Blessed Builders: Nehemiah’s Critics

Blessed Builders: Nehemiah’s Critics 

Opening Illustration: Carry The Donkey
A father, son, and their donkey were traveling from one village to another. The boy walked while the man rode the donkey. The father overheard a bystander say, “That’s a shame. Look how that man is making that poor boy walk.”

Not wanting to be the object of criticism, the father and son changed places. The boy rode the donkey while the man walked. He then heard a woman comment, “Look how that boy on the donkey is making that poor man walk.”

The father and son both climbed onto the donkey. As they traveled down the road, someone said, “Look how that man and boy are making that poor donkey suffer.” They both got off and walked. The people remarked, “Look at that stupid man and boy. They’re walking when they could be riding that donkey! 

When they entered the next village, the boy was walking and the man was carrying the donkey! No matter what you do, someone will find fault.

Opening Statement:

How Do You Handle Critics

Point:
Unfortunately critics are a part of this life.  No matter where you go you will find them.  Chances are, you and I have already been one.  

Background:

What Have We Learned?

Nehemiah 1: Nehemiah’s Burden
Nehemiah 2: The King’s Blessing 
Nehemiah 3: Jerusalem’s Building
Nehemiah 4: Nehemiah’s Bullies 

So, in Nehemiah 1, Nehemiah has a burden.  Jerusalem is busted, burned and broken down.  That is some pretty bad news.  

Next, in Nehemiah 2, Nehemiah transforms the burden to a kingly blessing.  Nehemiah asks the King if he can depart for his hometown to rebuild.  The King shows Nehemiah and his friends some pretty unbelievable favor. He gives him papers to secure his journey and even gives him some building materials.  

In the second half of Nehemiah 2 and the entire chapter of Nehemiah 3, Nehemiah begins to build.  He begins to rebuild the gates and the walls.  It was a big job and lots of people got involved.  People began to really believe in what Nehemiah was trying to do.  They caught the vision.  

Today we come to Nehemiah 4.  Things are going well.  People have work.  They have jobs.  They are constructing and seem to be overall satisfied in their lives.  Yet, something happens.  Nehemiah encounters bullies.  Sanballat and Tobiah begin to try to tear down all the good that Nehemiah has achieved.  They are the worst sort of critics.  They just hang out while everyone is working and they critique everything.  They are nit pickers.  They are the sidewalk superintendents.  Always talking and never working.  

People like this drive me crazy.  

What’s worse is that I know that I have a lot of Sanballat and Tobiah in me.  Oh it’s easy to find the flaws and shortcomings.  It is so much harder to actually do something about the cracks.  

So, this morning, are you a coach or a critic?  Let’s read together the story of how Nehemiah deals with difficult people.  I bet that someone in here right now is facing a similar situation at home, work or school.  Let’s learn from Nehemiah and go the Jesus way together.  

Scripture Reading:

Nehemiah 4:1-9 ESV
Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. 2 And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!” 4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. 5 Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.

6 So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

7  But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. 8 And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. 9 And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.

Chart Nehemiah’s Progress Past Pessimism  

I. Sanballat’s Insulting Commentary vs. 1-2
Nehemiah 4:1-2
Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. 2 And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” 

Point: Who is Sanballat?
This is the second time we hear about Sanballat, the leader of the critics against Nehemiah.  We first hear about him in Nehemiah 2.  He is critical then and here he pops up again in Nehemiah 4.  This time we have much more personal commentary concerning Sanballat.  

So, let’s round this fellow out as a person.  First, he was not a Jew.  He was a Moabite.  That may not seem like a significant point but the Moabites really hated the Jews.  They really hated Israel.  Why?  Well, years before God drove the Moabites from the promised land in favor of the Israelites.  

Sanballat was a regional governor in service to the Persian King.  So, he immediately saw Nehemiah’s work as a threat to his power and security.  

Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem are some of the vilest most wicked people in all the Bible.  Why?  They set themselves up against God plan and tried to harm God’s people.  

Friend, it is never a good idea to try to get in God’s way.  God is going to have His way.  When God wants to move, He moves.  Setting yourself against God never works out.  

Point:
Sanballat was a bully with one big mouth.  

Look at how he is not just critical of Nehemiah but he also is vile and insulting.  

Sanballat Let’s The Insults Fly!

1. He Insults Their Race  
2. He Insults Their Resourcefulness
3. He Insults Their Religion

Point:
Friends, there is nothing more hurtful to someone who is doing their best to do what God has called them to do than when they are insulted for doing it.  Saying that, Jesus makes promises that for the one called by God, there is a difficult road ahead.  That road is paved with persecution and difficulty. 

John 15:18 ESV
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.

Listen to Peter

I Peter 4:12-14 ESV
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

What about Paul?

2 Timothy 3:12 ESV
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 

Sanballat displays the worst weapons of persecution, words!  As much as we pretend that words don’t bother us, words can be massively damaging.  Words last forever where a physical bruise eventually fades and passes.  

Words stick.  

Sanballat insults Nehemiah in just about every possible way.  The Bible even records that he “jeered” at Nehemiah.  What does that mean?  Well I looked it up.  

Jeer: make rude and mocking remarks, typically in a loud voice.

That means that Sanballat and his buddies literally yelled insults towards Nehemiah and the workers.  That can rattle anyone right?

