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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.

“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. 354).
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 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. 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).

“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’ (Matt. 25:40)”

                                                                                                (Ibid., p. 355).

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