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Session 3: Persist

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Background

Nehemiah embarked on a mission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Up to that point God had done amazing things on Nehemiah’s behalf. The Lord gave Nehemiah a vision for restoring the city, guided his planning, and made a way for him to go to Judah. In Jerusalem he gained the support and help of priests, officials, and other Jews who eagerly started on the work. Soon enough, however, the Jews encountered opposition that threatened to derail their efforts.

Let’s go to

Nehemiah 4:1–3 ESV
1 Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. 2 And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? 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?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!”
; ;
Have you ever been mocked because of your faith?
Their actual causes here in this passage: (1) Dislike of the work and anger against the workers , and (2) Ignorance and unbelief.
(1) Dislike of the work and anger against the workers
These help to produce blindness as to the real facts of the case.
The world knows not the real resources of Christians, and cannot understand their motives. It has no faith in the gospel or the Holy Ghost, in the precepts or promises which impel and inspirit Christian workers, or the Divine love which constrains them. Hence cannot rightly estimate their conduct or the probabilities of their success. What the world can see is manifestly insufficient, and it cannot see what renders success certain.
Look at ; ;
1 Corinthians 1:18–25 ESV
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
Proverbs 19:3 ESV
3 When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord.
So how does Nehemiah respond and what can we learn from this?
Thus “the preaching of the gospel is to them that perish foolishness;” and those who preach it are sometimes regarded as either knaves or fools. 2. Their actual causes. (1) Dislike of the work and anger against the workers (ver. 1). These help to produce blindness as to the real facts of the case. (2) Ignorance and unbelief. The world knows not the real resources of Christians, and cannot understand their motives. It has no faith in the gospel or the Holy Ghost, in the precepts or promises which impel and inspirit Christian workers, or the Divine love which constrains them. Hence cannot rightly estimate their conduct or the probabilities of their success. What the world can see is manifestly insufficient, and it cannot see what renders success certain. (3) Felt paucity of solid grounds of objection. Ridicule often used as a substitute for argument.
(1) Dislike of the work and anger against the workers (ver. 1). These help to produce blindness as to the real facts of the case.
(2) Ignorance and unbelief. The world knows not the real resources of Christians, and cannot understand their motives. It has no faith in the gospel or the Holy Ghost, in the precepts or promises which impel and inspirit Christian workers, or the Divine love which constrains them. Hence cannot rightly estimate their conduct or the probabilities of their success. What the world can see is manifestly insufficient, and it cannot see what renders success certain.
(3) Felt paucity of solid grounds of objection. Ridicule often used as a substitute for argument.
1. Ignore them. It must be confessed that sometimes those engaged in religious enterprises invite ridicule, if not contempt; by manifest ignorance, by cowardly fears of advancing science, by clap-trap and worldly policy, by cant or weak sentimentalism, by glaring inconsistencies between their lofty professions and their actual conduct, &c. It is one of the wholesome functions of raillery to banish such follies from good undertakings, and thus make the work truer and stronger.
2. Prayer. Not like Nehemiah’s, for vengeance on the despisers; but forgiveness, and that God would “turn their reproach on their head” by granting signal success to the work.
3. Calm confidence. In the assurance of that Divine favour and assistance of which the world takes little account, and thus of good success.
4. Steady, persevering toil. All the more vigorous because of the opposition. Thus Christian workers will live down contempt, even if, as in this case, it give place to violent hostility. It may, however, be followed by applause when the work has proved itself good by results which even the world can appreciate.
Compare Sanballat and Tobiah to the ten spies in . Similar purpose?
His second question, “Can they restore it by themselves (HCSB)?” gives voice to the enormity of the task. Sometimes verbalizing an objective reveals its audacity. The third question, Can they offer sacrifices? has a twofold effect: it points out the disconnection between the walls and the spiritual work of the temple, and mocks the devotion of the Jewish people. There are those today who agree that the Church ought be concerned only about spiritual work and ignore tasks of a secular nature. Fourth, with the question Can they finish in a day? Sanballat misrepresented the time frame, again attempting to demoralize the people. Many worthwhile projects cannot be completed in a day; God’s people must be on guard against an impatience that makes them unwilling to sustain a difficult task. Finally, Sanballat wonders whether the Jewish people can build a wall using burned stones weakened by the fires of Nebuchadnezzar’s assaults. Here he again misrepresents their challenge. It was not as bad as that, with many available stones perfectly suitable for (re)use in the walls.
Numbers 13:27–28 ESV
27 And they told him, “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 However, the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And besides, we saw the descendants of Anak there.
These questions bring to mind the spies’ initial report of Canaan, that its people were “giants,” or of the daily discouragement of the army of Israel when subjected to Goliath’s taunts. Sanballat began by saying the returned number of Jewish people was too small (v. 2). He now concludes by saying their task was too great.
Tobiah’s mockery in v. 3 undermines itself. If the walls were so weak that even a small animal would topple them, then Jerusalem’s enemies should have no worries. The concern of Sanballat, Tobiah, and others should have encouraged the Jewish builders that their labor was significant.
Neh
1. when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth—The Samaritan faction showed their bitter animosity to the Jews on discovering the systematic design of refortifying Jerusalem. Their opposition was confined at first to scoffs and insults, in heaping which the governors made themselves conspicuous, and circulated all sorts of disparaging reflections that might increase the feelings of hatred and contempt for them in their own party. The weakness of the Jews in respect of wealth and numbers, the absurdity of their purpose apparently to reconstruct the walls and celebrate the feast of dedication in one day, the idea of raising the walls on their old foundations, as well as using the charred and mouldering debris of the ruins as the materials for the restored buildings, and the hope of such a parapet as they could raise being capable of serving as a fortress of defense—these all afforded fertile subjects of hostile ridicule.

