrifices?” Back in those days, before starting a building project – whether it was a wall or a bridge – they would offer a sacrifice (sometimes even an innocent child) to please the gods so that the wall would last and the bridge would stand. “You don’t have enough sacrifices to get this project going. You don’t have a prayer.” This statement was mocking Yahweh God. This question ridicules our faith in God.
Question 4 “Will they complete it in a day?” You are all fired up about building the wall. Wait till tomorrow when you are sore and the money runs out. Do you have enough determination and resources to keep going? This question ridicules our ability to finish a job.
Question 5 “Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?” If you remember, the gates had been burned by fire, so some of the stones had been damaged. Being made of limestone, you can just imagine how the stones had cracked and disintegrated. This question ridicules our resources.
As Sanballat is going on and on ridiculing the people, Tobiah joins in. Critics run with critics. Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.” Meaning: You don’t need an army to bring down those walls. A little fox can do that. That was not true. Archaeologist Kathleen Kenyon proved that the Nehemiah’s walls were 9 foot thick but mockers use lies to discourage. Nehemiah remembered every one of those statements of ridicule.
Words of ridicule can break us. They can demoralize us. They can keep us from doing what God has called us to do. But for the grace of God, we would not have made it.
All of us at some time have faced ridicule or will face ridicule at some point in time, something about our looks, our capabilities, our faith, our persistence, our resources, our goals in life, and even our faults. What has ridicule done to you? What God-given goal in your life has been sabotaged because of ridicule? Let me switch it around: Are you ridiculing someone right now? Are you playing a Sanballat or a Tobiah in someone’s life? It’s time to stop.
II. HE RESPONDED BY PRAYING
Nehemiah prayed “Hear, O our God, for we are despised;
Nehemiah could have responded in several different ways:
- He could have become angry.
- He could have argued with Sanballat and Tobiah.
- He could have tried to buddy up with them.
- He could have believed them and given up.
Instead, he turned towards God. Listen to his prayer: “Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! 5Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders”.
Nehemiah rushed to the audience chamber of God. He was a man of prayer. He knew that God was aware of what was being said against him. He prayed what is known as an imprecatory prayer, where he prayed for God’s judgment upon the enemy. Now someone will say, “how awful is that prayer compared to Jesus who prayed ‘Father forgive them for they not know what they do.’” Nehemiah was not praying for personal vengeance. He was reminding God that the enemy had dishonored Him. They were provoking Him. So He took his case before God.
What’s the result? So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. Prayer worked but did the ridicule stop? No. It became worse. Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God,
How do we apply this to our everyday lives? There is so much power in prayer. The reason Clear view is standing today is because of the devotion to Prayer time. Even in our personal lives, prayer is vital. Have you taken your ridicule to God in prayer? Are you facing ridicule, go to God in prayer. “O what peace we often forfeit; O what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”
III. HE RESOLVED TO GUARD THE VISION.
10Then Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.” 11And our adversaries said, “They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease.” So it was, when the Jews who dwelt near them came, that they told us ten times, “From whatever place you turn, they will be upon us.”
No matter what age you are and what you are attempting to do, someone somewhere will ridicule you. Just expect it. Just get used to it. Pray to the Lord and renew your vision.
V13 Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. V14 And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”
What dream/vision/goal has God given to you that because of some ridicule you gave up? It’s time to renew that vision. Don’t give up your vision. Guard God’s vision for your life, marriage, children, work, and ministry.
IV. HE RESTED IN GOD.
V19 Then I said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, “The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall. V20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” Nehemiah did something very powerful. He rested in God. He let God fight His battles.
The Enemy wants you to think that God has nothing special for your life. He wants you to think that God has withdrawn His vision. You are more important to God than you think. His vision for your life, marriage, children, work, and ministry is still alive. It is time you pick up your pieces and get back in the race.
You say “I can’t fight.” That’s good! Let God do your fighting for you. He wants you to let Him take the lead. It’s His vision anyways. If you’ve never given your life to Christ and received Him as your Savior, then do that now. That’s when it starts. Read More: Part 2