Two Handed Wall Builders
"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. But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king? Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem." (Neh 2:17-20)
Oh, how marvelous it would have been to be there in the time of Nehemiah, to be rebuilding the Temple that the Messiah would come into. They stepped up by faith that this was the work of God and that He would prosper the work if His servants would only arise and build. But look what happened. No sooner had Nehemiah got everything organized and everyone is on-board, the scoundrels show up and start interfering. What's this? Someone rebuilding God's City? WE CAN'T HAVE THAT GOING ON! WHO DO YOU PEOPLE THINK YOU ARE ANYWAY? So, it wasn't all marvelous, and exciting, and easy going just because it was the work of God. It's a little scary as well, because there were those who wanted to stop the work before it even got started.
It's always like that. It's not just an old story of days long gone. Many who come to follow Christ will hear that call to do the work of God's Kingdom. It is our honor and our privilege to be the instrument of God's will. There is work to be done, and we gladly go to it. It is the work of building the City of God - His dwelling place. Today, it is not a city of walls made of stone and mortar, but a Kingdom over the heart of mankind. We are called to participate in that work. It may be evangelism, or prayer and worship, or it may be some act of kindness and compassion to others. But, mostly it is a work that goes on inside each of us. The Holy Spirit works to build the Temple of God in the heart of all those who declare Jesus as Lord and to surround that Temple with God's protection.
Building the Wall of Jerusalem is a good metaphor for the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit. Brick by brick, layer on layer, he builds up His people into a shining City of His dominion, for the true Temple of God is within your heart, and God will surround that Temple with His power and protection. It is the double Grace of justification and sanctification.
Just when things are going great, that's when trouble is most likely to come. We get inspired, we get filled with the spirit, we set out to do a work of the Lord, and to have the Lord build a new work in us, THEN THEY COME. The rascals. The scoundrels. The naysayers. The doubters. Just call 'em what they are: the devil's workers, manifesting their attitude all over you.
This is, unfortunately, a message that is not always taught to the saints. The work of salvation is such an exciting and wonderful thing that we tend to concentrate on that and that alone. And, the saints get blindsided. When you undertake to do the Lord's work it is sure to get the devil's attention. If you are just lying around, doing nothing, why would the devil care? You see, it's when you start building something of God's Kingdom that the devil gets antsy and sends his little sycophants against you. You can be sure that the moment that work is begun, the enemies of God are going to start complaining and arguing and intimidating. If they can't get you to stop, they do get nasty.
"But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?" (Neh 4:1-2)
"So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work. But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it. Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them." (Neh 4:6-9)
Notice how these sons of the devil perceive the Jews: feeble. The people of God are deemed to be weak, unprotected, and they want it to stay that way. DON'T LET THEM BUILD THAT WALL! Yes, don't let the people of God do His work; don't let them gain the fortification of God's provision; don't let them do a work to God's glory. They just can't stand the idea that a bunch of week, humble saints would set out to do something that puts us out of the reach of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Yet, the work gets done. And that REALLY makes them angry.
So what did Nehemiah do? Well, he didn't say maybe we better hold up a bit, maybe we ought not to be so offensive, maybe would should just hold off so that we are not threatened and maybe get ourselves killed. Nope. First, and foremost, "we made our prayer unto our God." They didn't just assume that it was us against them, and because we are weak and they are strong, we can't go forth. They KNEW that it was God's will and relying on His protection there was no holding back, no giving in to threats and intimidation. But also, they "set a watch against them day and night." They did this:
"They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me. And I said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another. In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us." (Neh 4:17-20)
This is an important lesson from Nehemiah. We have a job to do and must never stop working the work of faith. Yet, while we work we must constantly be on guard against the enemies of God. They will come. They will try to interfere. They will intimidate. But, to those who keep one hand in the work and one hand on their weapons, the work will continue until completion. The work of God is to build His righteousness in us and this is accomplished by our faithfulness to that work. The defense of that work is a constant watchfulness against fear and intimidation by the enemies of God.
Also important is that they were "separated upon the wall, far from another." Yes, we each work at our own places, but are quick to come to the aid of each other. We are called to continue the work of faith for our own salvation while being ready to rise to the aid of our brothers and sisters on the wall. Part of our work is to be ready to pray, to support and sustain one another while we go about the work of building the City of God. We do our part and help the others doing the same work.
It is a two-handed work, therefore. With one had we build, and with the other we defend. We study and learn and grow. We pray and sing praises. But, also we stand on constant guard against the enemy and his lies. Both hands are equally needed for the life of faith. Don't think it will be just a matter of doing good and kind things and all will be glorious and exciting. Don't try to do the work of God with one hand tied behind your back.