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With the report that the walls were completely rebuilt (6:15), the next thing one would expect would be a report of the celebration that the task was completed, and done in record time. But instead, the narrative moves in a different direction. Although verse 16 recounts the general effect among the enemies, it is a little disconcerting that the next verses (17-19) speak about the continued, but more subdued, attempt to intimidate Nehemiah as he does God’s will. And the continuing opposition comes through the people of Judah that Nehemiah was trying to lead! And precautions, like the ones that were taken in 4:12-13, still had to remain in place against potential attacks, with the gates being guarded and closed during the night time (7:1-3).
Opposition to God’s work is a prominent theme in the book, and it is now emphasized that even though the work of rebuilding was completed, it did not result in the end of the opposition, either internally or externally. It seems that opposition to God’s work never ceases.
True, there were major accomplishments, and the enemy recognized that God enabled the work to be done. But the enemy was not “converted,” believing in God, or being won over to Nehemiah’s side. Rather the opposition that was present before simply continues.
We are reminded of Jesus’ ministry, when in spite of the many miraculous signs proving God’s presence with Jesus, those who opposed his ministry were merely hardened in their opposition.
When we face opposition for the ministry tasks that God calls us to do, should we expect anything different? Even major accomplishments on behalf of the kingdom of God do not necessarily eliminate the opposition.
Lord, as we do your work, give us the strength to withstand the opposition that is sure to arise. Make us vigilant, anticipating even the subtle attacks of the enemy against your people. And may those around us see that you are the one helping us accomplish your work. In Jesus’ name, Amen.