During my childhood, my school practiced air raid drills. A particularly shrill alarm consistently interrupted our education and sent us scurrying under our desks wondering if the Russians had finally launched their nukes. We lived through the Cuban missile crisis so our parents and teachers too this seriously. Some of my friend’s parents even built bomb shelters in their backyards.
For decades most Americans shared a common enemy, Russia. In those days Democrat, Republican. wealthy, middle class, impoverished Americans of all races united around one common belief, Russia was dangerous. The phenomenon of radically diverse people uniting against a common enemy is frequent throughout history all the way back to ancient times. In Nehemiah 4 we see a Horonite, an Ammonite and an Arab forge a bond based on their hatred of the Jews. These people groups were driven out of the promised land long ago by Israel. We see an enduring bitterness which celebrated when Jerusalem collapsed and a rage at the possibility of its reconstruction.
Nehemiah and his crew experienced vicious hatred and devious plots to destroy them and stop their king-sanctioned building project. How did they stand up against the onslaught? What fortified them to keep going instead of tucking tail and running? They prayed and prepared.
Praying seems so obvious right, yet is it our first go-to when we encounter opposition? It didn’t used to be mine. When a Sanballat or Tobias came after me, my first response consisted of calling a close friend or family member. I longed for sympathy and for them to pray for me. My gracious, what a weak response! Don’t make the same mistake.
Nehemiah responded to attacks immediately with prayer. Immediately. He didn’t run tattling back to the king or instigate a boo hoo party with other workers. Whatever fear or frustration he felt, he lifted it upwards towards the One who could settle Nehemiah’s soul AND deal with his enemies. His prayers packed a spiritual wallop too, no weak-kneed whining here. “Then I prayed, ‘Here us, our God, for we are being mocked. May their scoffing fall back on their own heads, and may they themselves become captives in a foreign land! Do not ignore their guilt. Do not blot out their sins, for they have provoked you to anger here in front of the builders.’” Nehemiah 4:4 NLT
Whoa! Doesn’t this sound like Nehemiah is asking God to destroy his enemies? He surely is! How does this fit with Jesus’ teaching to turn the other cheek and love those who hate us? If fits perfectly because one of the main ways God destroys opposition is by converting people to be followers of Jesus. This method worked fabulously with the Apostle Paul. Be certain that as you pray these types of prayers, your motives are pure. We want to see sinners converted and God’s justice executed on behalf of His people.
In the face of opposition turn to God first. Here’s some great Scriptures I use in intercession:
Isaiah 54:17- NLT “ But in that coming day no weapon turned against you will succeed. You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you. These benefits are enjoyed by the servants of the Lord. Their vindication will come from me. I the Lord have spoken!”
2 Thesselonians 3: NIV “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”
Deut 28:7 NIV “The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.”
Deut.3:22 NIV “Do not fear them, for the Lord your God is the one fighting for you.”
Psalm 44:5 NIV “Through You we will push back our adversaries, through Your name we will trample down those who rise up against us.”
Next post I’ll discuss the second part of Nehemiah’s strategy, preparation.