Sermon 6.17.18 Pentecost 4

Nehemiah 4:7-15                                                                                                                                                                 Rev. Kenneth Frey
Pentecost 4                                                                                                                                                                                           6/17/18
 
Nehemiah 4:7-15  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. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. 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.
 
How to deal with opposition
1.  Pray and watch
2.  Prepare and trust
 
Walls are important.  They provide boundaries and protection.  President Trump has made it a goal to put a wall on our southern border to protect our country.  Jerusalem had a wall and now it was gone.  If the front door of your home were damaged and had to be replaced, how would you feel if the contractor said, “I can take care of it but I need four days to do it and just one problem:  during those four days you won’t have a front door, at all.  Just an opening.”  How would you feel about that?  Would you sleep well? 
The people of Judah had become so bad for so long, God who controls the history of nations, had the Babylonians come and destroy Judah and Jerusalem.  The city wall was destroyed.  The Temple was destroyed.  Many people were killed.  Many others were taken into captivity in Babylon.  After the Persians took over, the surviving Jews were allowed to return to their homeland.  But they didn’t have a wall.  Like having a home with no front door, they were vulnerable and in danger. 
Jerusalem was surrounded by enemies that hated the Jews and did not want to see their walls rebuilt.  The Samaritans to the north, Ammonites to the east, Arabs in the south and now the Philistine city of Ashdod to the west joined together against the Jews.  Jerusalem was surrounded.  At first they mocked the Jewish workers for trying to rebuild the wall, but when they saw the wall going up, they planned an attack.
King Artaxerxes had given Nehemiah permission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, so these enemies couldn’t start a war against Jerusalem.  What they planned was more covert – a guerilla war with sneak attacks.  “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.”   
When pressure comes at us from all sides it affects how we feel inside.  Ridicule and opposition begin to take their toll and we get depressed and lose our will to go on.  We see that in the Jews in Jerusalem.  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.” 
How did Nehemiah deal with this opposition?  But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.  Watch and pray.  It’s not watch or pray, but watch and pray.  To watch and not pray would be foolish.  To pray and not watch is tempting God.  Jesus told the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane the same thing.  He said, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)
Who do you pray for?  As a parent and grandparent, I can tell you that my children and grandchildren occupy a lot of my prayer time.  I would guess it’s the same with you.  So Nehemiah made a smart move.  Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families.  He put them in place by families because they would be more motivated to watch out for their families.
Many enemies also surround our families.  God instituted the family when he instituted marriage at the very beginning of the world.  The family is where the truths of God’s Word are passed down from one generation to the next.  The family is where children develop into mature adults.  But the family is under attack.  We need to pray for families.  We need to keep watch for the enemies that are trying to destroy families.  The battle has come to our homes when we allow society to teach our children that it’s okay to have children out of wedlock.  Remember when people were ashamed of this?  Not any more.  We have lost that battle.
Remember when abortion was a dirty word?  Not anymore.  Remember when the family was defined as a husband and a wife and children?  Not anymore.  This is in direct contradiction to what God’s intention was for the family.  In 2013, 35% of all children in the United States lived in single parent homes.  The reason that there are so many kids in single parent homes is because the parents didn’t fight for their marriage or didn’t care enough about family to get married in the first place.  It’s hard enough raising mature, Christian people when the family is intact, but when the family unit breaks down, it becomes very difficult.  We must fight for not only for our families but also for the very definition of a family.
Today is Father’s Day, a good day for families to pray for each other.  Fathers, recommit yourselves to leading your family in love.  Recommit your family to God’s Word and worship.  Recommit yourselves to your wife and your marriage.  If not already, make sure that your family is the most important thing in your life. 
There is opposition to our families all around us.  How do we deal with opposition?  Pray and watch.  But also prepare and trust.
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.”   Nehemiah prayed to God first, but he then went to work.  He armed the people so that they could defend the city when it was attacked. 
We, too, need to have weapons to defend ourselves and our families.  But the weapons we need are not guns or knives for our enemies are spiritual.  We need spiritual weapons.  The Apostle Paul said, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:12-13)  That armor of God is God’s Word which is useful for teaching, rebuking correcting and training in righteousness.  Paul calls the word, the sword of the Spirit, as depicted in the mural behind me.  We need to pull all the weapons we can from the word and use them for ourselves and our families. 
We need to pray.  We need to watch.  We need to arm ourselves for battle.  Then we need to trust God. 
It’s hard for us to admit we need help, isn’t it?  But the reality is that in these spiritual battles we are weak.  Left to ourselves, we would always fail.  When facing the giant Goliath and even as he prepared to attack, young David trusted God to win the victory.  He said, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands . . . All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:45-47)
That is true in our spiritual battles as well.  Let us trust God who has already fought and won the battle for us.  On the battle field of the cross Jesus defeated sin, death and Satan and declared that victory from the empty tomb.  So with Paul we can say, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)
Pray and watch.  Prepare and trust in our Savior God.  That’s how to deal with opposition.