This is part 3 of a multi-message series on the story of Nehemiah and his love for God and country. Last week we saw Nehemiah’s prayer answered, we traveled with him to Jerusalem to check the state of the wall, and we watched the people of Israel come together. We also found out that the Samaritan army was close by, watching and commenting on the Israelites’ plans. This week, let’s explore chapters 3 and 4. These two chapters are crucial in the story –will the Israelites succeed or will they give up on their hopes and dreams of seeing the city restored?
As we start, I love the picture Nehemiah gives of the wall being rebuilt. Chapter 3 identifies each section of the wall that is repaired and the Israelite family who stepped up to do the repairs. What unfolds is how the entire Jewish community comes together in a consolidated and continuous effort, and the wall begins to go up – brick by brick. In our modern age, with our construction equipment, we can’t imagine the physical exertion that occurred to repair the wall. Days would be long, breaks short, and the activity ongoing in order to accomplish what they accomplished.
Then, in the mist of all the activity, the opposing armies of Samaria, who have watched with anger in their hearts, begin plotting against the Israelites.
Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall. He flew into a rage and mocked the Jews, saying in front of his friends and the Samarian army officers, “What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing? Do they think they can build the wall in a single day by just offering a few sacrifices? Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap—and charred ones at that?” (Nehemiah 4:1-2)
Interesting that anyone would be concerned about a “bunch of poor, feeble Jews” and a city that was “a rubbish heap.” So much concern for something so worthless. How sad that they would be upset and angry over a people trying to do good. The problem is, however, that evil doesn’t want good to rise up –quite the opposite. As with most things the Enemy wants to discount, the natural is dwelled upon, because even he knows if hopes rises things change. Don’t be deceived by the Devil and his lies. Don’t let him label you or your dreams as anything other than what God has said about them.
The enemies’ taunts were literally thrown at the Israelites. The verbal onslaught was meant to distract and discourage them. As Nehemiah surveys the situation, he turns to God again for help and protection:
Then I prayed, “Hear us, our God, for we are being mocked. May their scoffing fall back on their own heads, and may they themselves become captives in a foreign land! Do not ignore their guilt. Do not blot out their sins, for they have provoked you to anger here in front of the builders.” (verses 4-5)
Nehemiah asks God to defend His reputation, to show the nations that He is the Lord of all. Scripture tells us the Lord’s presence was there, and the Jewish people continue to respond positively, working with “enthusiasm” (verse 6) until half the wall was completed. What if we as Christians came together and worked side by side to spread the Word of God? What if we set aside our differences, our judgments, our personal agendas and just worked to share the Gospels? What would we accomplish? Nehemiah would not allow the negativity to influence the bigger goal and with God’s oversight the work continues brick by brick, row by row, foot by foot.
Then a change occurs. Like most of us, as we fight through the trails of life, fatigue and weariness will set in –and so it was with the Israelites.
Then the people of Judah began to complain, “The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.” (verse 10)
And the Devil and/or our enemies will see an opportunity to engage us.
Meanwhile, our enemies were saying, “Before they know what’s happening, we will swoop down on them and kill them and end their work.” (verse 11)
At that moment, Nehemiah was once again forced to bring the focus back to where it belongs – squarely on God.
Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!” (verse 14)
Nehemiah is then careful to lay out a new plan of attack and instills confidence within the Jewish people. So with the enemies’ plan exposed and a new battle plan in place, the work begins again.
…The laborers carried on their work with one hand supporting their load and one hand holding a weapon. (verse 17)
I think this is a beautiful picture of the Christian life. We need to stand ready to push forward with the work God has given us while wielding a sword –the Word of God. The Bible states:
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12
Stand in your faith, be prepared to do whatever it takes to win the spiritual battles of your life. Nehemiah did:
We worked early and late, from sunrise to sunset. And half the men were always on guard. I also told everyone living outside the walls to stay in Jerusalem. That way they and their servants could help with guard duty at night and work during the day. During this time, none of us—not I, nor my relatives, nor my servants, nor the guards who were with me—ever took off our clothes. We carried our weapons with us at all times, even when we went for water. (verses 21-23)
Be alert! Always ready! Don’t allow the opposition the upper hand. Remember, God is absolutely for you! Who can be against you?
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.