Around 445/444 B.C., a remnant of Jews who were in Judah were suffering from low morale because the city of Jerusalem had been torn down and no one had the strength or mind to rebuild it. The city still had a temple, but all the walls around the city had been torn down. Jerusalem had no protection from enemy attacks. During this time, a man named Nehemiah, was cup-bearer to the king of Persia, who was called Artaxerxes. (We learned about Artaxerxes’ supportive queen wife in an earlier post.) When Nehemiah heard about the sad state of affairs in Jerusalem, he asked King Artaxerxes for permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city. King Artaxerxes let him do so, even providing him with timber from his own forest.
So, Nehemiah went back to Jerusalem, rallied the people, and in a few weeks they had the walls around Jerusalem rebuilt, giving the city protection from their enemies. However, Nehemiah and those who worked with him, were not without opposition while they worked. They were repeatedly harassed and opposed by two enemies in particular, Tobiah and Sanballat. Also in league with Tobiah and Sanballat was a woman named Noadiah. She was a prophetess.
Thankfully, Nehemiah did not allow himself to be distracted by Tobiah, Sanballat or Noadiah. He simply remained focused on God. Nehemiah 6:14 says that he prayed:
Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, according to these things that they did, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who wanted to make me afraid.
Nehemiah’s prayer reveals the way in which Noadiah tried to get him to stop his good work.
1. Noadiah tried to hinder others from doing good by making them afraid. Noadiah’s name means “one to whom the Lord revealed Himself.” This is a pretty good name for a prophetess to have, but Noadiah was a false prophetess. If she had truly been listening to God, she would not have tried to stop Nehemiah from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. She would have known that rebuilding the walls was what God wanted done, and she would have supported the work. Instead, she conspired with Tobiah and Sanballat to have the work stopped. She tried to make Nehemiah and those with him afraid so they would be too fearful to finish the job at hand. What Noadiah failed to realize, however, was that she wasn’t just trying to stop Nehemiah and his crew. She was also trying to stop God, and God cannot be stopped. In the end, it was not Nehemiah’s good work that was stopped, but Noadiah’s schemes.
When we see others doing good works, we should support them in any way that we can. Even though someone else’s good work may not be our idea, we should be so committed to seeing good happen that we willingly join forces with whoever is doing good. Fear based tactics have long been used to stop good people from doing good things. We should in no way engage in such manipulation. During the U.S. civil rights movement, vicious dogs, powerful fire hoses, cross burnings, and church bombings were all used to make those fighting for equal rights too afraid to continue fighting. Some hoped that they would be scared into silence and submission. Thankfully, those civil rights fighters did not give in to fear. Like Nehemiah, they refused to be distracted by haters. They remained focused on God and through faith and prayer, they marched, protested and sang their way to victory.
The devil still uses fear based tactics to try to scare us away from following God and doing good. He wants to make us so afraid, that we are paralyzed to step out by faith, surrender our lives to Christ, and be used by Him to do great things. God, on the other hand, provides perfect love which casts out all fear. He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
Just as Nehemiah had a great work to do, we too are here to do a great work. Let us not be bullied into fear by Noadiah-like detractors. Let us be fearless in God.