Neh: "Rise up and build"
Many lessons of a very practical nature might be gleaned from
the inspired diary of "the king's cupbearer" (Neh 1:11). For the present
purposes, however, we shall concentrate on the qualities of character that
constituted Nehemiah "a wise masterbuilder" (1Co 3:10) and give us guidelines to
Having learned from his brother Hanani (Neh 1:2) that the wall
of Jerusalem was broken down and the gates burned (v 3), Nehemiah pleaded with
Artaxerxes for permission to travel to the land of his fathers to promote a
reconstruction program (Neh 2:1-8). After a long and rigorous journey he finally
arrived at Jerusalem; within only three days, ever the tireless worker, he was
up and about on an inspection tour of the city and its fortifications. Nehemiah
found many adversaries ready to hinder the work (v 10), while very few were
willing to help in the building.
After viewing the desolations, he called the nobles and the
priests together and explained his purpose, and how the king had supported him.
They were so impressed that their response was immediate, concerted, and sincere
-- "Let us rise up and build" (Neh 2:18). The work was well-organized by
Nehemiah, and construction began without delay.
But it did not go perfectly; the characters of Nehemiah and
his brethren, like ours, must be tempered by adversity and hardship. There was
opposition from the neighboring Samaritans and Gentiles, who used both guile and
physical threats in an attempt to intimidate Nehemiah and impede his work. Most
troublesome yet, there were internal dissensions: the Tekoite nobles would not
"put their necks to the work" (Neh 3:5), and the men of Judah were prophets of
pessimism (Neh 4:10). But Nehemiah did not despair, or lose hope; he maintained
his impressive example and cheerful disposition at all times. It was
characteristic of this man (and typical of Christ!) that he prayed for the
forgiveness of the sins of the people as though they were his sins too! "We have
sinned", said he, and he was willing to share in the guilt of his nation, his
"ecclesia" (Neh 1:6,7). The knowledge of the sins of his brethren did not
discourage him, nor impel him to disassociate himself from the work, but only to
redouble his efforts to bring the nation to repentance and finish their task.
His enthusiasm was infectious, and the great work of repairing the wall was
completed in only 52 days (Neh 6:15), "for the people had a mind to work" (Neh
" 'The people had a mind to work.' When that is condensed into
one word, it spells cooperation. The same idea was expressed by the apostles in
such terms as 'one mind', 'like-minded', and 'with one accord'. This thought
should impress us deeply, because it is the only way possible for an ecclesia to
"If we do not work together, our love will grow cold; bitterness and evil
speaking will be generated, and if this is augmented by the continual agitation
of some crotchet which has been developed by our desire to have our own way, the
foundations of our ecclesia will disintegrate and the whole structure will
collapse. We must be on our guard at all times, and examine our purpose and
motives...." (GAG, "The People Had a Mind to Work", Ber
Neh 3 enumerates 44 teams who begin work on the wall. Each
team is assigned its own portion to build. Did some complain about the quality
of their brethren's work at other stations? Did others grumble because they
could not be everywhere and do everything and supervise? Did some sit down and
refuse to help?: 'We just are not sure that we can approve of all the details of
this operation.' In the divine retrospect on the work of Nehemiah, all such
petty hindrances and worries are put to one side. "Let us rise up and build" was
the mandate; this call to the men of the city did not admit of any paltry
quibbles. The work was too great to let personalities and prejudices and pride
stand in the way.
It is the same with us as we strive to fortify God's "city"
today. There may be fears without, fightings within; but each brother, each
individual ecclesia has pressing responsibilities near to home. Each of us has
his portion of the "wall" to build, and no matter what we think of our
neighbor's building, or that "shoddy bit of work" way across on the other side,
when the True Masterbuilder comes to inspect the work, each of us will be judged
on his own portion!
"Every unit of the body must do its part by -- '.... speaking the Truth in
love,... growing up into him in all things, who is the head, even Christ: from
whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every
joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every
part, maketh increase of the body unto edifying of itself in love' (Eph
This is the only formula of a true ecclesia. What we do for
our brethren and sisters, is what we do to God. If what we do is dominated by
love, all will be well, but if we are not truly motivated by love and kindness
in all we say and do, there will be no edification, and no bodily growth, and we
will be brought into condemnation, and will never enter the kingdom of God. For,
said Jesus, 'Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my
brethren, ye have done it unto me' (Mat 25:40).