The Book of Nehemiah – Part 2 :: By Jason Lovelace

The Taunts of the Enemy

Key Scripture:

1 Samuel 17.28, 32-33, 43-44: “And Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spake unto the men; and Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, “Why camest thou down hither? and with whom hast thou left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.”

And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.”

And the Philistine said unto David, “Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.”

Nehemiah 4.1-6: “But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, ‘What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?’

Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, ‘Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.’ Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity: And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders. So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.”

Mark 6.1-6: “And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him. And when the Sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, ‘From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us?’

And they were offended at him. But Jesus, said unto them, ‘A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.’ And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.’”

Did you ever have a bully when you were in school? What did this bully do to make you feel bad? Did an older brother or sister ever use ridicule and mock you to cause you problems? In today’s lesson, we will discuss the first of the enemy’s attacks as found in Nehemiah 4.

The Enemy’s Taunts

With each call, with each task that God calls us to, from salvation right up through to the specific call in life, there will be assaults by the enemy. In his attacks, the enemy usually uses a five-stage pattern, often in order. The crux of this lesson will deal with the first and initial assault, taunting and discouraging. Looking back over your life, have you ever known a bully? Has there ever been a person in your life who basically made life difficult day-by-day at some point in your life, threatening and pushing you around?

Possibly everyone who reads this at one point of life or another has had someone who, it seemed, had the sole, life purpose of making you miserable. This is what Nehemiah faced when he set out to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah, chapters 1 through 3 show that Nehemiah was able to motivate the people and get them to the task of rebuilding the wall. Things were going well, right up unto chapter 4, when the enemies of Israel showed up…

What Is Taunting?

Taunting goes by many, many names and words in the English language. Here are just a few: Bullying, Mocking, Belittling, Insulting, Sarcasm, Teasing, and Verbal Abuse. These are all different names for something that is basically the same thing. They describe words used by someone to make another person feel small, weak, stupid, or all three of these together. Children most often feel the effects of this as well as use it to great effect, but adults can also be taunted and feel belittled by words.

Coworkers, friends, even family can use taunting, both by design and by accident, and quite often the effects are easy to see. Probably one of the most effective weapons of the devil is discouragement, and this discouragement often comes through taunting. Most people, both Christian and non usually do not recognize the taunts and the bullying of the devil, and the reason is, this taunting and verbal abuse often comes through another person, and often, that person is well-meaning.

Foes, Friends, and Family

The ways that taunting takes place is three-fold:

1. Through Enemie: Looking at our Key Scriptures for today, we can easily see that taunting most often comes through people who don’t like us, our enemies. The first few verses of Nehemiah 4 and the last few verses of Nehemiah 2 show that Nehemiah’s and Judah’s enemies began taunting as soon as they decided to start the work to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. People who do not like us, who have some problem with us will often taunt us because they do not like us. Quite often, too, they will taunt and belittle because they see us as higher in some way than themselves, and want to bring us down to their lower level. Such was the case with Sanballat and his cohorts with Nehemiah.

Nehemiah was given a high position in newly resettled Judah and Jerusalem by the King of Persia, and to bring him down, the enemies of Judah decided to begin their trouble by taunting. In the same way, David, when he went out to face Goliath faced the same kind of taunting. Goliath was a champion of the Philistines, and saw David as something less than a challenge, though with God, David proved to be far more capable than Goliath realized.

2. Through Coworkers and People Above Us: This is seen in King Saul’s words to David before he went to face Goliath. Though King Saul was well-meaning in his demeaning of David, it made it no less difficult. It was the same with Jesus Christ, as well. His disciples – the closest to him while he was on this earth – would at times question Jesus and, at the same time, belittle his purpose for being on earth.

3. Through Friends and Family: Again, David when going out to face Goliath, was taunted by his own brother. Eliab, David’s eldest brother had nothing but harsh and unkind words for David, when he came to bring him and his other two brothers in King Saul’s army food. Yet when David enquired about Goliath, Eliab was harsh, unkind, and to a degree, unforgiving. It was the same with Jesus, when he went to his own hometown.

Our Scriptures for today remind us that because of the taunting, because of the belittling, and the lack of faith of his family, friends, and the people in his own hometown, Jesus was unable to do many great miracles there, as he had done and would later do in other places. It is this kind of taunting – the kind that comes through family and friends – that usually hurts the most, for the people we love the most, we think will be the most supportive. When they belittle our call, our lives, and our work, it can be a shattering, painful blow.

No matter through whom the taunting comes or why, exactly, it can still have the same, devastating effect. How many people in the world have failed or refused to go forward with an idea because of taunting? How many great inventions or great innovations have been cast aside because of discouragement from others in the form of taunting or belittling?

This is how the devil operates, and when he tempted Jesus in the desert for forty days, his temptations were all taunts and belittlements. In Genesis 3, where we see the story of the sin of Adam and Eve, the devil’s first recorded words, “Yea, hath God said…?” (Genesis 3.1) were spoken as a taunt, and as a belittlement of God toward Adam and Eve.

