In the first part of our series, we saw Nehemiah’s reaction to hearing the walls of Jerusalem were still torn down, and the inhabitants we not safe from foreign invaders. We looked yesterday at Nehemiah’s inspection of the wall, and we saw the first glimpse of his enemies, those who despised Israel. Today we look at having a mind to work, and the scheming of Nehemiah’s enemies, and what he did to prevent them from coming to fruition.
Nehemiah 4:1-14 New King James Version (NKJV)
1 But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews. 2 And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they fortify themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they complete it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?”
3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.”
4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! 5 Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders.
6 So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
7 Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, 8 and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.
10 Then Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.”
11 And our adversaries said, “They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease.”
12 So it was, when the Jews who dwelt near them came, that they told us ten times, “From whatever place you turn, they will be upon us.”
13 Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14 And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”
King Artaxerxes of Persia allowed the Jews to return to Judah, and Jerusalem to be rebuilt. Ezra did a fine job rebuilding the Temple and turning the hearts of Israel back to God and His work. But after 12-14 years, Nehemiah heard that the walls Jerusalem were still torn down and the people were afraid. After fasting and prayer, he went to the king (being his royal cupbearer, and likely a friend) and asked to return to his homeland to help rebuild. This was a Persian province, so it also benefitted the king to allow this.
When he arrived at Jerusalem, he secretly inspected the walls, because he had kept his mission a secret at first. When he spoke to the Jewish leaders about it, many people, people who despised Israel, we angry at this and accused him of planning on rebelling against the very king who allowed the rebuilding to begin with.
Chapter 3 goes into great detail about who worked on what part of the wall. It shows that the work was going well, and more quickly than people would have expected.
A Mind To Work
Even though there were threats, the workers worked diligently. There had been revival in the land of Judah. God’s presence was moving in the hearts of the Jewish people. Ezra had helped purify the people’s hearts, but the land didn’t yet match the spirit. This wall symbolized the renewed faith in their lives, and they wanted to see it done. In a short time, they were able to get the wall up to about half its intended height.
A healthy tree bears good fruits and a healthy heart bears good works.
When we experience true revival in our hearts, we get a renewed desire to be about the Lord’s work. He will give us a mind to work for Him. A healthy tree bears good fruits and a healthy heart bears good works. We should be about His work when we have our hearts set to Him.
Remember, though, the Lord commands us to take a day of rest. When we work, we should always reflect on the Word and rest. Being healthy in spirit means being fed enough of the Word and being rested enough to continue.
Setting a Watch
When the enemies of the Jews realized this they were angry. They had assumed the wall would be a meager thing, and would not be worth much. When they realized that this wasn’t the case, they planned to attack Jerusalem before the wall could be finished. When Nehemiah heard of this plan, he set a watch to be out at all times, day and night.
We are called to always be on guard against the Enemy. 1 Peter 5:8 says “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Just as Nehemiah’s enemy sought to devour him, so the devil does to the Christian.
Constant vigilance is needed as we are about God’s work. Satan doesn’t always attack you with such ferocity to kill you or to win you over to his side. He doesn’t need that. If you are a saved by grace Christian, he has already lost you, but he can still try to stop you from doing the Lord’s work.
He wants to stop as many people as he can from knowing God and going to Heaven. That is his goal. Not to build an army in an “epic battle between good and evil, God and Satan.” He has already lost that battle and is in Hell to be punished. He doesn’t rule Hell, but because he is being punished in Hell, he wants to bring as many people as he can there.
So, if you are saved, he has lost you. But he knows that a Christian who is doing God’s work will bring more people to Christ, to be saved by Jesus. So, if Satan can do just enough to discourage you from working, then he will. So that is why we are called to be on guard constantly against him.
Dig a little deeper into the Word, today. Don’t let this be the only Word you get. When Jesus was tempted by the devil, each time His defense was a direct quote from scripture. The scripture is our defense. We can defend ourselves with the Full Armor Of God. Put on that armor today and every day, protecting yourself from the Devil’s snares.
Ephesians 6:10-18 New King James Version (NKJV)
10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints