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. 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.
If Nehemiah were still around, I’d be asking to meet at Starbucks just to sit and pick his brain. The guy is deep with God, humble and brilliant in his execution. And if Jesus himself could join us…well, I’m just saying.
Bullies bully to cover their own insecurities. They think anger will protect them and plotting violence makes them tough. They thrive on the attention of their own crowd and banter in one up sarcastic words – mostly to each other. Bullies are actually weak precisely because their strength and bluster is all they’ve got. Their words nevertheless can still be a scratchy irritation to a life of faith.
Nehemiah spends exactly zero minutes addressing them. Instead he goes straight to God. This is where his insight is so remarkable. Though the offensive behavior is directed to them Nehemiah knows it is actually an affront to God, prompting God’s anger. In fact, the severity of his hopes for the mockers is pretty much in line with Jesus’ words for anyone who would cause even one of His children to stumble. “If anyone should cause one of these little ones to lose his faith in me, it would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied around his neck and be drowned in the deep sea. “ Matt 18:5 GNT
Revisiting “their opposition” in light of its offense to God and His purposes, strengthened and encouraged the builders. Where the bullies hoped for confusion, Nehemiah helped the people reinforce their solidarity and faith in God’s purposes. Now, even more, “the people had a mind to work.”
And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night. This reminds me that the work of God is likely to come under attack – physical or emotional or both. In fact, just my life in Jesus is a work of God the Enemy may hope to confuse or delay. I have been given some spiritual armor from this passage:
- Make God my first refuge (pray). Do not engage in verbal battles with fools or bullies.
- Remember the work is God’s work. Opposition is really directed at Him and it makes Him angry.
- God does not take lightly the forces who would like to cause me to stumble. (Inversely, I should be careful not to be one who undermines another’s faith.)
- Ask God what “guards of protection” I should employ. Could be something physical or it could be the Holy Spirit guarding my thoughts.