3 Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel. 2 And next to him the men of Jericho built. And next to them[a]Zaccur the son of Imri built.
3 The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 4 And next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired. And next to them Meshullam the son of Berechiah, son of Meshezabel repaired. And next to them Zadok the son of Baana repaired. 5 And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.[b]
6 Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Gate of Yeshanah.[c] They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 7 And next to them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah, the seat of the governor of the province Beyond the River. 8 Next to them Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, goldsmiths, repaired. Next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, repaired, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9 Next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, ruler of half the district of[d] Jerusalem, repaired. Nehemiah 3:1-9 ESV
This event took place when the Jews were allowed to leave Persia, where they had been in captivity, and return to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls. In verse 5, we read about people who had the opportunity to go down in history as those who built the walls of the Lord’s city but they would not stoop so low as to do the work of the Lord. In order to serve the Lord we will have to stoop low. There was no one who was too small or insignificant to take part in the building but there were some who were too proud and lifted up. In verses 7-9, perfumers and goldsmiths also helped to rebuild the wall. The ruler of half of the district of Jerusalem also did his part. A diverse group of people was necessary to build the wall.
And as the wall grew, the enemies realized that nothing would stop these people. As long as this group of diverse people maintained the vision of why they were there; and as long as they remained united, they were unstoppable.
Friends, God has destined you and me to build His kingdom in this world, no matter where you come from, what your background is, how high or low you are. As long as the builders had one common goal, their unity was unbroken. They had to be totally surrendered to build the wall. They had to maintain their unity. They did not look at each other critically in order to find fault but they focused on the wall that they had to build.
They must have left Persia, forgotten it and in total surrender thrown themselves into the work. Whether they died building the wall or not, there was no turning back. Persia is symbolic of the old life of sin. The people were determined to leave the old life of sin behind them to rebuild the walls.
The walls of Jerusalem are broken today. The world has entered the church. Everyone wants to be a leader in his own little place. The world has entered the dress code – the church dresses just like the world. The world has demolished the kingdom – the walls of Jerusalem.
Who was their enemy? He was a man called Sanballat – symbolic of Satan. Sanballat opposed the rebuilding of the wall. His one goal was to resist this broken body of Christ. Why was it a broken body? The builders were a remnant of Israel who had come back from captivity in Persia.
Yes, when we come to Christ and confess our sins, He heals and makes everything new. But though God forgives us, He does not always remove the consequences of our sins and we may suffer for the rest of our lives because of sin committed.
These builders were broken in another way too, they had to remain dead to self in order to continue building. Friends, if you and I are broken, if we are dead to self, there will be unity. When does unity stop? When we lose our brokenness before God and we think that we are somebody or something. We begin getting upset with the way we are treated. It is because we are not broken and we do not remain in that state of brokenness all the time.
Even though Christ has His glorified heavenly body, as we read in Revelation, He stands as a Lamb that was slain. He carries the marks in His hands, feet and side that show that He was broken for our sins. He does not want to distance Himself from us and not associate with us sinners. No, He says, ”For all eternity I want to stand in heaven as the lamb slaughtered for you with the marks of the nails in My hands – the price I paid for your soul so that your soul can also be in heaven.”
Sanballat was angry with this broken group of people who were trying to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. If you and I want to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, we will not only be attacked physically but mentally and spiritually. The devil will try everything to stop us from building the wall. Satan will try and break you down with questions like: “What do you think you are doing? Who do you think you are? What are you trying to do here?” This is what Sanballat did. He mocked the Jews. He said, “What are those feeble Jews doing?” Do not be surprised if the devil says, “You pathetic, feeble person, what are you trying to do for God’s kingdom?” Do not be surprised if, when you are called to testify for the Lord, you may feel as if you cannot get a word over your lips because you feel feeble and weak. But blessed is the person who does not stop rebuilding the wall, no matter how weak he is or how the devil mocks him. No matter how the voice of the devil rings in his ears day and night: “You are a feeble person what are you trying to do?”
Sanballat said, “2 …Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” Satan will make the work of the Lord look strange by saying, ‘Look at the world and how well they do things. Look how glorious their work is. But what you are doing, trying to rebuild God’s kingdom? It is futile. You are not going to get anywhere. You are just wasting your time.’
