Chapter four of Nehemiah begins with a man named Sanballat opposing the work being done by the Jews to restore and rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. He berates and mocks and criticizes Nehemiah and his workers, but the project continues. As it did, word began to spread among their enemies such as the Ammonites and Arabs who begin plotting to attack the builders, for a wall presented a threat to those who were not allowed within it. In response to this, Nehemiah invokes the Name of God and calls the people to remember His awesome deeds. On top of that, each laborer works with a sword or spear close at hand. Half of them work, the others stand watch, day and night as the wall grew higher.
The next chapter reveals a great outcry on behalf of the returned exiles, saying that they are in deep debt to those who owned the land they worked for food. The weight was too much for them to bear, so Nehemiah took action on their behalf. He goes to the land owners and nobles and demanded that they return to the exiles their fields, orchards, and houses. They complied. Nehemiah then continued in his generosity by hosting others at his place of residence at his own expense and calls God to remember these things he has done for his people.
Following this, Sanballat and Tobiah (the baddies) plotted against Nehemiah and tried to lure him away where they could kill him. Again he calls God to remember him as he navigates these treacherous waters. Finally, after 52 days of non-stop work and threats on all sides, the wall was finished and the surrounding nations were greatly afraid.
Things finally seemed to be looking up for the people of Jerusalem after a long, long time, especially in these few chapters. Yet even here we see the seeds of evil sown. Regardless of the new wall and a strong leader, there were elements of corruption all around as well as threats of violence and slander. Nehemiah seems to be holding things together pretty well, yet he is not the hope of their people, for eventually he would pass away and this cycle of sin would threaten to break out.
Yet there are many positives we can observe in Nehemiah.
As we should note, the words of the Bible were written to certain people in days long past, yet they serve as teaching and inspiration and wisdom for us today. Let us not separate the work being done on the wall with the long exile that the people of Jerusalem had endured, for it all factored into the environment surrounding the project at hand. The exiles were quick to fear and despair, yet Nehemiah called upon them to recall the goodness of God and focus on what He had them to do. As we head out of this pandemic, this exile of sorts, we might be facing a mountain of opposition and trouble as we seek to reclaim some portions of our lives, whether its from external factors such as health or professional complications or internal struggles such as anxiety, fear, or any other sin that clings so tightly.
Always remember, as the Psalmists urge us, to recount the deeds of the Lord and praise Him for His many blessings even in the midst of tribulation. For it is this worship, done habitually, that both humbles and empowers us as we remain in the presence of God who is able to turn all things to good for the good of those who love Him!
Lord, thank you for seeing us through this past year and returning to where we could not have gone for so long. Please engage us in the work you would have us do to build your church and encourage one another as fellow brothers and sisters. Keep us steadfast in times of trouble and prayerful in action, always looking to Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith. These things we pray in His holy name, amen!
Song: Build My Life - Pat Barrett
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.