23. “Rise Up and Build” (Nehemiah)
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” (1 Cor.
3:10) and give us guidelines to do likewise.
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 (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” (v. 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” (3:5), and the men of Judah were
prophets of pessimism (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” (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 (6:15), “for the
people had a mind to work” (4:6).
“ ‘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 succeed.
Chapter 3 of Nehemiah 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
“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....” (G. Gibson, “The People Had a Mind to Work”,
The Berean Christadelphian, Vol. 59, No. 12 — Dec. 1971 — p.
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. 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. 4:15,16).
‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of
these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’ (Matt.
“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
(Ibid., p. 355).