How to Fight Against Taunting and Belittlement

The most effective way to fight against taunting is found most clearly in Nehemiah 4.4-6:

First – Pray and Ask God for Help: Nehemiah’s words in chapter 4 show his heart: when trouble came knocking, the first thing that Nehemiah did was take it to God, and that is exactly what we must do as well. A similar story is found in Isaiah 36 and 37 and 2nd Kings 18 and 19. The godly King Hezekiah found himself and all of Jerusalem surrounded by the mighty Assyrian Army under their famed Emperor Sennacherib. After receiving the taunts and belittlement of one of Sennacherib’s enemies, King Hezekiah and his councilmen took the problem to God.

Even when the King of Assyria wrote a letter to King Hezekiah taunting him and the children of Israel, King Hezekiah took the letter and, “went up unto the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord” (2nd Kings 19:14, Isaiah 37:14). It is the same for us. When we receive the taunts of the enemy, we must take his words to God, and ask for his help.

Second – Pray for Your Enemy:

This is the essence of Nehemiah 4:5. Nehemiah here is praying for his enemies, and yes, his words seem harsh and hard, but in reality, the first step in repentance and forgiveness is for each person to realize that s/he is a sinner in God’s eyes. This is also what Jesus meant when he stated in Matthew 5.43-48 to pray for our enemies.

The temptation for us in a situation where we are taunted is to fire back with hard words of our own, yet the Bible states in Proverbs 15.1 that a soft, quiet answer brings peace, whereas hard words make the fight greater. If we, when taunted, quietly respond, and pray for our enemies, it will bring about peace sooner. This writer learned a great lesson when he was in his last year of Junior High School and first year or two of High School.

Day after day for two years, I was on the receiving end of terrible bullying and taunting. One day after a very hard time of taunting, I told my dad what had happened, and my dad’s words were unforgettable: “Son, pray for those people who are causing you so much trouble!”

I thought it was crazy to do so, but he did it anyway, and the result that came about was that by the time I graduated, all of the people who’d caused me so much trouble had become friends. Pray for your enemies, for those who persecute you, for those who use you badly, because it works.

Third – Keep At the Job You Are Called To Do:

Nehemiah 4:6 shows us that the third step in fighting the taunts and bullying of the enemy is to keep working. Nehemiah and his friends could have given up, but they didn’t. They kept working, kept building up the walls of Jerusalem. David, in the face of taunts from King Saul, his eldest brother Eliab, and Goliath, went forward to fight anyway, and because of it, he won a great victory over the Philistines.

Jesus, despite his family’s doubts, the devil’s taunts, and his disciples’ subtle belittlements, continued in His call and His purpose, and the result was a great victory at the cross and at the Garden Tomb. King Hezekiah, as well, continued about his business of leading the people, and at just the right moment, God brought about a great victory for the children of Israel over previously unbeaten Assyria.

The Enemy Will Not Quit…Yet

If the enemy begins to see that his taunts and his belittlements are not working, eventually he will stop, to a degree. The taunting will stop eventually, but we need to remember that our enemy will not stop attacking us. In fact, if he begins to see that the taunts do not hurt us, he will step up his attacks, and come at it from a different way. The Enemy will just get more upset, angrier, and will try a different plan. In Lesson III of this series, we will talk about the enemy’s next tactic: threats and a show of force.

Conclusion: Through the Valley of the Shadow…

Are you, friend and reader, going through a hard time of taunting and belittlement, bullying and mocking by the enemy? Is a family member, a friend, a coworker or someone who doesn’t like you causing you trouble, discouraging you from day to day? The good news for a Christian is that he or she does not have to go through this alone.

In First Peter 5:7, God calls on us to give Him our problems. Christian brother or sister, Christ awaits you to give him the troubles and cares upon him. You do not have to go through any time of taunting or bullying alone, and if you do, it is because you choose to do so. Non-believing friend, if you do not have Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, I am sorry: There is nothing you can do to stop the taunts of the enemy as long as you reject Jesus Christ.

However, if you receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, He has promised never to leave you nor forsake you. In times of trouble, you can have the greatest power in the universe at your disposal, to help you fight against the enemy. Won’t you receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior today? I plead with you to receive him! You’ll never be disappointed (Psalm 34.5).

Prayer : Heavenly Father, I thank you for your Word, I thank you for the love that you afford to us, and we thank you, dear Father, for you. I praise thee for being God, and that there is none other. We thank you that when taunting, bullying, mocking, and teasing come that we can fight, and overcome. I pray for each and every person who reads these words, that they would realize that you have strength waiting for them, and that if they will call on you, the enemy really cannot hurt them with taunting and teasing. Be with us all this day, Father, and help us, we pray, to live for you! We pray for salvation for those who need you as Savior, and we pray all of this in Jesus’ precious and wondrous name. Amen.

“Hear O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity: And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders. So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work” (Nehemiah 4.4-6).