Those who were restoring the defenses of Jerusalem did not go forward in their work unmolested. Satan was busy in stirring up opposition and creating discouragement. The principal agents in this movement were Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Animonite, and Geshem the Arabian. These idolaters had exulted in the feeble and defenseless condition of the Jews, and had mocked at their religion and ridiculed their devastated city. And when the work of rebuilding the wall was entered upon, they, with envenomed zeal, set themselves to hinder the undertaking. To accomplish this, they attempted to cause division among the workmen by suggesting doubts and arousing unbelief as to their success. They also ridiculed the efforts of the builders, declared the enterprise an impossibility, and predicted a disgraceful failure.
"What do these feeble Jews?" exclaimed Sanballat, mockingly. "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?" Tobiah, endeavoring to be still more contemptuous and sarcastic, added, "Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall."
More active opposition soon beset the builders on the wall. They were compelled to guard continually against the plots of their sleepless adversaries. The emissaries of the enemy endeavored to destroy their courage by the circulation of false reports; conspiracies were formed on various pretexts to draw Nehemiah into their toils; and false-hearted Jews were found ready to aid the treacherous undertaking. Again, the report was spread that Nehemiah was plotting rebellion against the Persian monarch, intending to exalt himself, as king over Israel, and that all who aided him were traitors.
Emissaries of the enemy, professing friendliness, mingled with the builders, suggesting changes in the plan, seeking in various ways to divert the attention of the workers, to cause confusion and perplexity, and to arouse distrust and suspicion. These spies to the enemy reported the plans formed for the advancement of the work, and thus they were enabled to labor with greater effect to thwart the purpose of the builders.
guidance and support, and the work went forward until the gaps were filled, and the entire wall built up to half its intended height. As the enemies of Israel saw that all their efforts had been unavailing, they were filled with rage. Hitherto they had not dared to employ violent measures, for Nehemiah and his companions were acting by the king's commission, and any active opposition might bring upon themselves the monarch's displeasure. But now, in their blind passion, they themselves became guilty of the crime of rebellion of which they had so eagerly accused Nehemiah. Having assembled for united counsel, they "conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem."
The experience of Nehemiah is repeated in the history of God's people in this time. Those who labor in the cause of truth will find that they cannot do this without exciting the anger of its enemies. Though they have been called of God to the work in which they are engaged, and their course is approved of Him, they cannot escape reproach and derision. They will be denounced as visionary, unreliable, scheming, and hypocritical anything, in short, that will suit the purpose of their enemies. The most sacred things will be represented in a ridiculous light to amuse the ungodly. A very small amount of sarcasm and low wit, united with envy, jealousy, impiety and hatred is sufficient to excite the mirth of the profane scoffer. And these presumptuous jesters sharpen one another's ingenuity and embolden each other in their blasphemous work. Contempt and derision are indeed painful to human nature, but all who are true to God must endure them. It is the policy of Satan thus to turn souls from doing the work which the Lord has laid upon them.
Proud scorners are not to be trusted; yet, as Satan found in the heavenly courts a company to sympathize with him, so these find among professed followers of Christ those whom they can influence, who believe them honest, who sympathize with them, plead in their behalf, and become permeated with their spirit. Those who are at variance in almost everything else will unite in persecuting the few who dare to pursue the straightforward path of duty. And the same enmity, which leads to contempt and derision, will, at a favorable opportunity, inspire more violent and cruel measures, especially when workers for God are active and successful. Southern Watchman, April 12, 1904.
Disaffection among the believers
Some of the leading men among the Jews, becoming disaffected, sought to discourage Nehemiah by exaggerating the difficulties attending the work, and they represented the people as already exhausted by their excessive labor. Said they, "The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall."
Again, they attempted to intimidate the people by the report that large armies were preparing for a secret attack upon the city: "And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease." It was the help and encouragement received from traitors in the camp that emboldened the enemies of Israel to make those threats. And traitors reported the threats for the sole purpose of terrifying and disheartening the builders on the wall.
"And it came to pass, that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you." Those who were taking no part in the work gave these alarms. They were gathering up the statements and reports of their enemies and bringing these in to the workers to weaken courage and create disaffection. Then every word of complaint, distrust, suspicion, or unbelief dropped by the workmen, with all the additional conjectures and conclusions of the news-carriers, was eagerly reported outside the walls and circulated among those who despised the Jews and sought to hinder their prosperity.
Those who are now seeking to make up the breach in the law of God experience the same difficulties. The servants of the Lord must expect every kind of discouragement. They will be tried, not only by the anger, contempt, and cruelty of enemies, but by the indolence, inconsistency, lukewarmness, and treachery of friends and helpers. As we seek to advance the cause of truth, and prepare a people to stand in the day of God, we are led directly away from the customs and practices of the world. But there are among us pleasure-seekers, who are not laboring to meet the high standard of the divine requirements, which love the spirit and influence of the world more than they love the truth or the prosperity of God's cause. These unconsecrated elements are used by Satan to accomplish his purposes. While still connected with the people of God, they unite themselves with His enemies, and thus the Lord's work is laid open to the attacks of its bitterest foes, and the arguments furnished by professed friends of the truth are employed to destroy the confidence, courage, and faith of workers who are too easily discouraged.
Even some who seem to desire the work of God to prosper will yet weaken the hands of His servants
by hearing, reporting, and half believing the slanders, boasts, and menaces of their adversaries. Those who appear to be honest souls are sometimes deceived through the influence of ambitious and turbulent men. Satan works with marvelous success through his agents, and all who yield to their influence are subject to a bewitching power that destroys the wisdom of the wise and the understanding of the prudent: Hence they allow themselves to be prejudiced, misled, and deceived. For this reason, many whose lives are a reproach to the cause of truth will yet succeed in arousing distrust and suspicion of those through whom God is working.
How busy, in a crisis, is the rebellious spirit, the evil tongue! How eagerly will they gather up floating rumors and send them to the bitterest enemies of God, to be broadcast, like thistle seed, to produce their harvest of evil! And when the result is seen, in desolation, backsliding, and apostasy, then those who have done the very work, which Satan prompted them to do, are ready to charge the result upon the faithful workers whom they have hindered, burdened, and distressed. But every man's work stands registered in the books of heaven, and no disguise can there conceal the motives that prompt to action. Those who obey God will be honored of Him.
Amid great discouragements, Nehemiah made God his trust; and here is our defense. A remembrance of what the Lord has done for us will prove a support in every danger. "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" And "if God be for us, who can be against us?" However craftily the plots of Satan and his agents may be laid, God can detect them and bring to naught all their counsels. Southern Watchman, April 19, 1904.
Ellen G. White, the Lord's messenger, was one of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.