Nehemiah is Our Example of How to Build the Wall in Spite of Troubles Surrounding Us

October 22, 2013 at 9:46 AM

Nehemiah carried a trowel and a sword...

Nehemiah carried a trowel and a sword…

My wife and I – as part of our daily devotions – are reading a book by J. Sidlow Baxter. I like the way he writes because he takes the time to apply doctrinal truths to our spiritual lives so that we are not merely gaining head knowledge, but actual ways to apply that knowledge in our daily lives.

One of the things he pointed out was the time when Nehemiah rebuilt the wall surrounding Jerusalem. The work that he did – in the 5th century BC – was extremely important to the welfare of Jerusalem, which had been overtaken and plundered and even Jews chose to live outside of Jerusalem rather than within it.

Nehemiah was a high official in the Persian court of King Artaxerxes I at the capital city of Susa, which lay 150 miles east of the Tigris River in what is now modern Iran. Nehemiah served as the king’s cupbearer (Nehemiah 1:11), which evidently put him in a position to speak to the king and request favors from him. After hearing about the sad state of affairs in Judah, Nehemiah acquired the king’s permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city and its fortifications. He is even given letters from the king to ensure safe passage and to obtain timber from the king’s forest for the gates and walls of Jerusalem.”

What I also find fascinating is the way Nehemiah became angry at the Jewish men who, rather than care for Jerusalem, were too busy running their lives. They had even gotten to a point where they were lending money to other Jewish men at extremely high interest rates (something called “usury”). Nehemiah got so angry that he literally went around pulling the beards of these men to shock them awake!

Though Nehemiah experienced many trials and problems in attempting to rebuild the wall, he managed to do it with God’s strength and protection. Nehemiah 6 tells us that the work of rebuilding the wall was done in a matter of 52 days. Unbelievable considering the difficulties that assailed him.

I note also that there were several individuals who tried to keep the work from being done. An individual named Sanballat (Nehemiah 4) grew incensed that those “feeble Jews” were going to try to rebuild the wall. “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore things? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish it in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish—and burnt ones at that?” Like Satan, Sanballat didn’t want Nehemiah to succeed so he, Tobiah and “the Arabs” got together to cause problems. “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 the gaps were beginning to be closed, they were very angry, and all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. So we prayed to our God, and set a guard as a protection against them day and night,” (Nehemiah 4:7-9).

This was only one problem. There were others and this is part of the reason that all the workers rebuilding the wall had a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other. They were prepared for physical battle, while they worked.

It is the same with the Christian. Our battles occur or originate in the spiritual realm, just as Nehemiah’s did. Satan used several individuals like Sanballat and Tobiah to thwart God’s plans. In those days, wars and battles often raged between various factions. Sometimes, God parted the waters (like the Red Sea) and allowed the Israelites to pass through on dry ground, while the Egyptians perished in the same water. Other times, God expected the Israelites to fight battles physically.

Every Christian should be ready to fight as we work, but what does that mean today? We don’t walk around carrying our swords do we? Our greatest weapon is still prayer and we should always use it first. We must realize that doing the Lord’s work means entering into the spiritual battle. A spiritual battle is always best fought in the spiritual realm and that can only be done with prayer. We cannot enter into the Lord’s work without the protection, strength, power, and wisdom He provides through prayer. We must use that weapon and realize that without it, we are sunk.

If you’ll notice, in Nehemiah’s case, individuals gathered together to keep Nehemiah from rebuilding the wall. Thought Sanballat and others taunted Nehemiah, tried to give him a bad name, and threatened him, Nehemiah continued working with the other men. Eventually, the wall was done in spite of the fearful setting created by those who wanted to stop Nehemiah’s work.

When we determine to do God’s work, Satan will not sit idly by and allow it. Though he is limited by what God will allow him to do, Satan still does what he can to intimidate, instill fear, and cause us to stop working.

Obviously today, we are not placing physical bricks in a wall. We are introducing unsaved people to God. Satan wants us to stop doing that and he will use intimidation, fear, false charm, and anything else he can muster to change our direction. The only thing we can do is as Peter says and that is to resist the devil and he will flee from us. How do we resist? Through prayer and to see how intense the battle in prayer can get, look no further than our Lord’s difficult time in the Garden of Gethsemane, just prior to being betrayed by Judas (cf. Matthew 26).

If you set to work for the Lord, He will provide the strength to complete it. Ours is to focus on Him, not on the threats and intimidation from others.

Entry filed under: Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation.

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