Nehemiah 3-5; with the people ready to build, not just with words but put to work the words they spoke, we find that there is a tremendous amount of damage. Every gate is identified and the people who will have the responsibility to “shoulder” the work. There is a saying – better together. We can accomplish so much more together than on our own. That statement is true regardless of the size of a church or organization. Something that must be clearly identified and communicated is the specific responsibilities of each entity involved. I have learned from my pastoral ministry years, you can’t over communicate. Invariably there will be some who have felt left out or didn’t get the message. Nehemiah brings both a renewal spirit and the necessary leadership to the project. The purpose has been established “eliminate the reproach” and it would be done through rebuilding the walls. The walls were part of Solomon’s Temple mount project then, and likewise now by the exiles.
Walls serve two purposes – one is the security of the people inside the walls; but also to keep out the unwanted whether animals or people from coming in. During this time in history and for much longer, fortresses and castles had protective walls to be able to defend the people and property from intruders. Jesus also talks about limiting “intruders” into the camp in John 10. Jesus talks about how that the sheep and shepherd have a unique relationship. No one who comes over the Wall is a friend. No one who leaves the sheep when they are in danger is a True Shepherd, but a hireling. Pastors have to protect the sheep as well as provide for the sustenance.
In ministry there will always be the critics and naysayers. We find that the inhabitants of the area at the prompting of Sanballat ridicule the work being done. Laughing and trying to demoralize the people. There are those that work, those that watch and those that ridicule the work being done. It comes with the territory – Keep building. There are three questions the critics ask – each one begins with “Can they . . . ” Sanballat even has solicited the “money holders” on his side to bring doubt to the work. I have built buildings and have had church members ridicule the building project to the point that many wanted to quit because of the doubt cast on the project; keep building.
What does Nehemiah do? He prays to the Father in Heaven to shut the mouths of the critics and not forgive their sins. Wow, is that spiritual? God was in the work, too many times we give audience to knuckleheads – people are people and we do not have to be compassionate to blatant sin!
The people had a “Mind to work” and so the building process continued for 52 days. The words didn’t deter the work, so then Nehemiah instituted a guard watch while building continued. Many of the critics and tactics of Satan are “mind games” used to discourage and frustrate the work of God. Dear for their lives, the people came together and defended each other, but the work continued. Brick in one hand and sword in another. The enemy is real, we must take proper precautions against the “wiles of the devil.”
Nehemiah is an encourager and a cheerleader. The pastor and people both need to be encouraged during the work. So intense was the work that the men didn’t stop to change clothes. But each rotated from building and defending the work and each other.
In church life and revitalization work, there will be enemies against the restoration of the devastation of souls and spirit. Keep building.
While the walls were being built, there were wolves in the camp. The Jews were extracting usury from their own people. They were mortgaging their property and even selling their children into slavery so they could pay taxes inflicted on them by their own leaders. Wolves – hirelings, leaders out for the money not the ministry. Be careful while building the walls of defense that you don’t trap wolves inside! Nehemiah addressed the injustices against the people. Nobles and affluent people did not identify with the people doing the work. Ministers must be careful not to see the congregation as the means for their own success and opulence, but brothers and sisters in the kingdom of God. Nehemiah addressed the elephant in the room – then provided the example for the nobles to follow. Nehemiah dug deep into his own pocket and paid for the provisions and food needed by the workers.
Wolves abound today; they come seeking to rob, kill and destroy the church and the sheep. Nehemiah does something of leadership that many pastors and minister must do – if there is a known problem, address it, deal with it and move on. DO not let the problem ferment into a conflict and catastrophe.