Lesson 19 | Sabbath, 9 May 2020
“The people in general were animated with one heart and one soul of patriotism and cheerful activity. Men of ability and influence organized the various classes of citizens into companies, each leader making himself responsible for the erection of a certain portion of the wall. It was a sight well pleasing to God and angels to see the busy companies working harmoniously upon the broken-down walls of Jerusalem, and it was a joyous sound to hear the noise of instruments of labor from the earliest dawn ‘till the stars appeared.’” –(Southern Watchman, April 5, 1904) Christian Service, p. 175.
More enemy attacks and reliance on God
- Who was furious when the reconstruction of the city walls began to advance under Nehemiah’s leadership? What can be seen in the enemies’ verbal attacks?
Nehemiah 4:1-3 But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. 2And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned? 3Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.
“In his many activities Nehemiah did not forget the source of his strength. His heart was constantly uplifted to God, the great Overseer of all. ‘The God of heaven,’ he exclaimed, ‘He will prosper us;’ and the words, echoed and re-echoed, thrilled the hearts of all the workers on the wall.
“But the restoration of the defenses of Jerusalem did not go forward unhindered. Satan was working to stir up opposition and bring discouragement. San- ballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, his principal agents in this movement, now set them- selves to hinder the work of rebuilding. They endeavored to cause division among the workmen. They ridiculed the efforts of the builders, declaring the enterprise an impossibility and predicting failure.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 640, 641.
- How did Nehemiah respond to the opponents’ ridicule?
Nehemiah 4:4-6 Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity: 5And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders. 6So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.
“But the people were commanded not to engage in controversy with their enemies and to answer them not a word, that no advantage of words might be given them. Threatenings and ridicule were resorted to. They said: ‘Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.’ Sanballat‘ was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.’ Nehemiah prayed: ‘Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head.’” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 573, 574.
- In addition to negative comments, how else did the enemies of God’s people try to stop the work from being carried out?
Nehemiah 4:7, 8 But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, 8And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it.
“The case of Nehemiah was presented before me. He was engaged in building the walls of Jerusalem, and the enemies of God were determined that the walls should not be built….
“In this case a spirit of hatred and opposition to the Hebrews formed the bond of union and created a mutual sympathy among different bodies of men who might otherwise have warred with one another. This well illustrates what we frequently witness in our day in the existing union of men of different denominations to oppose present truth, men whose only bond seems to be that which is dragonic in its nature, manifesting bitterness and hatred against the remnant who keep the commandments of God. This is especially seen in the first-day, no-day, and all-days-alike Adventists, who seem to be famous for hating and slandering one another, when they can spare time from their efforts to misrepresent, slander, and in every way abuse Seventh-day Adventists.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 571, 572.
Day and night work, vigilance, and defence
- What other resistance and attacks did the courageous builders meet? In addition to the defensive measures put in place, whom did Nehemiah trust?
Nehemiah 4:9-14 Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them. 10And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall. 11And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease. 12And it came to pass, that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you. 13Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows.14And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.
“At the same time that the Samaritans were plotting against Nehemiah and his work, some of the leading men among the Jews, becoming disaffected, sought to discourage him by exaggerating the difficulties attending the enterprise….
“Discouragement came from still another source. ‘The Jews which dwelt by,’ those who were taking no part in the work, gathered up the statements and re- ports of their enemies and used these to weaken courage and create disaffection. “But taunts and ridicule, opposition and threats, seemed only to inspire Nehemiah with firmer determination and to arouse him to greater watchfulness. He recognized the dangers that must be met in this warfare with their enemies, but his courage was undaunted. ‘We made our prayer unto our God,’ he declares, ‘and set a watch against them day and night.’” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 642, 643.
- What measures did the people have to take to keep the construction going? Explain how the wise means of defense that they used apply today to God’s church as it presses forward against the powers of
Nehemiah 4:15-17 And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work. 16And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons; and the rulers were behind all the house of Judah. 17They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon.
Isaiah 8:10 Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.
Job 5:12 He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise.
“Beside Nehemiah stood a trumpeter, and on different parts of the wall were stationed priests bearing the sacred trumpets. The people were scattered in their labors, but on the approach of danger at any point a signal was given for them to repair thither without delay. ‘So we labored in the work,’ Nehemiah says, ‘and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared.’
“Those who had been living in towns and villages outside Jerusalem were now required to lodge within the walls, both to guard the work and to be ready for duty in the morning. This would prevent unnecessary delay, and would cut off the opportunity which the enemy would otherwise improve, of attacking the workmen as they went to and from their homes. Nehemiah and his companions did not shrink from hardship or trying service. Neither by day nor night, not even during the short time given to sleep, did they put off their clothing or lay aside their armor.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 644.
- How did Nehemiah and the people defend each other against attack, especially in isolated places? As they were united and committed, who fought for them? Who will be with the people even in isolated places in our day as they also work unitedly and tirelessly to build and strengthen God’s spiritual kingdom?
Nehemiah 4:18-20 For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me. 19And I said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another. 20In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us.
“Satan takes advantage of every unconsecrated element for the accomplish- ment of his purposes. Among those who profess to be the supporters of God’s cause there are those who unite with His enemies and thus lay His cause open to the attacks of His bitterest foes. Even some who desire the work of God to prosper will yet weaken the hands of His servants by hearing, reporting, and half believing the slanders, boasts, and menaces of His adversaries. Satan works with marvelous success through his agents, and all who yield to their influence are subject to a bewitching power that destroys the wisdom of the wise and the understanding of the prudent. But, like Nehemiah, God’s people are neither to fear nor to despise their enemies. Putting their trust in God, they are to go steadily forward, doing His work with unselfishness, and committing to His providence the cause for which they stand.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 645.
The greatest possible commitment and effort
- What extreme defensive measures were necessary to advance the Lord’s work in Nehemiah’s day? What happens when God’s people deal with similar situations and face similar obstacles now?
Nehemiah 4:21-23 So we laboured in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared. 22Likewise at the same time said I unto the people, Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, that in the night they may be a guard to us, and labour on the day. 23So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, saving that every one put them off for washing.
“Amidst great discouragement, Nehemiah made God his trust, his sure de- fense. And He who was the support of His servant then has been the dependence of His people in every age. In every crisis His people may confidently declare, ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ Romans 8:31. However craftily the plots of Satan and his agents may be laid, God can detect them, and bring to nought all their counsels. The response of faith today will be the response made by Nehemiah, ‘Our God shall fight for us;’ for God is in the work, and no man can prevent its ultimate success.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 645.
For additional study
“In my recent view I saw that it will not increase our influence, or bring us into favor with God, to retaliate or come down from our great work to their level in meeting their slanders. There are those who will resort to any species of deception and gross falsehood to gain their object and deceive souls, and to cast stigma upon the law of God and those who love to obey it. They will repeat the most inconsistent and vile falsehoods, over and over, until they make themselves believe that they are truth. These are the strongest arguments they have to use against the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. We should not allow our feelings to control us and divert us from the work of warning the world.” –Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, p. 571.