Scorn and Ridicule
Then they turned to scorn. "What do these feeble Jews: ... if a fox go up, he shall break down their stone wall" (Neh. 4:2-3) - despising, scornfully trying to make out that after all this does not amount to anything, it is not worth taking note of - don't take it too seriously! Some of the Lord's people cannot stand up to that sort of thing. They just go to pieces under it. You have only got to try to transfer to them an inferiority complex, and that has done it - down they go. But not Nehemiah. Nehemiah knows the reproach is not leveled at him and his fellow-workers - it is leveled at the Lord; and he says here: 'O Lord, You take note of Tobiah' (4:5). He passes that back to the Lord. But this action and attitude of despising is a very real one, a very real and subtle art of the devil to try to bring home the idea that you are trying to do something that does not count for anything at all. All that you are doing, all the labor, all the suffering, all the cost: after all, what does it amount to? There is nothing in it! You will have your day and pass on and the whole thing will fizzle out!
If you take that on, you will not go beyond the first stages of this whole business of recovering the Lord's testimony. Though it is not right to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think or to give an undue importance to the ministry committed to us, if we have seen the heavenly vision of what God in purpose is after, we are clothed with a dignity that is not our own. Nehemiah afterwards was able to say, with true dignity born of the deepest humility: "Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being such as I, would go into the temple to save his life?" (Neh. 6:11). That is a dignity that is more than his personally. He says: "I am doing a great work." It is the dignity of a great calling. It is the great work, not what we are in ourselves, that gives the dignity.
The wall is now coming on, things are coming to an end and the finish is in view, and now the enemies are very wroth. There is much significance in that kind of ridicule. The fact is the enemy is deeply stirred. This wrath means that satan recognizes that here is something that he should take account of. Whatever he may put on outwardly, underneath he is aware that there is something here that is going to shake his kingdom to its foundations. Remember all that, if a day of wrath breaks out! It is an indication - it is really complimentary. It is an acknowledgment that there is something here worth while. You cannot explain the devil's wrath except that he must recognize something even more than we recognize. There must be something that matters to him.
These enemies were very wroth, and out of their wrath they conspired to come and fight. But this became known to Nehemiah, and he took special measures. He armed the people who were working, not only with a trowel in one hand, but with a sword in the other. When the enemy's plans are known, half the battle is yours. So the conspiracy failed.
The opposition took many other forms. You know about the letter. "Let us meet together in one of the villages in the plain of Ono" (Nehemiah 6:2, 3), 'and talk this over.' Very cunning. Nehemiah is alive to it: they meant to do him harm, they meant to assassinate him - that is what it amounted to. And he said: "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down." That failed, but the enemy is subtle. He will try to get us in some way to a place where we compromise, come to some agreement with him, find some terms where he can get an advantage, where we can be put out. The Apostle Paul concentrates all his great argument on spiritual warfare on that very point. "Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11) - against his subterfuges.
(continued with # 10)