Nehemiah 4, I believe, is an excellent example of how for the Christian, the real world – what happens here and now, on the ground (so to speak)- is directly connected to God and the spiritual realm, and how we need to lean on God and involve God in our lives in a very real way, in light of this.
(cross-posted on Tumblr)
In the chapter, Tobiah and Sanballat, two opponents of Nehemiah, taunt and ridicule the reconstruction efforts that Nehemiah is leading in post-exilic Jerusalem. What’s his response? Let’s look.
Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders. So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. (Nehemiah 4:4-6 ESV)
They keep working, but how do the enemies of Nehemiah and the reconstruction efforts proceed?
And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night. (Nehemiah 4:8-9 ESV)
And after that:
And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.” So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.” (Nehemiah 4:11-14 ESV)
Notice Nehemiah and the people’s reactions in these instances. They don’t panic. They don’t even take things into their own hands. They lean on God. They put what’s going on in God’s hands, and they – in doing so – recognize His sovereignty and His care over the situation.
Let’s move on.
When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. (Nehemiah 4:15 ESV)
God frustrated the plans of the enemies. God heard the prayer of His people.
Now, one final Scripture verse:
In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out. I also said to the people at that time, “Let every man and his servant pass the night within Jerusalem, that they may be a guard for us by night and may labor by day.” So neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes; each kept his weapon at his right hand. (Nehemiah 4:20-23 ESV)
What do we learn from all this?
Nehemiah leans on God. The reconstruction efforts were very real, physical, material things that were happening. Miracles weren’t popping up. It wasn’t a solely spiritual activity, the way prayer is. This was actual, physical work, with real political causes that led to it, and real political and cultural consequences and effects for the people of Israel, and, I suppose, the Persian Empire as well. But God was sovereign over it. God was connected to everything that was happening and going on.
But there’s something also very important here – Nehemiah recognizes this. He is very much a God-centered man, and leads his people to be as God-centered people as well.
I can’t stress the importance of this. Nehemiah is spiritually-minded. As such, while he very much takes precautions and acts in such a way to secure his people and the reconstruction efforts (as we see in the last verses quoted), he recognizes that, first and foremost, God is in control. God alone determines whether or not this project will live or die. God alone determines whether or not the enemies of Him and Nehemiah will be successful and triumphant, or frustrated and enraged.
What does this say for us? We need to realize – God is in control. God is connected to everything we do. We need to be spiritually-minded, just like Nehemiah was. We need to lean on God, and involve Him in our lives in a very real way. Recognize that it’s God’s world, and that we belong to God, and that He is our treasure. Put Him first and foremost in our minds, our hearts, and our affections, and seek to glorify and honour Him in everything we do. That’s what I think we need to do in our lives and our walks as Christians.
That’s it for now. Hope it has been encouraging!