(October 29, 2022) Hope Flinchbaugh, reflecting on Nehemiah’s commission from God, shares challenges in respect of ‘A Leader’s Response to Opposition’ (Part 2).
Like all leaders, Nehemiah faced opposition – but he did not cower!
As he and his friends (men and women) are making mortar, finding usable stones, they were reproached by their enemies, non-Jewish local governors…
Nehemiah 2:19 tells us of their challenge –
‘But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Gesham the Arab heard of it, they laughed at us and despised us, and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Will you rebel against the king?”
Verse 20 tells of Nehemiah’s bold response –
‘So I answered them, and said to them, “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem.”’
When you begin to build where no one’s built before or you rebuild what was torn down by an enemy, you can expect some opposition. Somebody somewhere is going to say to your face or behind your back, ‘I am very displeased that you have come here to seek the welfare of these people.’
As my parents built the buildings and logistics that would comprise Teen Haven Camp, they faced opposition. The camp for inner city teens and children went up, cabin by cabin – plumbing, electricity, phone lines – none of it was just sitting in the big woods waiting for us to get there.
My dad led the building of the camp while my mom managed her home, four children, and the camp finances. Little by little, the trees were removed and those vast acres of forest began to take on the face of a small community. It was the 1960s, and race riots abounded in America during that decade. But we were in the middle of nowhere, so we really didn’t guess we’d face a lot of opposition when dark skinned children came by bus loads into our camp.
We were wrong. One night a neighbouring farmer called my father. ‘Glenn, there’s a whole line of cars and trucks on the road down here and they’re wearing white sheets over their heads. I think they’re headin’ your way.’
The call came when our camp was full of precious Black inner-city kids. (We called them black and called ourselves white and they called themselves black back then and called us white, so dear Americans don’t get excited, I’m familiar with the term ‘African American’).
We obviously had the Ku Klux Klan coming to do harm to our camp and our campers. We could have called 911 except that wasn’t invented back then and the nearest police station was miles and miles away from us. (Who needs to police farmers?)
What would you have done, I wonder?
This is the story as it was told to me decades later.
Dad prayed. He walked up the hill to the entrance of the camp. He knew that the long line of cars and trucks coming his way would only need to turn left into the entrance of Teen Haven Camp and start trouble. Dad stood there, right in the middle of the road entrance to the camp, his body the only obstacle between the caravan of the Ku Klux Klan and the campers inside the camp.
And he kept standing, unarmed, and miraculously they just drove slowly by!
Dad said, ‘I’d have loved to have seen what they saw. I know they had to see the angels of the Lord all around me. The Lord is so good. They could’ve run me over in a heartbeat.’
That wasn’t the last time he heard from the Ku Klux Klan, but each time he met the threats with faith and laid down his life for those of the campers he protected.
Jesus was that kind of shepherd. He told us plainly that a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (no matter how annoying they get!) and somebody who’s not really a shepherd will run when opposition comes (John 10:11-13).
We have to throw our fears down and call out on God before we call 911! Nehemiah certainly couldn’t call 911 – but he did have backup.
Let’s look again at what these enemies of Nehemiah’s said and, more importantly, look at how he responded!
Nitpickers’ reproach: ‘What is this thing you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?’
Nehemiah’s retort: ‘The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no portion, right or memorial in Jerusalem.’
Now, we could just grin and say, ‘Wow, he told them off!’ But it goes much deeper than that.
Nehemiah was commissioned by God – with permission from earthly authorities, and with provision of supplies from the king, to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall. When confronted by his enemies, he did not back down from God’s commission.
Message Bible is straight to the point here: ‘I shot back, “The God-of-Heaven will make sure we succeed. We’re His servants and we’re going to work, rebuilding. You can keep your nose out of it. You get no say in this – Jerusalem’s none of your business!”’
To the non-Jerusalemites Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem, Nehemiah immediately threw up boundaries and said:
- You will have no portion (chêleq… part or inheritance)
- You will have no right (tsedâqâh… say or control)
- You will have no memorial in Jerusalem (zikrôn… testimony or honour).
Dear leader of the sheep of His pasture, you are God’s emissary – do not cave into pressure from outsiders to stop building what God’s told you to build. It’s important to see that Nehemiah saw through the possible motives and let the enemy know that they had no part, no control, and no honour in this project.
While Nehemiah was telling his enemies no, he was also telling his friends to keep up the good work! He had enthused his Jewish to commence rebuilding (v18) and he was determined that all glory went to God!
Nehemiah showed godly leadership because he was –
- Full of love for his people,
- Prepared by prayer and fasting.
- Full of faith that God would make the work successful,
- Surrendered to obeying God to do the work in front of him.
Now that’s a godly leader! (Indeed the principles shared above – especially standing fast in our faith in God – should be honoured by every Christian, just not spiritual leaders).
Hope Flinchbaugh, editor-in-chief of Hope Editors, a special team helping publishers and authors, has written three historical fiction novels and two nonfiction books. Hope’s love for children is evident in her delightful Baby Babbles series… available from Amazon Author Page or International Orders Here.
I Come to the Garden Alone… Jesus is waiting – come and talk to Him, is Hope’s inspiring daily devotions booklet. Hope’s Amazon Author Page. Link: OnlinerConnect@gmail.com