An image of a wall in Israel - Bless Those Who Persecute You - A Study of Nehemiah

Bless Those Who Persecute You – A Study of Nehemiah

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Do you ever face being treated with contempt as a person of faith? Does it come from people who seem to judge you based on that faith? People who seem to enjoy taunting you because you’re a believer? You are not alone! Many of us have had to deal with contemptuous people quite often! But the Bible tells us in Romans 12:14 to “Bless those who persecute you—bless and do not curse.” (TLV)

As a Jewish believer, I have experienced contempt on both sides; for being Jewish and for being a believer in Yeshua (Jesus). There are not many people in this world who understand contempt and persecution more than the Jewish people and we will explore one of their stories that you can draw a lesson from.

So how do you go about blessing the very people who hold you in contempt? How to do you bless those who persecute you? Read on!

An image of a wall in Israel - Bless Those Who Persecute You - A Study of Nehemiah

Treated With Contempt as a Believer – What is ‘Contemptuous’?

Merriam-Webster defines it as

manifesting, feeling, or expressing deep hatred or disapproval : feeling or showing contempt

Some synonyms for contemptuous are:

belittling, degrading, demeaning,  derogatory, mocking, ridiculing

Know anyone in your life who has ever ridiculed you or mocked you because of your faith? I have! In fact I just recently had two different people refuse to work hire me as a virtual assistant simply because they made judgments about me because of my faith.

It is a form of persecution. We may hear the word ‘persecution’ and think of how the apostles were jailed, killed, or exiled for their faith and that is true. But persecution can take many shapes.

Persecution is defined simply as:

hostility and ill-treatment, especially because of race or political or religious beliefs

I bet you can easily see that persecution can come in many forms.

Someone else experienced this kind of treatment. He was a man named Nehemiah! In this study of Nehemiah we will see how he handled being treated with contempt and ridicule.

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Bless those Who Persecute You – Study of Nehemiah

My pastor had been preaching a series on the book of Nehemiah. It spurred me to look a little deeper at this book that, quite honestly, I often neglect in my reading.

So let’s first meet Nehemiah.

Nehemiah was a Jew but served as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes.  He went in to the King one day looking sad.  

“In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” I was very much afraid…”

Nehemiah 2:1-2 NIV

Nehemiah was afraid because being sad in the presence of the King was not permitted. It was seen as a disapproval of the King or dissatisfaction with his job.  So Nehemiah was afraid because the King had noticed his sadness.

Nehemiah then goes on to tell the King that he is sad because the city where he is from and where his family is buried is in ruins. He then asks the King to allow him to return to Judah to rebuild.

To make a long story short, the King agrees to let him go, gives him letters to show along the way giving the King’s permission for him to pass through various regions, and also agrees to his request to supply the lumber needed to rebuild the walls of the city.

“The king granted me the requests because the good hand of my God was upon me.

Nehemiah 2:8 TLV
An image of a Bible opened to the Book of Nehemiah with Nehemiah 2:8 quoted in a text overlay - Bless those who persecute you

Nehemiah had been praying a long time for this.  But the answer to his prayers was delayed for a time.  So now Nehemiah knows the hand of the Lord is on him and it is time!

Not only was it time, but the King gave him everything he needed AND sent officers and an army with him!

Bless Those Who Persecute You – Introducing the “Ites”

So Nehemiah is arriving in Jerusalem and Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite hear about Nehemiah’s arrival.

They are not happy about this!

The Bible tells us:

..”they were very displeased that a man had come to seek the welfare of Bnei-Yisrael.”

Nehemiah 2:10 TLV

They did not even yet know that Nehemiah had come to rebuild the wall. They were displeased that someone had even simply come to check on the welfare of the people of Israel!

The Bible goes on to tell us:

“The officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; nor had I as yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials or the rest who did the work.

Then I said to them, “You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach.” I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me and also about the king’s words which he had spoken to me. Then they said, “Let us arise and build.” 

So they put their hands to the good work. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard it, they mocked us and despised us and said, “What is this thing you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” So I answered them and said to them, “The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no portion, right or memorial in Jerusalem.”” 

Nehemiah 2:16-20 NASB

To Mock & Laugh

The Hebrew word used here for “laughed at us” is la’ag, which means to mock and laugh.