And yet, victory comes in such a way so that we are not proud of ourselves. I am sure Nehemiah felt shaken like the rest of them. He was possibly trembling inside with anxiety, he may have been more sensitive to the ridicule because he was the leader of the work and if it failed it would reflect on him. But Nehemiah had someone holding his hand. He spoke to the Lord and that was his salvation. “Hear us, oh God, for we are despised.” We make a mistake when we take matters onto ourselves and worry about them. We sit and brood over the mocking words of the devil. In the process we can grow cold, if we are not careful.
And yet, in the mocking and all those things God was there. Tell the Lord everything otherwise you will sit, lick your wounds, become bitter feeling sorry for yourself.
10 In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” 11 And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” 12 At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.” Nehemiah 4:10–12 ESV
In other words – Christians who lived nearby, in today’s situation (verse 12).
We read about much rubble. There were heaps and heaps of rubble and that exhausted them. This is what exhausts children of God sometimes – when we sit with heaps of rubble in our lives.
When I read up about this chapter, I came across a piece of gold which I would like to read, written by Anglican bishop, Festo Kivengere, who experienced the East African revival in 1936. (Quoted from Quest for the Highest: A Diary of the East African Revival by Joseph E. Church)
“In revival God told us many times what to do with this rubble. And many times I don’t find it easy. Rubble can accumulate so quickly – criticism, relationships that are injured and before I know it, there is a big distance between me and my fellow bishop. It is very difficult for bishops to put things right. I don’t know whether it is because as a bishop, people look up to you and respect you, and feel that you are a holy one, so to say, and all these things stand in the way and you find that you and your brother do not come together quickly to have these things removed by the Holy Spirit so that the fire of God can destroy the rubbish. It is easy to say but it is tough to experience. The rubbish stands in the way, especially on the mission field where you stay together in each other’s faces all day long. You continue for months and months and your hands are slowed down and your hearts are not on fire and the building of the body of Christ stagnates and it comes to a standstill. Why? Simply because the accumulated rubble has not been dealt with. Sometimes rubble can be caused by loneliness and when you are lonely silly thoughts come into your mind. Unless you deal with those thoughts you will become tired even before you start doing something for God. And from that moment on the enemies take advantage of that.
The devil moves like a snake and comes through the rubble. And many times, if things are not put right in the light of God, the enemy comes in and before you can see it, you and your brother, you and your sister, you and your wife are at loggerheads.”
The devil enters like a snake that sails through the rubble, under the stones and beams, if we sit with sin in our hearts. So, when Nehemiah realised that, he organised the people to work with a weapon in the one hand and a building tool in the other. They became an invincible group of people who were alert. If you remove the rubble, you are wide awake.
“If only we could detect through the Holy Spirit who the enemy is, but now I first spend half an hour criticising my brother in my heart before I actually realise I am playing the devil’s game for him. I am not praying for my brother. I am not praying and strengthening the hands of my fellow builder, I only sit there criticizing as if I am the judge in a court. I am weakening my brother and I am being made weak, and the devil is having a swing. If only I can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, detect Satan who is making me waste my time.”
I need the Holy Spirit and when He works in revival I am quick to see that I am wasting my time with things that are not helping me or my brother.
“Maybe I have not stopped praying but I have been crippled. So, you see, when you sit on a bad temper or a bad attitude, you are not building anyone and you are not building yourself.”
Why did each person have to stand with a weapon? Because the enemy did not just aim to oppose the whole project – the building of the wall – he aimed to attack each individual. Next time a girl comes to chat to you, young man, know that the devil is attacking you. Next time someone says, ‘Listen, this is just between you and I, don’t tell anyone’, know that the devil is attacking you.
And friends, you can be in the midst of God’s children, standing with them and building, and the devil will find a way to pick you out, attack and kill you spiritually. He will find a way to separate from the group and attack you. That is why you need to stand with a weapon.
Here is a true story to illustrate this truth. Approximately a year ago, Reverend E Stegen took a service where he emphasized this fact: You are never justified to sin. No matter what situation you get into, God never gives you a green light to sin. Never. Towards the end of the message, I realized that he was laying down a principle for the future because this is going to become a danger to us. The devil tends to target those who are on fire for God, who work with the greatest zeal and are totally surrendered.
This true story took place in the days before the fall of the Iron Curtain where people were persecuted for their faith because the communists said there is no God and the people were not allowed to believe in a God. They believed that man is his own God which is why they persecuted the Christians.
