In Nehemiah chapters 6 and 7, opposition continues, with a desperate attempt to discredit Nehemiah and assassinate him. Sanballat and Geshem sent four letters to Nehemiah, asking him to come for a meeting at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono. Nehemiah declined their invitation, preferring not to get murdered—besides, he had some important work to do, namely get the walls finished and the doors put up. A fifth letter was sent in a final attempt to scare him, spreading the rumor that the Jews were planning on rebelling against Artaxerxes.
But Nehemiah persevered.
He then is given a false prophecy, saying that assassins are coming to kill Nehemiah, so he should go hide out in the temple, where he’d be safe. But Nehemiah recognized it as false, and refuses to act cowardly. If he’s going to die, he’s going to die like a man.
And Nehemiah persevered.
After 52 days, the wall was completed—an amazing feet, accomplished only by a miracle of God! And there was more conspiring against Nehemiah. Because the hand of God was obviously upon the people of Judah, what was to stop them from becoming a mighty nation once more? The nobles of Judah conspired with Tobiah the Ammonite, because many of them were bound to him by marriage, and Tobiah sent letters to Nehemiah to make him afraid.
Still, Nehemiah persevered.
These chapters remind us again of the need for perseverence in the face of great opposition.
As Christians, we will face much opposition and much persecution in this life, because we follow the example of Jesus. Jesus faced enormous opposition from the Pharisees and the Jews. The gospels tell us that on multiple occassions, the people tried to stone Jesus (John 8:59, 10:31-33), throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:29), and ultimately arrest and murder him (Matthew 26:4, Mark 14:1). If Jesus, our great God and Savior, was opposed and persecuted, can we have any doubt that this is true?
And what must we do in the face of opposition? We must persevere. Jesus says that, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). Indeed, Jesus said that whoever does not take his cross and follow is not worthy of him (Matthew 10:38).
Peter, in his first epistle puts it this way: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). In other words, our calling is to suffer for the cause of Christ, so that we might follow in his footsteps. It is through opposition, trial, persecution that we are transformed into the image and likeness of Christ.
The question then becomes, how will we view opposition? Will we see it as hardship? A burden?
Or can we embrace it as a wondrous gift from God the Father—that through it, we would be made more like Jesus?
Nehemiah embraced opposition as a gift; he persevered. And God did what only He could do through Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem who stood with him. The walls were restored, and the people were brought out from their shame.
This is what God does for us and in us when we persevere in the face of opposition. This is why He tells us, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent” (Rev 3:19).