The Hebrew word used here for “despised us” is “bazah”, which means to hold in contempt or be contemptuous. The NIV says “they mocked and ridiculed us”.

So, have you ever been mocked, laughed at, ridiculed for your faith in God?  Have you ever had someone show contempt?

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In This Study of Nehemiah We Learn That People Will Judge You For Following Yeshua

People in the world do not understand our faith. They think it’s foolish! They see believers in Yeshua as bigots, narrow-minded, blind sheep. People will make fun of what they don’t understand. When you are treated with contempt by people around you, understand your faith is foolishness to them.

1 Corinthians tells us:

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

1 Corinthians 1:18 TLV

Hollywood and popular culture almost thrive on making fun of our faith and its values. The late night “comedy” show, Saturday Night Live even did a skit that made fun of the movie, God’s Not Dead 2.

They label believers as hateful and bigoted and then respond with something hateful and bigoted.

But what about when it is not coming from Hollywood? What about when it comes from our own family or our own friends? Many believers have lost people because of their faith!

Who are your “ites”?

Bless Those Who Persecute You – How Do You Respond When You Are Treated With Contempt For Your Faith in God?

The Bible is clear in Romans 12:14:

Bless those who persecute you—bless and do not curse.

TLV

Yeshua also instructs us in Matthew 5:44-45:

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

TLV

So how do we go about doing those things?

  • Pray For Those Who Persecute You
  • Praise God Through Trials
  • Guard Your Heart and Mind

Let's Examine Each Way to Respond to Bless Those Who Persecute You

Pray for Those Who Persecute You

Don’t get into debates with them.  Don’t challenge them.  Pray for them.

Again we look at this verse in Matthew where we are told not only to bless them but to pray for them.

Matthew 5:44 says:

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,” NKJV

Praise God Through Trials

Yes! Praise God for your persecution because it comes with a blessing!

1 Peter 4:14: 

“If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” NIV

Matthew 5:11-12:

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you” NIV

Guard Your Heart and Mind - Set a Watchman

When Nehemiah knew his “ites” would come against him and try to fight him, he prayed and guarded the city!

Nehemiah 4:7-9 says:

“But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry.  And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it.  And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.”

They prayed and guarded the city!

Pray and guard your heart, as my pastor says!!

Pray, put on the armor of God and get in the Word!

Nehemiah 4:17 says:

“…The laborers carried on their work….”

They kept moving forward!  They did not stop the work God had for them.

AND…

“Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other…” NIV

One hand supported their load. One hand did the work. But the other hand held a weapon.

When you are treated with contempt by people around you, understand your faith is foolishness to them. Click To Tweet

The Study of Nehemiah Teaches Us to Carry On Our Work

We are to carry on our work AND stay in the Word! The Word of God is our weapon!

Bless those who persecute you for your faith, pray for them, praise and worship God, pray for God to place a guard on your heart, and continue doing what God has called you to while staying in the Word.

Satan wants nothing more for you to stop. He wants nothing more than for you to turn away from what God wants you to do! Keep moving forward!! It may cost us friends, it may even cost us family! But if we learn anything from this study of Nehemiah, we learn that God promises we will be blessed when we are treated with contempt!!

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Scripture taken from the Holy Scriptures, Tree of Life Version*. Copyright © 2014,2016 by the Tree of Life Bible Society.  Used by permission of the Tree of Life Bible Society.

“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation”

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12 thoughts on “Bless Those Who Persecute You – A Study of Nehemiah”

  1. Pingback: You don’t have to choose a word for the year | Stray Thoughts

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  3. These are great truths from Nehemiah. Our human response is to react in kind or withdraw and feel sorry for ourselves. But God will give us grace to respond in these better ways.

  4. This is the second challenge I’ve received in the past 12 hours to live above the contempt of those who have not chosen a single-hearted devotion to God.
    Blessings to you as you begin a new year of faithful following!

  5. I was recently treated with contempt in a volunteer job I was doing over the holidays. At first I was personally offended, but the Lord put a sweet spirit in the other people around the situation who helped me realize that it wasn’t about me. I love how God can use others to keep us straight!

    1. Amen! I know how you feel. I had never experienced that sort of thing before until recently. I was so taken aback by it that it was easy to feel offended, especially since one of the people who did it was running a project that was supposed to be about open dialogue and inclusion. My husband was great at helping me realize, as you did, that is was more about the person than it was about me.

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