When we look at Nehemiah 4, we see that Nehemiah faces opposition led by Sanballat & Tobiah. We can see three things about opposition in this passage. Opposition focuses on doubts. Opposition breeds conflict. Opposition discourages progress.
Again and again the people ask “will they” (v. 2). WILL THEY restore their wall? WILL THEY offer sacrifices? WILL THEY finish in a day? CAN THEY bring the stones back to life? Then verse 8 says they “plotted together” to fight and stir up trouble. Even though they finished half of the work, the people became discouraged. In verse 10, we read that people began to complain and believed that there was too much rubble to move. They began to stall.
Whenever we are doing a “great work” for God, we will face opposition. The devil doesn’t want us to continue forward and finish the work. He doesn’t want God to get the glory. He doesn’t want us serving God. Remember that the Lord is with you (v. 14) and He will fight for you (v. 20). No opposition can stand against God.
In Nehemiah 1, we read about a report that Nehemiah receives from Jerusalem. When he hears about what is happening to God’s people and to the state of Jerusalem, he weeps. Not only does he mourn for days, but he fasts and prays continuously. He is more than a little upset. He is unsettled. He is grieved.
When I read about this grief, this mourning by Nehemiah, I cannot help but wonder if we ever grieve like that because of the spiritual state of others. Are we uncomfortable because God is not honored, when we know He alone deserves all honor, glory and praise? Is it upsetting when we see something that once glorified God, now broken and in disarray? When we see brokenness, do we seek out God to heal, restore, and redeem?
Today we are not looking to rebuild a wall. Nehemiah took care of that great work. But God has put a vision in your heart. He wants to do great things through you to glorify Him. Seek Him. Ask Him to reveal this great work. Ask Him to strengthen your feet. Ask Him to help you speak boldly. Press forward and watch Him move in mighty ways.
“When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” – Nehemiah 1:4 [NASB]
During one of our evening walks, Marci started to bark like crazy. She saw something dark moving at a nearby house. She went into barking dog mode and it was hard to get her to calm down. Funny enough, she was barking at a black plastic trash bag that was blowing because of the great winds passing through the area. It did not matter how many times I tried to tell her it was fine, she continued fixated on what she thought was an attack.
I see a lot of “little dogs” going crazy at things observed—many times misconceptions, many times judgmentally rooted. The “little dogs” are those people in a church who point out what everyone is doing wrong. A big spoon of legalism is dished out. Oftentimes this is seen between people who have grown up in the church. A person from one denomination, raised with certain traditions, barks at someone else who has been taught that other traditions were more important, or that their traditions are the “right way to do things.” Possibly the barking dog syndrome is a result of someone becoming puffed up.
The Bible talks a lot about unity of the Body. The reason so much time is spent on this topic is because the devil will use anything to try to plant and promote division. The church can often get off course when Jesus is not the most important focus. Whether we are at church, at home, at work, at school—wherever we are at—Jesus should be the main thing. As well, if Jesus is the main thing, we should do whatever we can to promote the unity of the Body. This means the little dog syndrome should stop. Instead, let us love God and love others. May we build up instead of tearing down. The bag in the wind is not something on which to fixate.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” – Hebrews 12:1-3 [NIV]
Jeremiah 2 speaks about idolatry. God reminds us that He planted “a choice vine.” It was planted using pure seed. But soon enough, the choice vine became a wild vine. How did this happen? God broke the yokes of the people. The people responded by refusing to serve Him. Instead, they bowed down to other gods. They became a wild vine instead of being the choice vine for which they were created.
This reminds me of my own gardening experience. I remember having a beautiful vine that I planted. It was one of my favorite parts of my flower bed. But the vine did not want to grow in a contained and structured way I had envisioned. Instead, the vine tried to weave its way underneath the siding. It didn’t mind how often I watched over it; the vine started to go into areas that I never intended it to locate. It was crazy wild! I had to pull up a great deal of the vine and do some hardcore pruning.
The people of God, even today, have wandering eyes. It is so easy to turn your eyes from God and find ourselves bowing down to something in place of God. We often think this is a choice we make intentionally, so we boldly claim we would never succumb to idolatry. Yet, our eyes become fixed on other things and we find God is not honored. Usually this happens without even a notice. Sometimes it is a gradual move. Perhaps a small change here or there. Where are your eyes fixed today? What or Who is at the top of your list? Have you become a wild vine who has turned your ears and eyes away from God?
“For long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds; but you said, ‘I will not serve.’ Yes, on every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down like a whore. Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine?” – Jeremiah 2:20-21 [ESV]
There are two evils mentioned in Jeremiah 2: The people had forsaken God and the people have traded God for cisterns. These were not just any cisterns, but broken cisterns. Again we find that God’s people have traded Him for something else, something certainly not as desirable.
Interestingly enough, cisterns only hold a certain amount of water. It is limited. So when we read about trading a fountain for a cistern, the comparison already sounds like a horrible exchange. When we look at fountains, we are reminded of a steady flow of water. It seems never-ending.
The verse makes a great comparison of the two items (two evils). We are left with a choice. Do we want the fountain of living waters, Jesus Christ? Or do we want to gather for ourselves broken cisterns that leaves us forever thirsty? We are a broken people, but we need not choose to live our lives with broken cisterns. Instead, we can accept Jesus, the Living Water. With Him, anything is possible.
“For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” – Jeremiah 2:13 [ESV]
In Jeremiah 2, the words are harsh. The Lord asks what the people found wrong with God that made them go after other things. The verse says that because they went after worthlessness, they became worthless. This is blunt. This is harsh. This is difficult to swallow.
It is hard to read this truth and feel any grace. The reason the people had become worthless is because they were deep in idolatry. They could not be used by God for His glory if they were running after other things. It is difficult for you to selfishly and foolishly run toward something in place of God and be used by God for great things for His glory. At the end of the day, not only is it a choice that will be regrettable, but it is also very unfruitful.
Verse 11 makes it clear that this way of living does not profit. The people, His people (note “my people”), decided to cast aside their specialness. They were a chosen people. They cast it aside for something else. The something else was not better. Rather, this action caused them to settle for something that would lead them nowhere good, nowhere they would want to be if they knew the truth. Today, look within. Are you useful? Are you fixated on other things? Imagine what God can do through you for His glory.
“Thus says the LORD: ‘What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless? Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.’” – Jeremiah 2:5, 11 [ESV]