LET US RISE AND BUILD - Nehemiah 2:18
Nehemiah 2:18 And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and of the king's words that he had spoken to me. So, they said, "Let us rise up and build." Then they set their hands to this good work.
The people of Judah like their neighbors and kinsmen to the north had forsaken God. Finally, the long-suffering of God had run out. The last real king had sat on the throne; Josiah was killed in a battle fighting Pharaoh Necho II of Egypt in Megiddo. Nebuchadnezzar had sacked Jerusalem and then because the puppet king he set in place rebelled he had to come back. This time he destroyed it completely. The Temple was burnt to the ground. The furnishings of the temple were taken to Babylon. And all the leading families and their children were carried away. Judah was destroyed.
Nehemiah was a Jewish noble born in Babylon. He served as cup-bearer to King Artaxerxes; this was about 465-424 BC. We learn from chapter one that his brother and some friends had come to visit from Jerusalem. These had likely gone to Jerusalem under the leadership of Ezra and Zerubbabel. They reported that Jerusalem was in such decay that very few people could live there. We learn later that even a fox running or a bird landing on the wall would endanger its life because the place was so ruined. This news broke Nehemiah's heart. As cup-bearer to the king, they had become very close, friends even. The king could see that Nehemiah was upset about something. So, he made Nehemiah tell him what the problem was. He then made Nehemiah governor of Judah and gave him leave of absence to go back and take care of the business that was on his heart.
Upon his arrival the people were excited. Their enthusiastic response is our consideration. Now there were many opposing forces, but with one mind these people under the able leadership of Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in less than two months Nehemiah 6:15 So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.
The DISTRESSING SITUATION was confirmed. The walls were burned. The city walls served many purposes in ancient cites. The walls were places to watch for a potential enemy. It was at the corners of the walls that watchtowers were usually built. The walls also served as a landmark, safety was inside the walls, danger was increased outside the wall.
The ancient city of Jerusalem is often compared to the church that Jesus built. And when we consider the walls of the church, we see that they often are torn down. Compromise in members lives and lethargy in Bible study, and in evangelism too often has weakened the walls until the church is not much different or better than the world.
We also learn of Great opposition from outside the walls. In Nehemiah’s time Sanballat was the governor of Samaria. He is understandably upset about a portion of his province having been taken away and given to another. So, Sanballat and his friends conspired to spread gossip about Nehemiah. They started by accusing Nehemiah of rebellion. They continued with ridicule at the inexperience of the people. When this failed to discourage the wall building, they began to make plans for military action. But Nehemiah is prepared, he instructs the wall builders to do the work with a trowel (a tool for spreading mortar) in one hand and a sword in the other. Again, Sanballat attacked with a different plan. They tried to distract Nehemiah and get him alone so they could murder him.
Today we live in the world. It is evil and immoral. But that isn’t enough within the ranks of so called Christianity those who really love truth are called bigots, ignorant and sometimes worse. Sometimes those who strive to live faithfully are named “antis”, legalists, or Pharisees. These “Sanballat’s” of our day act as if King Jesus doesn’t expect his followers to give up comfort or bear a cross.
We must remember that the call to “come follow me” is an invitation to a life of work, service, discipline and often suffering. Jesus’ call to service is not to a life of ease, it doesn’t equal a call to reward and recognition. But it is a call to a life with purpose. A purpose which is greater than our own.
This DISTRESSING SITUATION is often more than we can fully grasp. There were the walls burned and broken. There was the enemy outside, with their threats and slurs. And there were problems in the city as well. In Nehemiah chapter three we read of over fifty projects going at once. Then a serious problem surprises them. For people to work they simply must eat. BUT ALL THEIR PROVISIONS WERE GONE!! The people had even borrowed with their property and children as collateral! But there still wasn’t enough. Upon further investigation Nehemiah finds out that a significant part of this problem stemmed from people taking advantage of each other. No wonder he says in chapter 5, verse 6, “I was very angry with their cry and these words.”
So, Nehemiah proposes a DIFFICULT SOLUTION.
There were sacrifices required. Please note that Nehemiah never asked God to take away the problems he faced. He did however consistently ask God to strengthen his hand for the work. Nehemiah 6:9 For they all made us afraid, saying, their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands. Nehemiah was a very hands-on kind of guy. He took a personal interest in the work. Remember he had been the cupbearer to the King of Persia. And while he was a servant, he had a life of ease in the Palace at Shushan. Moreover, as the King's cupbearer he was privy to much of what was going on in the world. It seems that they were on very friendly terms and had a close relationship. Nehemiah could have said I'm too busy; I've got too many things going on. I have too much responsibility. Those people will not change; they've been there this long why haven't they already done something? But he didn't! He was grieved for his city, the city of his fathers. When he approached the king, he had one desire that was to go back to re-build the walls.
"Nehemiah lived at ease, in honor and fulness, but couldn't forget that he was an Israelite, nor could he forget his brethren in distress" -Matthew Henry
Nehemiah took leave of his post as the royal cup-bearer, he left his life of comfort and stress -free living and went to work, to lead, to take responsibility.
We too have a mission, ours is found in Mark 16:15 Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. To build the church it takes great personal sacrifice, by the individuals in the congregation. One man said "Go ye, means go me." We need to take personal responsibility for the church.
The rebuilding required willing workers - Nehemiah 2:18 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. The people took an interest.
Nehemiah could not have built the walls by himself. He probably would have tried. But he did not, and he did not have to. The people caught his fervor and joined with him.
The people did not say, we will appoint someone to do the work. They didn't say we'll send someone. They like Isaiah many years before said "here am I send me". They saw a job to do and were willing to work. Again, we have a job. Let us rise up and build.
Further we read of the greatness of the work. In chapter 6 we see Nehemiah being called away by Sanballat to counsel. Nehemiah would not be trapped like this he replied four times, (Neh 6:3) “ I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” He was consumed with the work. The building of the wall was the only thing that mattered to him.
But there is a DEFINING SALVATION.
We have seen the deplorable and distressing situation in Jerusalem. (Neh 1:3) The remnants that are left of the captivity are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem is broken, there are problems outside and problems inside. Then Nehemiah came along with:
Authority from the King - Artaxerxes recognized them as a sovereign state, though still under the jurisdiction of Persia they were now on equal footing as the other provinces in Persia. (Neh 2:8-9)
In many circles brethren are compare the church of Christ to other types of churches around us. We shouldn't do that. We have authority from King Jesus. He established the church. It is his church because he purchased it. He made the ultimate sacrifice for it. Of the many passages we could go to I think, 1 Tim 3:15 But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou ought to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. is sufficient. This demonstrates that there is one church. We have authority not just to exist but to build Mark 16:15 Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel. This is our mission. This is our responsibility.
Now we have a work to do. We have a church to build. We have the authority and backing of the King of Kings! LET US RISE UP AND BUILD!