On to Nehemiah 4:6-9

4:1 This phrase emphasizes the extreme anger of Sanballat at the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls.
Verse 3
Ver. 2.—Before his brethren. By “his brethren” would seem to be meant his chief counsellors—probably Tobiah among them. The army of Samaria. Some understand by this a Persian garrison, stationed in Samaria under its own commander, with which Sanballat had influence (Ewald, ‘History of Israel,’ vol. v. p. 153), but there is no real ground for such a supposition. belongs probably to David’s time; and as Samaria had doubtless its own native force of armed citizens, who were Sanballat’s subjects, it is quite unnecessary to suppose that he addressed himself to any other “army” than this. The Persians would maintain a force in Damascus, but scarcely in Samaria; and Persian soldiers, had there been any in that city, would have been more likely to support a royal cupbearer than a petty governor with no influence at court. We can really only explain the disturbed state of things and approach to open hostility which appears in Nehemiah’s narrative, by the weakness of Persia in these parts, and the consequent power of the native races to act pretty much as they pleased—even to the extent of making war one upon another. Will they fortify themselves? No other rendering is tenable. Ewald (‘History of Israel,’ vol. iii. p. 154, note 5) defends it successfully. Will they sacrifice? Will they make an end in a day? The meaning seems to be, “Will they begin and make an end in a day?” It is assumed that they will begin by offering a sacrifice to inaugurate their work. Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned? Rather, “Will they revive the burnt stones (the stones that are burned) out of the heaps of the rubbish?” Will they do what is impossible—solidify and make into real stone the calcined and crumbling blocks which are all that they will find in the heaps of rubbish? If not, how are they to procure material?
Nehemiah 4:6–9 ESV
6 So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. 7 But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. 8 And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. 9 And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night.
The Hebrew word used here, chayil, designates a group of powerful people. As such, the term may refer to an army or to a retinue of wealthy nobles. However, Sanballat more likely had military officers with him rather than the wealthy men of Samaria.
This phrase may indicate that Sanballat was in Samaria at the time (see 2:10 and note). If he were in Jerusalem (see vv. 4–5), Sanballat would not have needed a report about the progress (v. 1)—he would have seen it with his own eyes.
Sanballat seems to be describing the Jewish people as a dying people group—one that is languishing or in the last days of its existence. The verb form of the Hebrew adjective used here is commonly used in the ot to describe the withering and decaying of a plant (; ). It can also be used of people (; ).
Sanballat may be referring to his desire to see religious activity cease in Jerusalem; sacrifices were already being offered (). He could also be referring to sacrifices that may be offered after the wall rebuilding project was a success (compare ). It could have also been that sacrifices had temporarily ceased, because of the intensity of persecution.
What do you think “had a mind to work” in verse 6 means?
Ver. 2.—Before his brethren. By “his brethren” would seem to be meant his chief counsellors—probably Tobiah among them. The army of Samaria. Some understand by this a Persian garrison, stationed in Samaria under its own commander, with which Sanballat had influence (Ewald, ‘History of Israel,’ vol. v. p. 153), but there is no real ground for such a supposition. belongs probably to David’s time; and as Samaria had doubtless its own native force of armed citizens, who were Sanballat’s subjects, it is quite unnecessary to suppose that he addressed himself to any other “army” than this. The Persians would maintain a force in Damascus, but scarcely in Samaria; and Persian soldiers, had there been any in that city, would have been more likely to support a royal cupbearer than a petty governor with no influence at court. We can really only explain the disturbed state of things and approach to open hostility which appears in Nehemiah’s narrative, by the weakness of Persia in these parts, and the consequent power of the native races to act pretty much as they pleased—even to the extent of making war one upon another. Will they fortify themselves? No other rendering is tenable. Ewald (‘History of Israel,’ vol. iii. p. 154, note 5) defends it successfully. Will they sacrifice? Will they make an end in a day? The meaning seems to be, “Will they begin and make an end in a day?” It is assumed that they will begin by offering a sacrifice to inaugurate their work. Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned? Rather, “Will they revive the burnt stones (the stones that are burned) out of the heaps of the rubbish?” Will they do what is impossible—solidify and make into real stone the calcined and crumbling blocks which are all that they will find in the heaps of rubbish? If not, how are they to procure material?
Verse 3
