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Reflections in Nehemiah: Weak Strength & Blessed Oppression

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Nehemiah 2:10
When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.


Having obtained the king’s permission and protection, Nehemiah continued his mission for the KING, Jehovah. As soon as Nehemiah entered Judea, he received opposition in the form of Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite. (Tobiah, it seems, was a servant of Sanballat, who was the governor of Samaria, and was helping him to oppress the Jews.) Both these men had been able to exert their power over the affairs of the Jews and immediately realized that Nehemiah’s arrival would change that. And they were not happy about it.

The Strong are God-Filled; The Weak are Just Hollow

“Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me…” ~Jeremiah 9:23-24a

God provides us with insight into the nature of the opposition that His servants face when doing His will. The name Sanballat means “strength” and Horon means “hollowness”. So the opposition Nehemiah faced (Sanballat of Horon) was the strength of hollowness or hollow strength. In other words, the servant of God walking in the will of God faces opposition that has no substance, no real power. This is not to say, however, that the battle is not real. The battles that believer’s face while serving God can be painfully real, just ask Paul who was imprisoned and beaten even almost to death (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). But despite the opposition, the victory is assured.

Sanballat had no chance of stopping Nehemiah from accomplishing God’s will; any strength he appeared to have was just a façade. Every time the name Sanballat the Horonite was mentioned Nehemiah would hear “hollow strength”. Similarly, despite the numerous beatings and imprisonments he endured, Paul still accomplished his mission

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” ~ 2 Timothy 4:7

Just like Nehemiah and Paul, we can also be sure of accomplishing God’s will for us if we remain faithful to Him. Indeed, we are the only ones that can ‘stop’ God’s plan from being accomplished in our lives.

Lemons make Lemonade; Trials make Triumphant

We can also gain insight from the name Tobiah, which means “Jehovah is good” and Ammonite (Ben-Ammi) means “children of my people”. So the unwitting message in Tobiah’s name is that God is good, [to the] children of my people: God is good to His children.

“…We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” ~Romans 5:3b-5

Many years earlier, when the Israelites were journeying from Egypt to take possession of the Promised Land, Balaam was hired to curse the Israelites but instead ended up blessing them whenever he opened his mouth (Numbers 22-24). Now that the Israelites were repossessing the home God had given them, it is Tobiah who is seeking to oppress the Jews. But, similar to Balaam before him, Tobiah, every time his name was mentioned, constantly reminded the Jews of God’s goodness.

Likewise, when the servants of God, walking in the will of God, face opposition it is good. Scripture reminds us of this fact in many places:

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” ~ Romans 8:28

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” ~ James 1:2-4

When God allows opposition to face us, even as we are doing His will, it is for GOOD! Therefore, those who oppose servants of God are unwittingly helping them, instead of hurting them. Paul was sent to prison in Rome to stop him from spreading the Gospel. But instead of stopping him, God wrote many of the epistles in the New Testament through Paul while he was in prison.

Therefore, servants of God who are walking in the will of God as they accomplish the plans of God have no reason to fear. No one can stop them from doing God’s work and those who try are only blessing them; making them stronger.

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