The beautiful city was in ruins, the walls demolished, and the gates burned. Nehemiah’s heart was broken when he heard the news. He went before the Lord with tears and fasting and prayed on behalf of his people for forgiveness. He readily admitted their sins–their corruption and disobedience. He knew that sin must be dealt with before the work of God can begin. He reminded God of His promise:
“But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there.” Nehemiah 1:9
Where is that place? Jerusalem
“And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who hath with his hands fulfilled that which he spake with his mouth to my father David, saying, since the day that I brought forth my people out of the land of Egypt I chose no city among all the tribes of Israel to build a house in, that my name might be there; neither chose I any man to be a ruler over my people Israel: But I have chosen Jerusalem, that my name might be there; and have chosen David to be over my people Israel.” 2 Chronicles 6:4-6
When Nehemiah made his request to rebuild the city of Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes, God moved into action. The King, as had Cyrus before him, not only gave his permission but he also sent letters of authority with him to aid him in his work. With these letters, he was able to purchase the materials needed for the wall. Nehemiah was also appointed governor establishing his authority to commission the work before the people .
“And I arose in the night, and I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon. And I went out by night by the gate of the valley, even before the dragon well, and to the dung port, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire. Then I went on to the gate of the fountain, and to the king’s pool: but there was no place for the beast that was under me to pass. Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned. And the rulers knew not whiter I went, or what I did; neither had I as yet told it to the Jews, nor to the priests, nor to the nobles, nor to the rulers, nor to the rest that did the work. Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach. Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.” Nehemiah 2:12-18
His concerns realized, Nehemiah set about enlisting the help of the people to rebuild Jerusalem starting with the wall. Walls were important in those times, for they kept out attackers, fortifying the city and its inhabitants. Yet while this seemed such a good idea, there were those who were against the work. Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the servant, an Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian laughed, scorned, and ultimately accused Nehemiah of rebelling against the King. Since these men were not Hebrews, of course they were not invited to participate in the work. It is important to note that God’s people were responsible for rebuilding the city, not outsiders. The work began. It seems natural to expect that these scoffers would enlist the help of the Samaritans in their quest to prevent the work from being accomplished. Persecution began when they began to tear down in secret what was being built. Nehemiah was forced to ask his men to carry arms. Half worked while the other half guarded them, but all carried weapons. The people even came together for protection within the city. So the work was continued and finally the wall was finished. Nehemiah commanded the people to keep the gates closed at night. He posted guards because the city was still vulnerable to attack from their enemies. Since the people were few in number, they could not defend the city.
At this point, Nehemiah began to register the people, and they brought offerings. Ezra brought the book of the law of Moses and read to them from morning until midday, teaching them so they could understand. When they heard the word of God, they wept, brokenhearted, for their sin was great. Ezra kept reading over the next days. It was important for all the people to know the law and to understand it so they could begin to obey. They separated themselves, confessed their sin, and made a covenant with God to obey Him and to follow His laws and commands. They appointed those who were to administer the work in the Temple and in worship. The Levites and priests cleansed themselves and took up the work of God.
We can say “mission accomplished” with the rebuilding of the city, but it was far more. This was about rebuilding the worship of the Lord. God had put His name on this city. It was holy. Sin had destroyed it. Now, it must be restored. First, sin was confessed and repented of. Then the walls went up.
I liken Jerusalem to the church of today. We too have sinned and allowed our “city” to become a spiritual ruin. It’s time to rebuild our walls of protection. Walls are necessary to keep the people pure and sensitive to their sin. Walls keep out evil, and protect against evil influences. The heathen nations were engaged in idolatry and all kinds of vile practices. God had warned the people against participating. We too have been warned about participating in fellowship with the ungodly. Yet, we sometimes seek to provide a substitute for the worldly practices our people want, similar to the world so they will be comfortable, but with Christian overtones. Our persecutors are those who call themselves Christians but embrace a false or polluted doctrine. Compromise will breach our wall of protection. Even a small breach can cause great damage, distorting the message of purity, holiness, consecration, and separation. The work of the church is affected because the message is lost through distortion. Jesus called us to a life of sacrifice with these words: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24). This implies self-denial and consecration and yes, suffering. His message was not popular. We cannot expect to attract the masses to our churches, but a few will come. If the masses are coming, then maybe we should check our message. The masses come when the message is easy and comfortable and pleasing to their ears. When they are entertained and made to feel important, they will come. Instead, Jesus calls us to a life of service and of love, making God important–glorifying and praising Him. When the walls are up, the people aren’t distracted and pulled away into the world. The sights and sounds of the world are blocked out. Note too that the people come willingly, knowing that they are pulling away from the ungodly ways that seem so attractive. It is no surprise to them then when they are asked to observe the laws and commands of our Lord.
Notice too that the enemies sought to destroy the wall, to tear it down. God’s people had to arm themselves and set up guards so the walls could not be torn down and the people afflicted. Prayer is our weapon against the spiritual forces that come against us. Educating our people as Ezra did so the people will understand and will obey God’s laws helps us guard our “city”, the church. The city is only as strong as its people and its walls. We are to be strong in the Lord as well. He will fight for us. We must not let down our guard.
The walls of our “city” must be kept in constant repair. Note that there were those who portrayed themselves as one of God’s people, even to the point of participating in the offering of sacrifices. When their sin was exposed, they began to do their deeds in secret. They demonstrated their lack of love for God, His people, and for His work through their disobedience to His law. When exposed, they were deemed unworthy to participate in the work. We must be careful to know that our helpers’ names are written in God’s Book of the Lamb, just as the Hebrews checked the genealogy of the remnant. Outsiders will have no interest in building. Their desire is only to tear down. We will know them by their fruits.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 7:16-20
Our gates must be narrow as the Word says:
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:13-14
There is coming a time when walls will no longer be needed. The Lord will be all the protection that will be needed.
“And, behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him, and said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein: for I , saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her. Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the Lord: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the Lord. Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon. For thus saith the Lord of hosts; after the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me. Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord. And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee. And the Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again. Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.” Zechariah 2: 4-13
Stay in God’s Will:
To protect ourselves from sin and to uphold our commitment to the Lord, we must rebuild our wall! This is a work of restoration. We already know what needs to be done. We just need to pray for courage and boldness to do it!
Look for the breaches in the wall. Note what needs to be done to make the repair. This will probably mean a change is needed. Examine your behavior, your lifestyle, your friends, etc. and look for anything that violates the Lord’s laws and commands so a change can be made. That change may mean forsaking old ways and replacing them with new ones!
Read the Bible to know what God says! This is our guard that alerts us when we have strayed. Warning bells should go off in our conscience when we are about to do something that displeases our Lord or violates His laws and commands. We need to listen for the warning and take immediate action to stop ourselves from sin. Take control. Be responsible. Strengthen the breach with prayer by asking our Lord for help. Enlist the help of a trusted Christian friend or counselor.