How does one overcome opposition? The book of Nehemiah is a study in pursuing a goal and conquering every challenge in the way. We can learn from him. Last time we saw that Nehemiah overcame emotional and physical opposition. Today we’ll consider how Nehemiah handled social opposition and personal threats.
Social opposition is a tough one. The root problem is never easy to discern, and it is even more difficult to deal with. In this case, while everyone was working on the wall the wealthy were using the situation to increase their wealth at the expense of the poor. According tot he Law, Jews were not to charge each other interest or take advantage of each other.
Nehemiah was appalled. He pondered the situation, and then “accused the nobles and officials…You are exacting usury form your own countrymen!” (Neh. 5:7) He called a meeting and demanded that they return all the property and interest.
Nehemiah’s secret weapon was that he had a spotless reputation for honesty and generosity. As governor, he could have added to the people’s burdens, but he had not. He led the people as Jesus would one day lead, for the benefit of the people. Amazingly, the people complied.
“And the people did as they had promised.” Nehemiah 5:13
Finally, Nehemiah faced personal threats. He was asked to meet with his opposition and to take cover in the temple. This was at best a waste of time; at worst it was dangerous territory. Nehemiah said, “I am doing a great work, I cannot come down.” (Nehemiah 6:3)
That strikes me as a handy phrase to remember. We are all inundated with opportunity, but it is not all from God. Nehemiah had the great advantage of being certain of God’s purpose for him at this moment, so he could confidently say “I am doing a great work, I cannot come down.”
Nehemiah’s calling to complete the wall was fairly short, but he was governor of Jerusalem for much longer. The wall was just one of many tasks that he undertook for Jerusalem. May we all know what the Lord has called us to do as well and as confidently as Nehemiah did.
There are some things I know that God desires me to do, and those deserve priority. For example, my own children are grown and on their own, but for one day each week my two grandchildren are my charge. Investing in their lives is a great work, and I cannot come down. Other callings may come for a time or be fairly permanent. Each of us must sort that out with God on our own.
“So the wall was completed…” (Nehemiah 6:15)
Nehemiah completed the Jerusalem wall in 52 days due to his concentrated work, his focused attention, and his refusal to be distracted. May we be as determined to follow God’s will for our lives.
What is the great work that you cannot come down from?