A pastor who was on fire for God, was arrested numerous times and imprisoned for his faith but he did not change. He preached when in and out of prison. He had two daughters who supported him in the work of the Lord and they were on fire with their father. Then tragedy struck. The oldest daughter was found hanging from a tree. She had committed suicide. In her pocket a letter was found which said: I cannot bear the shame of this thing. My father has sexually molested me for years and I cannot take it anymore. Not long ago he raped me. I cannot face the Christian brothers and sisters with this shame so I decided to hang myself. The father was arrested and imprisoned. In prison, the prisoners hate people who sexually molest children and they give them a hard time. The other prisoners beat him up calling him a ‘good for nothing’, ‘you call yourself a pastor and you raped your daughter – we’ll teach you a lesson.’
The Christian prisoners had secret, nightly prayer meetings but they did not allow him to attend. They did not want to have anything to do with him. They said that he was an embarrassment to the name of Christ. They noticed that every night he would go on his knees and pray the Lord’s Prayer but he would pray until the phrase: ‘And forgive us our trespasses’ and then he stopped. He could not say ‘as we forgive those who trespass against us’. One day he became very ill with pneumonia. He worsened until it became obvious that he was going to die. There was a Christian who noticed that the pastor was near death and he realized that if he could not forgive someone who had done something against him, he would end in hell. So he went to the pastor, put his hand on his shoulders and helped him pray. The pastor reached the phrase, ‘and forgive us our trespasses’, and the Christian encouraged him to continue with ‘as we forgive those who trespass against us’ but the pastor could not complete the prayer. He would start at the beginning again. The Christian said that he would not leave him before he prayed ‘as we forgive those who trespass against us’ because he had to forgive. (Friends, a grudge is a terrible thing.) Then finally just before he breathed his last, he managed to say, “as we forgive those who trespass against us”, and he died.
Life continued in the prison and the prison guards were changed from time to time. A while later there was a new prison guard. One day as he came on duty, he was drunk and babbling in front of the prisoners. He bragged about all the things he had done saying, “When I worked for the KGB, there was a pastor who thought he was so grand. My friend and I were offered money if we could get the daughters of this pastor to sleep with us.” So they went to the daughters. (Do you see how sly the devil can be? I’m telling you that so that you know and prepare yourself if he attacks you.) They told the daughters that if they did not sleep with them they would arrest their father and send him to Siberia and he would never return home. But if they slept with them they would leave their father to continue preaching and guiding his congregation. The daughters repeatedly refused but one night when he and his friend were about to go to bed, there was a knock on the door. The oldest daughter said that she was willing if they would not touch her father. After the incident the daughter felt so guilty that she committed suicide. (That’s how the devil is. Once he gets you to sin, he will tell you, “You know what, just kill yourself. What an embarrassment you are and what a good for nothing!” Do you see how intense the attacks of Sanballat can be if he wants to stop you from building the wall?) The prison guard laughed and said, “We heard before anybody else that she had killed herself, so we wrote the letter as if the daughter had written it, saying that her father had raped her but it was not the truth.” The guard was so proud of himself. Her father was arrested and everyone despised him. Suddenly the other prisoners realized this was the pastor who had been with them in prison, whom they had barred from praying with them.
This was the final attack of the devil on this pastor and his family. The devil said to him, “You cannot forgive them for what they have done to you, they have destroyed your church, and they have destroyed your daughters, and they have destroyed your testimony”. But friends, the Lord does not allow us to hold a grudge. Even under those circumstances he had to learn to forgive and pray, “Forgive us as we forgive those who sin against us” (Faith Despite the KGB by Hermann Hartfeld)
So let us make sure, friends, that there are not heaps of rubbish in our lives that paralyse our hearts. Do not keep these things to yourself. Go and make things right. If you keep quiet, you will sit with the rubbish in your heart until the day you die. Go and make right with your brother. Do not say, no, I am not going, and then sit and brood on your sin. Let the Lord Jesus clear the way and let the Holy Spirit burn away those heaps of rubble in your heart.
Do you see what an important work this was? This is how intense the attacks are on us if we are part of God’s kingdom and want to build God’s wall. The devil will do everything in his power to get you, to break the unity, and to destroy the Lord’s work.