Alright, alright. I know the title of this month’s blog might seem a bit misleading. Someone might even say, “Oh you used that just as click bait…”, i.e. a means to get more visits to this page. I can understand some of the confusion, but let me reassure you: when I speak here about “building a wall,” there are no political connotations. In fact, I was trying to come up with a better title that would fit the context of this message. I couldn’t find one.
If you realize I’ve been spending some time reading Nehemiah over the last few weeks, the title makes perfect sense (hopefully). It’s a book that centers upon the commissioning of Nehemiah to go back and rebuild. To take the ruins of Jerusalem’s walls and bring life to them again. To offer protection and safety to the returning exiles of Israel. This was no small task. Beyond the task itself, Nehemiah faced fierce opposition (more on that later). He knew what God had called him to do and was not willing to compromise or leave the job unfinished.
This blog is timely because I perceive many Christians feel somewhat disjointed as of late. They received their marching orders from the Lord. They started building the wall (whatever that task or call meant). And now they see the opposition and the reasons why finishing looks hard; maybe even absurd at this point. But did God’s call change? Did He tell you or I to stop? No. The work must continue. The wall must keep going up. Nehemiah felt the burden from the Lord to go. He gathered the workers and laborers to help. He pushed through despite opposition. And ultimately the wall was finished.
This book is only 13 chapters long but it serves as the backdrop for this blog. If it’s helpful for you to have a finger in Nehemiah as you read along, I’d encourage you to do so. Let’s jump in!
1. A big ask pleases God
And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, let letters be given me to the governors of the province Beyond the River, that they may let me pass through until I come to Judah, and a letter to Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forest, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the fortress of the temple, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall occupy.” And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me. Nehemiah 1:7,8
The context of Nehemiah is this: the whole of Israel is in captivity in Persia but a remnant of the nation is in the land Israel once occupied. We know that from the prophets, after 70 years the people will return to their homeland. Nehemiah learns from those in the remnant that the walls of Jerusalem are broken down and its gates were destroyed by fire (Nehemiah 1:3). This grieves him but it also motivates him. He is led to ask the king, King Artaxerxes, for permission to go back and rebuild the walls. He asks for provisions as well. And what’s the amazing thing? The king grants his wish (Nehemiah also served in the king’s court).
Nehemiah knew that God’s hand was upon him. When we see his boldness, we must deduce something supernatural was at work. Indeed, the Divine hand of the Lord paved his way. It paves ours as well. But sometimes we miss it because we are too afraid to ask. We feel the burden for something. We sense God’s call. But we quickly dismiss it as too big for whatever reason (a lack of skill, time, money, and so on). If we were to ask, what might happen? Well, God might answer that prayer and set the wheels in motion. I love this quote by Mark Batterson because it applies so well: Bold prayers honor God, and God honors bold prayers. What is the bold prayer you’ve been meaning to ask the Lord for but are too afraid to?
2. Opposition comes as we step out
Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. Nehemiah 4:1
As Nehemiah begins work on the wall, he faces opposition in the name of Sanballat and Tobiah. These two men conspire against Nehemiah, they try to set confusion in Jerusalem, and they bring outright violence against the workers to stop them. These were bad dudes. They were the enemies who didn’t want to see Jerusalem or Israel rebuilt. But Nehemiah knew what was at stake. If ever there was a time to stand, it was now. If Jerusalem would be a city again and the people would gain their identity, the wall had to be finished. And I [Nehemiah] looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.” (Nehemiah 4:14)
The sense I get from many Christians is that they are here: the “Sanballat’s” and “Tobiah’s” of life have come against them and many have given up on dreams or visions from the Lord. I get it. I’ve felt many moments of disappointment and disillusionment over the past 2 years especially. But really we have two choices (and honestly only one if we’re following Jesus). We can pack up and go home (not an option). Or we can pick up our sword and our shovel and get back to work (read Nehemiah 4:15-23). The enemy won’t stop. We have to keep our sword close at hand and keep fending him off with the Holy Spirit enabling us. The building tools have to be with us too because the work must continue. The wall must get built. Nehemiah knows God’s hand is with him and the other workers. God gives him the ability to outwit and outsmart his opponents.
3. God provides the victory
So the wall was finished…and when our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid…for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. Nehemiah 7:15,16
With a plan in place to build the wall and with the workers armed and ready for any opposition, the project moves forward. The wall gets built. Nothing can stop it because it’s God’s will and He is with Nehemiah and the builders. From the first moment the call went forth (Nehemiah 1) until the moment the work is complete, God has overseen every step. All the provisions and manpower necessary were brought forth. All the opposition and reasons why it couldn’t or shouldn’t happen are brought to nothing. There is much left to the story. But the people come into agreement and praise God for what has taken place. Many rededicate themselves to the Lord and enter into covenant with Him.
The “big asks” we have in our lives are not there to be some unfulfilled, unrealized dream. They were given with a purpose. Additionally, the resources and means to complete what God has called us to are not there to be wasted (remember the Parable of the Talents). If we trust Him and continue stepping out in faith, the “walls” He’s told us to build are going to be completed. The fear the enemy wanted to instill in us will instead be turned around and put back on him. We rejoice over what God has done, is doing, and what He will continue to do. The glory is all His, for the victory is His. Amen, hallelujah.
As I close today, I realize that it is no accident my daily Bible readings brought me through Nehemiah recently. Nehemiah is a great case study in faith and courage (see other “Profiles” blogs I’ve done: Elijah, Esther, John the Baptist, David). To be honest, I had overlooked him but was quickly struck by how courageous he had to be. First, he had to have the guts to ask the king for permission to go back to Jerusalem. And then he had to go up against the men (Sanballat and Tobiah) who wanted to stop the wall’s construction. In those behind-the-scenes, little known parts of Nehemiah’s life, God was preparing him and readying him for this moment.
What about you and I? Could it be we are here for this very time and place as well and that it’s no accident we are alive in 2022? I believe it with all my heart. Those who will hear the call are still needed. Wall builders are still needed. And people willing to give God all the credit and glory are still needed. Today is an opportunity to do that and to take whatever step (small or big) in trusting God’s plan for your life. He’s not done giving dreams and placing a burden upon the hearts of those willing to listen. Will you hear Him today and obey? Will you move forward despite the enemy’s schemes against you? The end result is worth it. It’s always worth it!
I love you guys and love walking this journey with you. Be bold today!
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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17