Grieving Our Enemies a Good Thing
9 Then I came to the governors beyond the river, and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me.
10 When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.
Normally one would not associate causing someone else grief (anguish, heartache or pain) as a good Christian trait. I hope in the next 45 minutes to unpack God’s word in such a manner to show there is occasion to do just that in a righteous manner.
We start this sermon with some action. Nehemiah says “Then I came (or went)”. He busts a move in the modern vernacular of my grandson. He does this after, as we learned in the last two sessions, he has (or one must) Cease the Day or the opportunity(s) God puts before him (us). Then in order to accomplish those opportunities now he had to (we must) Find Favor with God and man.
The next step in Rebuilding our lives and Our Future is to do as Nehemiah and take action. After months of mourning, praying and planning Nehemiah leaves the comfort and safety of the palace and travels approximately 800 miles to Jerusalem. Now this today may not seem like much. Folks in America regularly drive farther than that on vacation. Yet in Nehemiah’s time this was quite the undertaking.
It was typical for a person to travel about 20 miles a day on foot in that time. This journey had it been on foot would have then taken 40 days. The question must be asked, how many of us would walk for 40 days into the unknown for God? Let us assume for a moment that Nehemiah had a ship of the desert that is a camel or as verse 9 suggests was on horseback. He would have been able to make a little better time and cut his trip by 8 days. No matter the mode it shows a commitment to and a determination to God’s work that many today are sadly lacking.
David Guzik in his commentary on Nehemiah writes:
i. Many people have a heart touched like Nehemiah’s. They may also have the heart for prayer, the wisdom, the vision, the plan and the faith of a Nehemiah – but they stop short of actually going out and doing what needs to be done for the goal to become a reality.
ii. Sometimes we substitute talking about something for actually doing it. It is one think to stand around with other believers and talk about doing some evangelism; praying about it, planning it, talking about it – it is another thing to actually go out and do it. God is in the doing of the thing.
One other thing I believe worth mentioning about verse 9 is Now the king had sent captains of the army and horsemen with me. What may seem as trivial I think has significance. The King sent a military escort with Nehemiah. The obvious reason is for protection. No one would mess with the Persian Army at that time. Yet I believe greater significance is that these “guardian” let everyone know that Nehemiah’s mission was not to be messed with. He was on a mission for the King and lest we forget God. The presence of the Army sent a clear message to all that this was an important mission.
Verse 10 opens with When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it… First heard of what? The coming of Nehemiah and the kings troops to Jerusalem. So big deal two guys hear about it what is so special I am sure many more heard too.
Well let me see if I can shed some light. It appears Sanballat was from a city in Moab and Tobiah from a city in Ammon. If you remember back to Genesis 19:37:38 the biblical account, Moab and Ammon were born to Lot and Lot’s elder and younger daughters, respectively, in the aftermath of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible refers to both the Moabites and Ammonites as Lot’s sons, born of incest with his daughters. Throughout history the nation of Israel had a love hate relationship with the Moabites and Ammonites. Sometimes they got along well and other times it was all out war. Both were leaders of anti-Jewish regions and peoples adjacent to Judah and Jerusalem, fearful of any returning/renewed influence of the Jews.
The second part of verse 10 clarifies why the mention of these men specifically is says: it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel. Seriously someone comes into town and wants to do good deeds and these guys are saddened by the news. A key to understanding this part of the text is the word the KJV translates grieved. It is the Hebrew word Yara` which is otherwise translated displease, grievous, evil, ill, harm, and sad. The ESV renders it: it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel and the Amplified Bible: it distressed them exceedingly that a man had come to inquire for and require the good and prosperity of the Israelites.
The importance is not what word is used but the meaning is clear. These men were grieved, upset, unhappy, troubled, peeved call it what you will that someone was concerned about Jerusalem and the Jews.
G K Chesterton wrote that the Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.
This certainly was true in Nehemiah 2. Nehemiah’s arrival in Jerusalem was a threat to Sanballat and his associates (Neh. 2:10), who wanted to keep the Jews weak and dependent. A strong Jerusalem would endanger the balance of power in the region, and would also rob Sanballat and his friends of influence and wealth. When things are going well, get ready for trouble, because the enemy doesn’t want to see the work of the Lord make progress. As long as the people in Jerusalem were content with their sad lot, the enemy left them alone; but, when the Jews began to serve the Lord and bring glory to God’s name, the enemy became active.
Opposition is not only evidence that God is blessing, but it is also an opportunity for us to grow. The difficulties that came to the work brought out the best in Nehemiah and his people. Satan wanted to use these problems as weapons to destroy the work, but God used them as tools to build His people.
This should not be a news flash for any true believer. I have often said if your walk with God is covered in a bed of roses you probably are not on the correct path. Man and Satan will always attack those doing God’s work. Let’s look at a few verses on the matter:
Psalm 9:13 (AMP) Have mercy upon me and be gracious to me, O Lord; consider how I am afflicted by those who hate me, You Who lift me up from the gates of death
We will be afflicted by or suffer at the hands of those that hate us for doing God’s work.
Jeremiah 20:11 (AMP) But the Lord is with me as a mighty and terrible One; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not overcome [me]. They will be utterly put to shame, for they will not deal wisely or prosper [in their schemes]; their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten.
We will have persecutors who attempt to make us stumble. But if we are faithful in our work for the Lord it is they who will stumble.
Matthew 5:12 (AMP) Be glad and supremely joyful, for your reward in heaven is great (strong and intense), for in this same way people persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Our experiences will be nothing more than has been seen before. The faithful stewards of God’s word have been persecuted for grieving those opposed to God from the beginning.
John 15:20 (AMP) Remember that I told you, A servant is not greater than his master [is not superior to him]. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word and obeyed My teachings, they will also keep and obey yours.
Like Christ was persecuted so too will be His church.
Romans 8:35 (AMP) Who shall ever separate us from Christ’s love? Shall suffering and affliction and tribulation? Or calamity and distress? Or persecution or hunger or destitution or peril or sword?
But the Glory of God is He promises us that this persecution will be nothing compared to His love.
It was Charles Spurgeon that said God had one Son without sin, but He never had a son without trial. If we spend time pondering the enemy’s attacks, we will give Satan a foothold from which he can launch another attack even closer to home. The best thing to do is to pray and commit the whole thing to the Lord; and then get back to your work! Anything that keeps you from doing what God has called you to do will only help the enemy.
Less someone thinks I am encouraging everyone to go about provoking trouble with those who oppose God that is definitely not the case. Look with me at what the word of God tells us:
Romans 12:20 ESV To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Paul encourages us to be kind to those who would oppose us. He says this kindness will be as heap burning coals on his head. Paul is quoting Proverbs 25:21.
Luke 6:27 ESV “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.
Pray, Pray, Pray I often hear from men and women that they are being falsely accused of this or that. My response is always pray for you accusers. We must always pray for those who would oppse us.
Romans 12:14 ESV Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Who are you to pronounce a curse upon anyone? You who apart from the love of God and the shed blood of Christ at Calvary were mired in sin as your oppressor.
Proverbs 24:17 ESV Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,
Do not rejoice at the fall of your enemy no, pray for their righteous recovery.
I hope I have made my point. By going about and doing what God has for us to do, as was the case with Nehemiah we will undoubtedly cause some who oppose God grief. That is Okay, it is a good thing as long as the grief we inflict is not because of some outward act outside what God would have us do. In other words if we are being faithful to God’s charge (mission) as Nehemiah, not going about instigating troubles and that distresses (grieves) folks, so be it.
Let the enemies of the Lord be grieved while we are busy for His glory.