4:3 Tobiah’s sarcastic remark is a reference to the problems affiliated with the wall up to this point. Tobiah’s statement reveals the contempt he and others have for the efforts of the Jewish people.
3. if a fox go up—The foxes were mentioned because they were known to infest in great numbers the ruined and desolate places in the mount and city of Zion ().
Ver. 3.—Tobiah the Ammonite was by him. The presence of Tobiah on this occasion, before the alliance was made with the Ammonites (ver. 8), is a strong indication that his position was not one of independent authority, but of dependence upon Sanballat. There is nothing to show that he was more than a favourite slave of the Samaritan governor. A fox. Or, “a jackal,” which would be more likely than a fox to stray over a ruined wall into a town.
6-9
Verse 6
Whence a truly Christian “mind to work” springs. 1. Sense of necessity. Perception of evils needing to be removed; of good requiring to be done. 2. Sense of duty. 3. Gratitude and love to God and the Redeemer. 4. Benevolence. 5. Hope. Of accomplishing good; of obtaining good. 6. All these may be excited and guided by good leaders. Such as Nehemiah.
Whence a truly Christian “mind to work” springs. 1. Sense of necessity. Perception of evils needing to be removed; of good requiring to be done. 2. Sense of duty. 3. Gratitude and love to God and the Redeemer. 4. Benevolence. 5. Hope. Of accomplishing good; of obtaining good. 6. All these may be excited and guided by good leaders. Such as Nehemiah.
I. Whence a truly Christian “mind to work” springs. 1. Sense of necessity. Perception of evils needing to be removed; of good requiring to be done. 2. Sense of duty. 3. Gratitude and love to God and the Redeemer. 4. Benevolence. 5. Hope. Of accomplishing good; of obtaining good. 6. All these may be excited and guided by good leaders. Such as Nehemiah.
II. How it will show itself. In actual work. 1. Prompt. 2. Hearty. 3. Happy. 4. Abundant. 5. Steady and persevering. Notwithstanding scoffers, difficulties, &c.
III. What it will secure. 1. Freedom from fruitless speculation and unhealthy controversy. 2. Growth in true Christian life. 3. Success in doing good.
Verse 7
The plot being discovered, Nehemiah adopted the most energetic measures for ensuring the common safety, as well as the uninterrupted building of the walls. Hitherto the governor, for the sake of despatch, had set all his attendants and guards on the work—now half of them were withdrawn to be constantly in arms. The workmen labored with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other
God, when He has important public work to do, never fails to raise up instruments for accomplishing it, and in the person of Nehemiah, who, to great natural acuteness and energy added fervent piety and heroic devotion, He provided a leader, whose high qualities fitted him for the demands of the crisis. Nehemiah’s vigilance anticipated every difficulty, his prudent measures defeated every obstruction, and with astonishing rapidity this Jerusalem was made again “a city fortified.”
Nehemiah as a leader is facing opposition from all sides. yet what is the first thing he does? Remind you of any other leader of Israel? Read
Psalm 25 ESV
Of David. 1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. 2 O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me. 3 Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous. 4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. 5 Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. 6 Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. 7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord! 8 Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 9 He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. 10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies. 11 For your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my guilt, for it is great. 12 Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. 13 His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land. 14 The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. 15 My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net. 16 Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. 17 The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. 18 Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. 19 Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me. 20 Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. 21 May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you. 22 Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles.
4:7–9. In the face of the ridicule of Sanballat, Tobiah, and the others, the Jewish builders sustained their work, prompting their opponents to intensify their opposition with threats of violence. As the breaches began to be closed (v. 7), the window of successful opposition shrank as well. In the face of the opposition, Nehemiah reacts with a spiritual as well as a military response: we prayed to our God and we set up a guard (v. 9). This was an appropriate balance—trusting God for success but taking appropriate action as well. Sanballat hoped to disrupt the work enough (fight and cause a disturbance) to perhaps influence Artaxerxes to withdraw his support for the project (as in ).
Nehemiah 2:19 ESV
19 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?”

