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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 solely based on that faith? Does it come from people who seem to enjoy taunting you because you’re a believer? You are not alone! Many of us have had to deal with this 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 as we dig in and do a simple Nehemiah Bible study.
So how do you go about blessing those that mock you, ridicule you, or hold you in contempt for your faith? How do you pray for those who persecute you? Read on and learn more from the prophet Nehemiah.
Updated and republished from 4/25/2020
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
Do you 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 who refused to 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.
What Does Persecution Mean?
Persecution is experiencing hostility and poor treatment, especially as pertains to a person’s race or their political or religious beliefs.
I bet you can easily see that persecution can come in many forms. This is just a high-level definition.
Someone else once experienced this kind of treatment. He was the prophet, Nehemiah! In Nehemiah’s example, we will see how he handled being treated with contempt and ridicule.Have you ever been ridiculed or mocked because of your faith? #christian Click To Tweet
Digging into a Simple Nehemiah Bible Study – Bless Those Who Persecute You
I admit, the book of Nehemiah is one I often neglect in my Bible studies. But when looking at what the Bible has to say about the practical application of blessing those who persecute you, it is one of the greatest examples. It spurred me to look a little deeper into this book.
So let’s first meet Nehemiah.
Nehemiah was a Jew from the Nation of Israel but he served as cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, king of Persia.
According to God’s Word, Nehemiah went in to see the king one day looking sad.
Why does it state that he is very frightened? The king seemed to be genuinely concerned about him so why the fear?
Well, Nehemiah was afraid because expressing sadness 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 and he feared what might be done to him.
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 begin the rebuilding of Jerusalem.
To make a long story short, the king agrees to let him go after Nehemiah gives him a time-frame that he would be gone for.
Then Nehemiah makes another request of the king. In Nehemiah 2:7-8:
He wanted to ensure he had safe passage AND plenty of lumber! So not only does Nehemiah ask permission to go and rebuild but he asks the king to provide the lumber from his own forest!
The king gives him the letters to show along the way with 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.
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 the time! Nehemiah’s prayer is about to be answered.
Not only was it time, but the Persian king gave him everything he needed AND sent officers and an army with him!
Great Work Often Comes With Great Trouble – Introducing the “Ites”
How many of you know that when we are about to embark upon doing some great work for the Lord, the enemy will always send discouragement and opposition our way? Well, Nehemiah was no different.
Nehemiah is arriving in the city of Jerusalem and Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite hear about Nehemiah’s arrival. I call these guys the “ites”.
They are not happy about this! The “ites” of the world are never happy with the people of God. We all have “ites” in our lives.
The Bible tells us:
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 children of Israel! Think about that! How dare he come there and check on the welfare of the people of Israel!
The Bible goes on to tell us:
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.
So, have you ever been mocked, laughed at, ridiculed for your faith in God? Have you ever had someone show contempt for your obedience to God’s Word rather than going along with what the world says is the right way or the truth?Have you ever been mocked, laughed at, ridiculed for your faith in God? Have you ever had someone show contempt? Click To Tweet
The Life of Nehemiah Shows Us That People Will Judge You For Following the Lord
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:
They label believers as hateful and bigoted and then respond with something hateful and bigoted themselves. The apparent hypocrisy is lost on them.
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” and how do you bless those who persecute you?
This mini Nehemiah Bible study shows us that the good works we do for the Lord can always be accomplished even in the face of contempt and ridicule and in spite of opposition by trusting in God’s promises and His great power to bring us through anything.
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:
Yeshua also instructs us in Matthew 5:44-45:
Pray for those that persecute you! Bless them and pray for them!
How Should You Respond When People Persecute You?
- Pray For Those Who Persecute You
- Praise God Through Trials
- Guard Your Heart and Mind
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
“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!!
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.
“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.
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! Nehemiah’s heart was focused on his people and his city and on the God who would allow Jerusalem’s walls to be rebuilt. He kept his focus on the city of God and on the Lord God of Heaven.
Bless those who persecute you for your faith, pray for those that persecute you, 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 little Nehemiah Bible study, we learn that God promises we will be blessed when we are treated with contempt!!
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.
NKJV – Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
NIV – Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™