Opportunities & Obstacles
“When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobias the Ammonite official heard about it, it was very displeasing to them that someone had come to seek the welfare of the sons of Israel” (Nehemiah 2:10).
Up until that point Nehemiah’s plan seemed to go off without a hitch. Artaxerxes, king of Persia, had approved Nehemiah’s plan to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem, and had provided him with the travel permits and building materials needed to get the job done (2:5-9). Now in Jerusalem some of the local leaders that had a different political (and spiritual) agenda found Nehemiah’s assistance less than desirable, in fact they found it very displeasing. To Nehemiah, this had previously seemed like such an open door. Why were Sanballat and Tobias resisting him? As others have learned, where there is opportunity there is also opposition (1 Cor. 16:10). Why were these ‘leaders’ displeased with him? He was a reproach because he came “To seek the welfare of the sons of Israel.” Nehemiah learns that when you seek the welfare of the sons of Israel, you also take on the displeasure and reproach of Israel’s enemies. Their enemies become your enemies (Nehemiah 1:3, 2:17).
Identifying with God’s People
Many today want to identify with the Jewish people for “blessing”, not realizing by doing so they will also take on the reproach of God’s people. An evangelical pastor in New Jersey didn’t want to have his church overtly reach out to the Jews in his area. Why? Because Muslims in the area would be upset with his church if he cared ‘too much’ for the Jews. Like Nehemiah, God is preparing you for His service when you willingly bear His reproach. Wasn’t this the case with Moses? “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Messiah greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26).
Please notice that “to endure ill-treatment with the people of God” is paralleled to “the reproach of Messiah”. Identification with God’s people is identification with God’s program. To identify with God’s people redemptively is to identify with God’s redemption in Messiah, the Passover Lamb. In fact, because the Jewish people are instrumentally part of God’s redemptive program, they therefore are a reproach to an unbelieving world (Psalm 83:1-5, Gen. 12:3, John 4:22, Rom. 9:5). All who truly identify with the Lord bear His reproach. “Therefore, Yeshua also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. So let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach” (Heb. 13:12,13).
A Package Deal: Blessing & Reproach
Those that are part of God’s ministry to the Jewish people are identifying for blessing and with reproach. Paul, an apostle to the Gentiles, said the Good News is to the Jew first. Therefore, taking Paul’s example, all congregations and churches should seek the welfare of the sons of Israel. When you become a prayer partner with Word of Messiah Ministries, you seek the welfare of the sons of Israel. You’re helping to share the Good News of Messiah. However, when you seek to please God you will displease His enemies, particularly the main enemy of the Jews: Satan, the adversary. Though your commitment to the lost sheep of the house of Israel will make you a target for Satan, know that God’s grace is your sufficiency, and the battle is the Lord’s. God allows this reproach to evidence those that are His (see 2 Tim. 3:12). Unfortunately, some are a reproach for living in disobedience and dishonor to the Lord (Psalm 39:8, Ezekiel 22:4). Are you a reproach to God’s Name or a reproach for God’s Name? Do you seek the welfare of the sons of Israel (Nehemiah 2:4-9)?
Point of Commitment – Point of Attack
To the degree you are committed, to that degree you will bear His reproach and face conflict. As Yeshua came to save “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5) so also, He is seeking others who will seek the welfare of the sons of Israel. God allows problems and problem people to challenge us to demonstrate the sufficiency of His grace. Therefore, let us Trust, Trod, and Triumph to His glory and the furtherance of the Great News of Messiah- “even to the Jew first.” Shalom.