Updated: Jan 31, 2020
The sound of hammers rang out through the air. The city of Jerusalem was buzzing with excitement as, piece by piece, stones were laid one on top of another. Jerusalem had been attacked. The walls of the city had been broken down and its gates had been burned with fire. After the Babylonian captivity, a remnant of the Jewish people had returned to Jerusalem with the help of Ezra. These returned exiles had rebuilt the temple, but they had no protection around the city. Jerusalem was still in ruins and they were too weary and too humiliated to do anything about it. Back in Perisa, there was a godly man named Nehemiah who worked as the cupbearer for the king. When Nehemiah heard that his beloved city was nothing more than rubble, he was so distraught that he wept and fasted and mourned for days. When the king of Persia finally asked him to explain his sad countenance, Nehemiah shared that his homeland had been destroyed and his people were defenseless. The king showed great kindness and Nehemiah was given permission to go and rebuild the wall. Nehemiah immediately traveled to Jerusalem. After his arrival, he went out to survey the wall and the gates by night. The city was in utter waste but with bold determination, he told the people, "Let's rise up and rebuild the wall!" And so they began their work.
Walls are important. Walls keep things in and walls keep things out. Think of America. We protect our borders for a reason and when our borders fall, well, history has proven what happens. Think of your home. Walls offer protection from the elements, from pests, and from opposing danger. Now think of your heart. Scripture tells us to guard our hearts from all manner of sin no matter how big or small we deem it to be. We have a subtle yet immeasurably dangerous enemy whose goal is to find the breach in our wall, and come lay us in ruins. Walls are, indeed, important. So Nehemiah and the people began to work. And wouldn't you know it, enemies of Israel caught wind of the news and they naturally despised the work, seeking to put a stop to it. Our enemy always finds it infuriating when those they have once conquered rise up in holy strength and begin to rebuild their lives. They started by taunting the people of Israel, laughing at them, and using intimidating threats to weaken their resolve. When that didn't work, they became even more angry, ridiculing the Jews and predicting their inevitable destruction.
But God's people didn't stop building.
Breaches start off small. A little justification here, a little rationalization there, and suddenly there's a good-sized hole in your wall that makes it a breeze for the enemy to sneak in and invade. And before you know it, you have successfully removed your protection and have hung a spiritual "Welcome" sign for all manner of evil to barge its way in. Nehemiah understood the importance of the work. He wasn't satisfied by simply building up the wall and repairing the gates, he wanted Jerusalem's wall to be fortified and strong. When the enemy heard that they were even repairing the breaches, they were furious and conspired to attack Jerusalem. This seems trivial - to be infuriated at repairing cracks in a wall - but if I were my own enemy, I would also be enraged. An enemy will always take a sick delight when their prey neglects to secure their land, their family, or their own heart. But when the walls are built up and thoroughly strong, the enemy has no easy access and this results in rage. Israel's adversaries were angry and decided to come against the people and fight to stop the building and repairing, and to keep the Jews in a vulnerable state. So Nehemiah and the people prayed and began to set up groups of watchman all around the wall, both in the high places and the low places, who were armed and ready for battle. The builders continued to build, carrying not only their hammers and tools, but swords, spears, and bows. There were men with trumpets, ready to give a warning blast to the people should their enemy suddenly come upon them.
Friends, this is how we must live.
You have seen ruins. You have seen men leave their wives and children. You have seen mothers choose to abandon their homes. You have seen alcohol and illicit drug use shatter families. You have seen Churches pulverized by everything from gossip and slander to varying kinds of sexual sin. You have seen children rebel from God and leave the faith. You have seen people - completely and utterly blinded by filth - indulge in an activity that winds up demolishing not only their own lives, but the lives of all those who love them. Our own life could crumble into ruins in one brief moment. What do we do when that happens? When my life is laid in ashes, I have two choices: I can sit in the heap of rubble and cry, or I can rise up and rebuild my walls stronger than they ever were before. When the enemy comes against me and uses threats, intimidation, or distraction to stop the work, I can fall prey to their evil schemes, or I can say as Nehemiah, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down." (Nehemiah 6:3) Our world is in dire need of faithful believers who will go out into the night to view the torched gates and the broken down walls. It needs a holy people to gather troops to rebuild and repair all the enemy has destroyed, Our world is crying out for Godly builders who will ignore the mocking voices and the railing accusations and, instead, pray "O God, strengthen my hands." Let us be that people. May we never settle living in rubbish or allowing breaches in our lives.