Read Nehemiah Chapters 1-4.
“And they said to me, ‘The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire. So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” Neh. 1: 3,4
I really admire anyone who can build things. I appreciate my house. I love my Amish dining room table. I have no talent in that direction. Building something from raw materials is beautiful in its own way, but to restore something old and still give it a sense of the original, so you can’t tell which part is original and which is the addition, is an art.
Even harder, is to do this work with opposition and distractions or even fear for your own safety. This is what Nehemiah faced when he led the people of God to rebuild the broken down walls of Jerusalem. Given permission by Cyrus to leave his job in the palace to undertake this task, he finds many willing workers.
“…So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king,…” Neh. 2: 4b,5a
Nehemiah turns to God for strength to accomplish the task to which he knows God has called him. Prayer should always precede our work. We also shouldn’t attempt to undertake anything that we do not feel we could pray about. The task looks too big, but then he gets each person to work on one small section until the whole wall is rebuilt. Matthew Henry says, “If everyone will sweep before his own door, the street will be clean.”
Not soon after, he is facing opposition, led by two men, Tobiah and Sanballat. These men do whatever they can to thwart the work and discourage the people.
As opposition mounts against them, he arms the people working up on the wall. They work with one hand and are prepared to fight with the other.
How is Jesus like Nehemiah, the re-builder?
Nehemiah was the cup bearer of the King. He lived a relative life of ease in the palace, yet when he heard about the situation of the city of Jerusalem, he decided to do something. He could have stayed where he was and merely felt bad about the situation.
Likewise, Jesus dwelt in Heaven, untouched by the effects of sin, enjoying the fellowship of the Father and the Spirit. He didn’t need to do anything. He was not obligated to save us. Yet He willingly removed His royal robes and stepped into our world to redeem, remake and rebuild us.
He finds us broken by sin. To look at man, you’d never know the beauty that was there before the Fall. Sin scars us, hurts us, makes us ugly. When He saves us, His Spirit begins the work of re-making us into His image. Yes, the task is monumental, but the process of sanctification is gradual but steady.
Is there opposition to this re-building? Of course. The world, the flesh and the devil fight it continually, and also try to discourage us or thwart the work. They may even fight to keep us where we were when the work began, or tempt us to slide back into a worse state.
But we don’t have to worry that Jesus will be thwarted in His work. …“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Phil. 1:6
As the people had a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other, so Christ equips us to work and gives us the Sword of the Spirit, His Word, to fight against our enemies. “Every true Christian is both a labourer and a soldier, working with one hand and fighting with the other.” Matthew Henry
Nehemiah appealed first to God in prayer, and then he approached the king with his petition. This gave him confidence in his task. Likewise, Jesus depended on His heavenly Father for strength to complete His work. He was often in prayer. Should we do any less?
We are often our own worst enemies. Even if we were to take the world and the devil out of the equation (wouldn’t that be nice), our own flesh would still fight to be in charge of our destiny. I often thought about the idea of people who go into convents or monasteries. The problem is, you bring yourself in with you. You can’t escape sin, because it’s within you.
“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.” Romans 7:15-20
“Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Pet. 2:4 This reference to believers as living stones shows our connection with and resemblance to Christ, Himself our Chief Cornerstone. This spiritual house is a reference to the temple or dwelling place of God.
“And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God.” 2 Cor. 6:16 Believers are associated with the temple of God because the Spirit dwells in us.
“Now ,therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” Eph. 2:19-22 In these verses, it shows that the kingdom of God is now international, and is growing through the integration of new believers into the building.
“…but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.” Heb. 3:6 Again, a reference to believers as the house of God.
Finally, remember, they were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, the city of God. Read Rev. chapter 21:9 “One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” Here the Bride of Christ is about to be introduced. Then what happens?
“And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Rev. 21:10-14 A city descends from Heaven, as beautiful as a bride adorned for her husband.
Wait. What? The Bride is a City? Yes, the Church, the people of God, are His Bride, and the City of God. The earthly city was but a copy of the true one in Heaven. “For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into Heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” Heb. 9:24
Once in Heaven, when we are free from the presence of sin, you’ll see a beautiful city. No crumbling walls here; just majesty, beauty, security, safety.
Christ is rebuilding His city, and He will accomplish what He purposed. He did this work at great cost to Himself. He paid for His bride with His own precious blood. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.” 1 Pet. 1:18,19
“Oh you afflicted one, tossed with tempest and not comforted. Behold, I will lay your stones with colourful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires.” Isa. 54:11
Compare with Rev. chapter 21:19,20 ”The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.”
Did you notice that the foundations of the city were laid with twelve types of precious stones? Amazing. Think of how the world fights over precious stones. In the New City, they are tossed underground where no one will even see them. That speaks of the surpassing value of what is laid over it, but also shows a reversal of the things that really matter. We will walk on paving stones made of gold. God doesn’t care about precious stones so much as the city itself; His Bride.
Prayer– “Heavenly Father, thank You for purchasing me, thank You for rebuilding my broken walls. Thank You that one day I will be fully restored and beautiful and spotless for You, my Bridegroom. Help me not to fight against Your work of sanctification in life. I know that the finished product will be perfect. Help me to submit to Your plans for my life. Help me to use the gifts you’ve given me and to fight my enemies with the sword of the Spirit.”
Questions-Is there some problem in your life or an issue in the world that grieves you, but seems too big to solve? What do you feel God is prompting you to do about it? What do you fear will happen if you begin the task? Opposition? Persecution? Failure?
Response-Purpose to pray earnestly about this issue, and ask God to forgive your lack of response to His earlier promptings. Ask Him to show you how you can begin to make a difference. Tell others about it. It may be on their hearts as well.