Mondays with Nehemiah

Default to Prayer?

Read chapter 4 of the book of Nehemiah. We have come to a very interesting part in this book. This is the part that I remember most from the Bible stories I heard in Sunday school when I was a child. It is basically THE story that I knew about Nehemiah.

Things had been going well for Nehemiah and the people of Judah. They were making progress in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Chapter 3 describes how they had divided up the sections of the Jerusalem wall and they were all working hard to finish it.

But the enemy was not asleep. Chapter 4 starts out as follows:

1 Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall. He flew into a rage and mocked the Jews, 2 saying in front of his friends and the Samarian army officers, “What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing? Do they think they can build the wall in a single day by just offering a few sacrifices? Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that?”


3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was standing beside him, remarked, “That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!”
Sanballat didn’t hold back with ridicule, did he? He had ridiculed Nehemiah before (Neh 2:19), but this time he chose to do it in front of his friends and the Samarian army officers. First he ridiculed the people working on it (bunch of poor, feeble Jews), then Tobiah the Ammonite chimed in and helped to ridicule the work itself: “That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!”
“Of course, much that Sanballat and Tobiah said was true from a human point of view, for the Jewish remnant was weak and poor, and the work was too great for them. But they had great faith in a great God, and that’s what made the difference.” (e)We see Nehemiah respond to the ridicule of Sanballat and Tobiah: “Then I prayed…” (verse 4) and later on in verse 9 “But we prayed to our God…”

I am amazed at this first response: prayer! I would love to have this same default, when I’m ridiculed or when I face opposition. To default to prayer, it has to be practiced over and over again. For prayer to become my first response, I have to have made it a habit of praying first and solving the problem later. We see Nehemiah and his people stop for prayer and then they go back to work. “They did not let the harsh and insulting words win the day. They kept the momentum going and got the all built to half its necessary height. Their goal was in sight.” (d)

(d) Bill Hybels with Kevin & Sherry Harney “Overcoming Challenges”
(e) Warren W. Wiersbe, “Be Determined”

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