“When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, 2 and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, ‘What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble – burned as they are?’3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, ‘What they are building – even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!’ 4 Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 5 Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of[b] the builders.6 So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.” NIV
Ridicule and mockery will come the church’s way; Christians who are open about their faith will have it to face. How do you deal with it? Nehemiah and the Jewish people show the way – stay prayerful and keep going. Don’t be deflected or distracted, but carry on.
This is the third time we find Nehemiah praying, and it certainly will not be the last (see 1:4-11 and 2:4). He commits his persecutors to the Lord in prayer.
Warren Wiersbe helpfully explains what is going on in a prayer which might sound spiteful to some ears:
‘Nehemiah’s prayer resembles the ‘’imprecatory psalms,’’ such as Psalms 69; 79; and 139:19-22. We must remember that Nehemiah was praying as a servant of God concerned for the glory of God. He was not requesting personal vengeance but official vindication for God’s people. The enemy had blasphemously provoked God before the builders, and this was a terrible sin. The opposition of Sanballat and Tobiah against the Jews was in reality opposition against God.’ Old Testament Commentary, p.763.
F.B. Meyer also offers this insight:
‘Whenever God’s work revives, there is sure to be evil-speaking and reproach. It is a mistake to reply. Let us hand over our cause to God, and go on with his work. It matters very little what men say, as long as he is pleased.’
He goes on to suggest:
‘Had Nehemiah had the message of Christ, he would not have prayed as in v.5. Our Lord taught us to intercede for our enemies, Matt.5:44. But let us emulate Nehemiah’s zeal for the name of God, and let us remember that increased light means increased responsibility, Matt.11:11.’ ‘Devotional Commentary’, p. 206.
PRAYER: If my ‘friends’ (or enemies) ‘despise, forsake’ me, help me to ‘take it to the Lord in prayer.’ Indeed, enable me please to take them ‘to the Lord in prayer’.