Nehemiah 3& 4 Building the vision and Opposition to the vision: A tale of bullying

Nehemia 4

At the End of Nehemiah 2, we see that the Remnant in Israel bought into Nehemiah’s vision to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and how, they faced opposition.   Chapter 3 describes the who and where of the building.   I’m not really going to look deep at chapter 3 because, well, even though it’s important to see the carrying out of the vision and who was responsible for their parts, I don’t think it’s very compelling a story.   Let’s jump ahead to Nehemiah 4 because that’s when the story gets interesting.    There’s elements of bullying in this story that is important to understand and learn how a true leader responds to those that feel the need to control others through bullying.

 [a]When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, 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!”

Bullying usually/typically begins with gossip and slander.   We see the two biggest agitators to the vision begin their campaign by vocal and public slander of Jews.  They are laying the groundwork for future escalation.   Slander and gossip are always the first step when bullies begin their work.   When someone of vision steps up to take action, the ones that oppose them will use public ridicule to either foment public opposition or to bully outsiders into not getting involved.    It’s a sound tactic to be honest.   If you can get those with no particular stake to not take action either out of fear for their own safety or the belief that it doesn’t involve them, then you have the green light to intimidate whoever you want to.  So how does a leader respond to this?  How does an individual respond to intimidation?   When someone else has the power and resources to do harm to you, how do we respond to it?

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. 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.

So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.

How does a leader respond?   By prayer first.   He releases the problem to God.   Then he rallies his people and and continues the work.    He doesn’t respond to the public ridicule, he doesn’t ignore it, but he doesn’t respond.  He actually acknowledges the problem by taking it to GOD.   Now, if you’re not a Christian and your read this, this may seem pointless, but the idea is the same.   You may skip the part about going to God, but don’t skip the part about not responding to criticism, but also acknowledge it’s out there.   If you’re leading others, let them know it’s out there, but you’re not going to let it stop you.  If you’re just being bullied, well, understand that it’s out there, that you’re being talked about, but don’t allow them to bring you to their level.  If there is a higher authority (teacher, principle, boss, etc) let them know what’s going on, and leave it there.   IF you are Christian, then by releasing it to GOD, then you’re allowing THE FATHER who loves you like no other to work on your behalf, and stand back and see what happens.

But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.

10 Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”

11 Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.”

12 Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.”

AND the escalation begins.   It seems to get worse.   Nehemiah Prayed, they continued the work, but it seemed like nothing happened, in fact it seemed like the situation got worse.   Shouldn’t God have done something dramatic?  Shouldn’t the haters have been stopped somehow?   When a leader faces opposition, then the leader also should be prepared.   Nehemiah didn’t just pray, in verse 9 he acted, he posted guards and he had the people prepare for action.  Not only were they facing opposition, they were also facing exhaustion.    There was a lot of work, and with the threat of attack imminent the threat of burn out to the workers was real.   Nehemiah is facing the dual threat of attack and burn out by his workers.    This happens now also.   With every case of bullying there is also the mental and physical forms of exhaustion that people deal with.   In school, at work, there are deadlines we have to face and work we have to get done, and when there is a bully involved you have even more stress.   How do we deal with it?  Well, vs 9 is the key.   WE continue to pay, and we guard ourselves.   How do you guard yourself if you feel alone?  Realize that you’re not alone, there is always someone out there that will stand with you.   Find that person.

13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

15 When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it,we all returned to the wall, each to our own work.

A leader rallies others in the face of opposition.   He doesn’t ignore it and hope it goes away, he stands up to it and most of all, he points his people to God.   When bullies face a unified opposition it frustrates them, they have to reevaluate their tactics.  Hopefully they will stop, sometimes they just back off to change tactics, but when they face a unified opposition they will back down.   How does this relate to now?   Well, the parallel is that when you have others that are willing to stand with you a bully backs down.   When you deal with bullies, they try to separate and isolate people from each other.   When you band together, two are stronger then one, and a band is harder to break then a single branch.   As a leader, it’s important to realize that if you rally your people and prepare for any option, then you following God’s plan.   It’s not about “God helps those that help themselves”, its about God blesses the plans of the prepared.   It’s about not getting in the way of GOD, but also honoring the position HE has placed you in by taking care of the people he’s placed in your care.   We’re going to see how GOD works this out, but always be prepared for anything.

16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, 18 and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.

19 Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!”

21 So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. 22 At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and as workers by day.” 23 Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.[c]

These last 8 verses show how a good leader prepares his people.   He sets a guard, he prepares plans, and he expects his leaders under him to do the same.   A leader doesn’t delegate then forget and hang out and hope for the best.   A leader sets the example and leads the way.   He sets the pace and shares in the work and the expectations that they have set for others.    You may read these last 8 verses and think, that’s good advice if you’re leading something, but how does that help me now if I’m being bullied at school, work, home, etc?   To be honest, I’m not sure.   But the principles are there.   I’ve stated countless times in this post to realize that you’re not alone, to find others to stand with you, to be your support, find a support network.   It’s there, somewhere for you.   People are willing to stand with you.

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