Don’t you think that Nehemiah was troubled, bothered, even hurt over the words of Sanballat and his cronies?  

I would have been for sure.  Chances are you would have found those words hurtful.  

James tells us about the power of words.  

James 3: 5-12 ESV
How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

Point:
Friends we must be careful that we guard our words. Every single person in this room is capable of being a critic.  Sanballat is a critic who uses words as weapons.  We know lots of people that do the same.  

Point:
It doesn’t get much better for Nehemiah.  Let’s read point number 2. 

Chart Nehemiah’s Progress Past Pessimism  

I. Sanballat’s Insulting Commentary  
II. Sanballat’s Insufferable Cronies vs. 3
Nehemiah 4:3 ESV
3 Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!”

Point:
Yep, we are now going to be introduced to Tobiah the Ammonite.  You guessed it, he hates Jews as well. Like Sanballat, Tobiah was also a regional governor in service to the King.  Tobiah ruled the a region east of the Jordan river.  His people, the Ammonites, were also expelled from the Promised Land by God so that the Israelites could live there.  Naturally, Tobiah was not favorable to the workers or to Nehemiah.  

Point:
Have you ever noticed that critics never travel alone.  They always bring along companions for the ride.  

Illustration:
I can remember growing up as a kid watching Looney Toons.  I loved Looney Toons.  There was one particular cartoon that I remember.  The story was about this giant bulldog named Spike who went around and terrorized the other cartoons, specifically Sylvester the cat.  He was big.  He was strong.  He had sharp teeth.  The other cartoons would just give him whatever he wanted.  There was something else I remembered about that bulldog.  He had a traveling companion named Chester.  It was a little terrier dog that stood behind him.  Whatever the bully bulldog said, the terrier was quick to repeat.  When the bulldog insulted the other animals, the terrier was right there encouraging him.  When the bulldog made fun of the other animals, there was the terrier making fun too.  When the Spike bullied Sylvester, Chester was always yipping in the background. 



Point:
I tell you this because bullies often come in packs.  You can count on it.  Know this Christian who is compelled to serve God, the Devil will send people your way to distract you.  The Devil will try to derail you and distract you with noise.  

You’re not good enough.
God doesn’t love you.
God has forgotten about you.
You can’t do what God has called you to do.
No one likes you.

The Devil will try to pull you away from God’s people and projects with all this noise.  

Tobiah was just background noise.  Tobiah is the terrier constantly yapping at Nehemiah.  Tobiah was trying to distract Nehemiah with noise.  

How do I know this to be true?  The Bible reveals this evil tactic of the Devil.  

I Peter 5:8 ESV
Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

Fun Fact:
Did you know that a male lion rarely has to hunt.  When he chooses to hunt he has a powerful tool.  When the male lion stalks his prey, he will sometimes roar.  His roar can reach upwards of 135 decibels.  That would be like standing next to an air raid siren or a weather warning siren.  Its loud.  When the lion roars, the prey is stunned and petrified.  It is then that the male lion leaps in to kill his prey.  

Point:
Friend, make no mistake, the Devil wants to use the noise of this world to scare us so that he can kill us.  He used the tactic against Nehemiah and the builders and he will use it against us.  

Are you listening to the noise this morning? Do you find yourself unable to move because of a bully and his terrier companion?  If that’s you, you are not alone.  I have been there before.  

Point:
I have good news for you this morning.  Let’s read Nehemiah’s response to Sanballat and Tobiah.

Chart Nehemiah’s Progress Past Pessimism  

I. Sanballat’s Insulting Commentary  
II. Sanballat’s Insufferable Cronies vs. 3
III. Nehemiah’s Inspirational Character vs. 4 and 9
Nehemiah 4:4 and 9
4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. 5 Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.

9 And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.

Illustration:
Perhaps one of the most criticized men in all time was Winston Churchill.  Some of his decisions in WWII were widely panned in the press.  His contemporaries called him foolish.  Yet, it was his choices that served to end Hilter’s reign of terror.  

Winston Churchill had the following words of Abraham Lincoln framed and hanging above his office door.  

"I do the very best I can, I mean to keep going. If the end brings me out all right, then what is said against me won't matter. If I'm wrong, ten angels swearing I was right won't make a difference." 

Point:
Friends, when you are serving God, you will encounter difficult people.  You will deal with people who set themselves against God and against you.  Many times God uses these people to test you and in doing so reveal blind spots in your life.  

What Satan may send to destroy you can actually empower you. 

Follow Nehemiah’s Example

1. Pray
2. Plan
3. Push Forward

Point:
So the lion roared.  Spike the bulldog and Chester the terrier decided to bully ole Nehemiah.  What does the man called of God do.  He prays.  Not one prayer but two prayers.  Then the people began to work and work hard.  Nehemiah looks at the bully right in the eye.  He stares down the competition and realizes that this project is not going to be all roses and butterflies.  It is going to be hard.  

Friends, perhaps you are dealing with difficult people today.  Maybe you are afraid and scared.  Perhaps you are trying to do something that God has called you to do and you are receiving nothing but road blocks along the way.  Pray.  

Pray
Plan 
Push forward.  

Instead of backing down, Nehemiah grew a backbone.  Friends, know this, if you are traveling God’s narrow road, you are traveling with God Himself.  Remember, if he be for you, then who can be against you.  

Philippians 3:14 ESV
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.


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