Sanballat and Tobiah were intent on stopping the work on the wall of Jerusalem. They were angry and plotted how they would destroy the people of Judah. The pressure began to raise the stress level of the people, and they were feeling as if they could not withstand the coming attack. Nehemiah positioned people by families behind the wall in the openings to defend the city. They had built the wall to half its eventual height. Nehemiah reminded them of the work to be done, that it was from the Lord. Because it was His work, He would defend them. Half the people then worked on the wall, while the other half were ready with defense. Even those on the wall had one hand working on the wall with trowel and mortar, and in the other hand they held a weapon. The only time they took of their clothing was to wash. They stayed on the construction site at all times. In the next chapter, we see an outcry from many of the Israelites, complaining about high interest and debt among their very own people. Nehemiah called an assembly and denounced the practice of usury, and the people agreed to free one another from their debts and stop treating them like a foreigner would treat them. And the people fulfilled the promise.
Several things are interesting in these stories. First, the people worked. As a matter of fact, one of my favorite phrases in this whole passage is found in 4:6, “So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.” One of the most heartening things to see in a church is a people who do not mind joining together and working for the kingdom. It is a joyous labor to work for the Lord. Second, opposition increased. Once progress was being made, Sanballat and Tobiah sought to intimidate them into stopping their work. However, then people just prepare for their defense and kept on working. This represents external opposition, which can be hurtful, but can be overcome because God was their defense. Third, they oppressed one another through excessively burdensome loans which forced them to even sell their children into slavery. This represented internal opposition, which could have divided the country and ripped apart their unity and resolve. However, Nehemiah provided the solid leadership needed to bring peace and relief back to the nation. When doing a work for the Lord, be sure to work hard, identify the real enemy, and love one another as you go!