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Posts Tagged ‘opposition’

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Imagine this:

You’ve been going around town warning everyone about coming judgment for years.  Now, you’re wearing yoke bars around your own neck in an effort to show everyone what is surely soon and coming.  You’ve told everyone you know, including your friends, neighbors, and superiors, to repent.

Then, another guy comes claiming to be prophesying, too.  Only he says the exact opposite of what you’re saying.  That’s what happened to Jeremiah when Hananiah, the false prophet, came along.

This is Jeremiah’s life in chapter 28 of his book.  When Hananiah shows up, Jeremiah is still telling everyone the truth of what is coming upon them.  In front of all the priests and all the people, Hananiah comes right up to Jeremiah and tells him God is delivering the people and bringing back the lost vessels of the Lord’s house.

It kind of went like this:

Jeremiah: “The sky is blue.  And, by the way, it’s falling.”
Hananiah: “The sky is yellow.  And, by the way, not only is it not falling, it is perfectly intact, and will certainly never fall.

How would you handle that?  Standing in front of everyone you know to boot?

Similar situations have actually happened to me on several occasions.  The most recent time reminds me of exactly what Jeremiah said.  To the raging person who was angrily refuting the plain truth I had just told them, I said the exact same kind of words Jeremiah said back to Hananiah in this exchange between the true and the false.

“and the prophet Jeremiah said, “Amen! May the Lord do so; may the Lord make the words that you have prophesied come true, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the Lord, and all the exiles.” ~Jeremiah 28:6

So be it!  I WISH!  Oh!  How I wish the lies you are telling and believing were true!!!  But they are not true.  And we all know beyond the shadow of a doubt what the truth actually is.

When God says bad things are coming and we deny them and live in a perpetual state of denial, we only hurt ourselves and the others around us who are listening to, believing, and trusting in our lies and self-deception.

Jeremiah references the prophets before him and reminds everyone that his prophesies match theirs.  Hananiah’s peace and prosperity speech does not.  Jeremiah wisely points to history as his witness.

It is often helpful to point at the pattern of history when trying to determine the trustworthiness of a self-proclaimed truth-teller.  Jeremiah simply reminds the people that it is not prophesy spoken, but prophesy fulfilled that deems a prophet true or false.

Even after Jeremiah’s reproof, Hananiah proudly breaks Jeremiah’s object lesson yoke right off of his neck, and restates his false prophesies of coming peace for Israel and coming destruction for Babylon.  Afterward, Jeremiah just leaves.  Just like Jesus told the disciples, if you are not welcome and they do not listen to the words of truth, shake the dust as a testimony against them and move on.

Even still, God called Jeremiah back to speak to Hananiah again.  Prophets really have a difficult call.  Even after they’ve said the truth, been wholly rejected, hated, and even gone away, often God will call them back to speak again to the same situations.

So Jeremiah goes back to Hananiah and he tells him that the wooden yoke bars he broke will now be replaced with iron bars.  God is not playing.  Everyone is indeed going into captivity, and you, Hananiah, are indeed a false prophet who lies.  Not only are you a liar who has misled the people, you’re going to die for it.

And shortly after, Hananiah died.

“If what we have spoken be the truth of God, we must not unsay it because men gainsay it; for great is the truth and will prevail.  It will stand, therefore let us stand to it, and not fear that men’s unbelief or blasphemy will make it of no effect.”  ~Matthew Henry

 

 

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success
In Nehemiah chapter 4, we find the enemies of God’s people becoming increasingly angry.  The Jews have begun to rebuild their city walls and gates under the direction of Nehemiah, and have already made some significant strides in that work.  As soon as the neighboring Gentile rulers hear of their progress, their anger at these people becomes even more intense.

In verse 1 we find Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, become enraged and begin to mock and jeer at the Jews.  He tells everyone he knows including his army about the work of the Jews and pokes fun at them.  Funny how he tells everyone what a crappy job these guys are doing and how their wall isn’t strong enough for even a fox to stand on, yet he is angry about their progress.  Well, which is it?  Why would the ruler of an army be mad about a bunch of fools who aren’t accomplishing anything?  Apparently this guy was insecure and afraid that the Jews were indeeding succeeding…which they were, by the way.  He was jealous and angry so he set out to stop them anyway he could.  What he didn’t know was that he couldn’t stop them because this was God’s work.

Nehemiah realizes what is happening with his enemies and he prays.  He prays a curse on them and he continues to do exactly that which God gave him to do.

Nevertheless, Sanballet and his big, bad temper decides to try to pick a fight with these guys.  He calls on all his ruler friends to help him cause confusion and problems for God’s people.

Again Nehemiah and the Jews pray.  This time they pray day and night for protection against their enemies.

In verses 10-12 we see the odds stacked against the Jews.  They didn’t think they could accomplish the job.  Their enemies didn’t think they could accomplish the job, and just in case they could, they were doing all they could to make sure of it.  Even their friends urged them “ten times” to stop trying.  This is a sad scene for God’s people!

Good thing they had a good leader who was resolved to do what God sent him to do.  Nehemiah gave the people each specific positions with their families and their weapons, and he encouraged them to remember God and fight with honor for the things that are most important: God; family; community; home.

What do you do when you have a really hard job to accomplish?  When the enemy is mocking and making war against your success?  When you doubt your own ability to succeed and everyone is telling you to quit?  Consider what Nehemiah did.

  1. Nehemiah prayed.  If you know that what you’re doing is God’s will and God’s holy work for you, pray for help and protection in it.
  2. Nehemiah organized his people and his plan.  He put groups of families together in order to strengthen their morale and give them confidence.  If you are working for the Lord, don’t work alone.  Get organized and find a group of people who love and support, and help you and always have your defenses in hand.  Our weapons are the sword of the Spirit, the Word, and the promises of God.
  3. Nehemiah reminded the people to remember whose idea this work was.  He told them to remember God.  He wanted them to remember to trust God and to know that he was the one behind this plan so they would not doubt or get discouraged in the hardships.  When God’s work gets hard and you come up against obstacles and enemies, it is always helpful to remember whose work it really is.  When we are doing God’s work and God’s will, we have nothing to fear because Our God is trustworthy.  Remember that.  When we remember that, we also remember that there is great honor in striving, working, and fighting hard for the things that matter, namely, God’s glory, the good of our families and communities, and our homes.If you are leading a group of people like this one, pray, organize, and encourage them in the Lord.  This is a great model to follow in difficult circumstances…or any circumstances!  If you are part of a group like this one, pray, organize, and encourage yourself and others in the Lord.

    Pray.  Organize.  Encourage yourself and others in the Lord.  This is the way to defeat the Enemy.

    “…Do not be afraid of them.  Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”  ~Nehemiah 4:14

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start
In Nehemiah chapter 2, we find Nehemiah arriving in Jerusalem with army officers and horsemen sent with him by the king.  Clearly, Nehemiah had great favor and protection from the royal court being sent off with such an entourage.

When Nehemiah arrives, the first men he encounters are the governors of the neighboring areas.  Sanballat was the governor of Samaria, the area north of Judah, and Tobiah was the governor of Ammon, the area east of Judah.  Just seeing Nehemiah show up was enough to arouse jealousy and disgust in these men.  They did not want to see anyone help the people living in Jerusalem and they hated Nehemiah from first glance.

Nehemiah stays in Jerusalem three days before going out to assess the wall.  He does not announce his arrival or share his plans with anyone.  He acclaimates himself to the area for three days and then goes out at night by himself to inspect the wall and consider what he will have to do to repair it properly.  No one knew or saw Nehemiah do this.

It is always important, anytime we are starting a new project – especially if we are leading it – to consider what must be done and how we might be able to accomplish it before hauling off and making any announcements about what needs done or asking for help to do it.  If we don’t know what’s in store and what’s necessary, how will those who agree to help and follow us know what to do or where to start?  Having a good understanding of what and how we need to do a project is essential to its success as well as our success at being a good leader.

After Nehemiah considers the state of his country and what needs to be done to correct it, he addresses the people living there.  He asks them to consider the damage and asks them to help him rebuild the walls and the gates.  He reassures them that God’s hand is on him and that he has been given much favor with the king.

When the people heard Nehemiah’s words, they cheered and agreed to help build with him.  One question we might ask is why had none of them sought to do this work previously?  They saw the ruins every single day.  They lived there; Nehemiah didn’t.  Yet Nehemiah’s heart was burdened to take action and theirs was just burdened.

God burdens our hearts not so that we might walk around melancholy and negative about our circumstances, but so that we might work towards solutions and be a help, a comfort, and a leader in them.  There’s a big difference between a person who is burdened with the problems they are facing and a person who is burdened to take action regarding those problems.

Notice how Nehemiah makes certain that the people know that God’s hand was with him and them for this project.  When you know God is with you and behind the work you are doing, it stirs up confidence and morale in completing it.

Finally, when the neighboring governors heard Nehemiah’s plans, the text says they jeered, despised, and slandered Nehemiah and God’s people.  They accused them of treason which couldn’t be further from the truth.  It was quite obvious the king had sent these men and they had the army officers, the horsemen, and the papers to prove it.  Yet some will do and say anything they can to hinder and hate those of whom they are jealous.

Nehemiah answers their ridiculous statements with the truth.  He says this:

“The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.” ~Nehemiah 2:20

Firstly, haters, God is behind this project and he is going to make us prosper.  Secondly, we are going to do what God told us to, which is stand up strong and rebuild our walls.  Thirdly, you don’t belong here and you have no authority here.  This is God’s land and God’s business, not yours.

Wow!  What a great reminder of how confident we can be in the face of those who hate and despise us out of jealousy.  This is what a strong leader who is surrendered to God’s will is able to say to those who try to destroy and tear down God’s work.  Because, sometimes, even when you have permission from the highest authority (God), men will hate you, hate what you’re doing, and do all they can to stop your good and noble efforts.  Here is your reminder not to let them.  Amen and amen!

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