Now to Nehemiah 4:14-18

Refers to people from the city of Ashdod, located west of Jerusalem. The territory controlled by Ashdod included the entire region of Philistia, with the exception of Gaza—an independent city—and Ashkelon, which belonged to Tyre (according to the Greek historian Herodotus, Histories 2.157).
4:7–9. In the face of the ridicule of Sanballat, Tobiah, and the others, the Jewish builders sustained their work, prompting their opponents to intensify their opposition with threats of violence. As the breaches began to be closed (v. 7), the window of successful opposition shrank as well. In the face of the opposition, Nehemiah reacts with a spiritual as well as a military response: we prayed to our God and we set up a guard (v. 9). This was an appropriate balance—trusting God for success but taking appropriate action as well. Sanballat hoped to disrupt the work enough (fight and cause a disturbance) to perhaps influence Artaxerxes to withdraw his support for the project (as in ).
Nehemiah 4:14–18 ESV
14 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.” 15 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. 16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, 17 who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me.
Nehemiah 4:4–18 ESV
4 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. 5 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. 6 So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. 7 But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. 8 And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. 9 And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night. 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.” 13 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. 14 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.” 15 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. 16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, 17 who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me.
Verse 8
4:8 The enemies of the Jewish people intend to disrupt the work on the wall before it may be completed—by disorganizing or distracting them.
Ver. 8.—To hinder it. Rather, “to do it hurt.” The word used is a rare one. According to Gesenius, it has the two senses of “error” and “injury.”
What do these verses tell us about doing God’s work? Is relevant here?
Verse 9
Ver. 9.—We … set a watch against them day and night, because of them. Rather, “over against them,” “opposite to them”—opposite, that is, to the point from which they were expected to make their attack.
14-18
What do these verses tell us about doing God’s work?
4:14 Nehemiah encourages both leaders of the Jewish people, and all those listening to his commands, to have courage and fight for one another.
Although the Hebrew word used here, adon, is the generic word for “lord” or “master” and not the divine name, the context suggests Nehemiah is talking about God (compare ).
Ver. 14.—And I looked, and rose up, and said. A particular occasion seems to be spoken of. The allies had joined their forces; the army was advancing; Nehemiah had obtained information of the quarter from which the attack was to be expected; he had posted his men (ver. 13); when he “looked, and rose up,” and spoke, it was probably as the enemy was coming up to the attack; he then made this short but stirring appeal. That no conflict followed would seem to show, that “when the enemy approached, and saw from a distance the whole people awaiting them in perfect equipment, order, and spirit,” they lost heart and “turned back” (Ewald, ‘History of Israel,’ vol. 5:p. 155). The Lord, which is great and terrible. See the comment on ch. 1:5.
Ephesians 6:10–18 ESV
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
Verse 15
4:15 Nehemiah’s guards, and overall show of force, had the effect of not just defending the Jewish people, but also intimidating the enemy.
Verse 16
4:16 Probably refers to a group of men under the personal authority of Nehemiah as governor (5:10; 13:19). However, the Hebrew term here (na'ar) could refer to the Jewish returned exiles in general.
If those referenced in this verse are just people directly serving under Nehemiah, then half of his servants worked on the wall, while half stood guard; the rest of the men present then worked. If this refers to all those who returned from exile, then half of the people able to work stood guard while the others worked (compare note on vv. 17–18).
It seems that these people were not just wearing armor, but were also holding armor, likely for the instance that it was needed by others.
Ver. 16.—The half of my servants wrought in the work. Nehemiah divided his “servants” or slaves into two bodies, one of which laboured at the wall, while the other kept guard, fully armed, and held the spears, bows and arrows, shields, and corselets of their fellows. The rulers were behind. The “rulers” or “princes” did not labour, but stood behind the labourers, directing them, and ready to lead them on if the enemy ventured to come to blows.
Christians must be prepared to fight as well as work. The enemies of our souls and of our Lord are various, numerous, and determined, and must be encountered.
4:17–18 Nehemiah notes that those who are carrying loads—either for the wall or to remove rubble—did so in a way that they could hold their weapon in one hand. Those building the wall, needing to use both hands, wore their sword on their side. After the recent events (vv. 1–14), this preparedness was necessary; it also showed their enemies that they were prepared for battle.
4:18 These workers needed both hands free to work on the wall.
Ver. 17.—And they which bare burdens, with those that laded. Rather, “both they which bare burdens, as they laded.” The builders, or those engaged upon the work, are divided into two classes—(1) actual builders, and (2) those who carried the materials. Of these, the latter did their work with one hand, while in their other hand they held a weapon; the former needed both hands for their employment, but even these wore swords in their girdles.

Our Enemies:

Ver. 18.—For the builders. Rather, “and the (actual) builders”—masons, bricklayers, and the like, as distinct from the bearers of burthens, or carriers of material. He that sounded the trumpet. The signalman. Trumpeters appear both in the Egyptian and the Assyrian sculptures (see ‘Ancient Monarchies,’ vol. 1:p. 539, second ed.; Wilkinson, ‘Ancient Egyptians,’ vol. 2:p. 260).
HOMILETICS
1. Numerous. Satan and his angels, his own corruptions, the world.
(3) Faith in God and fear of him will conquer the fear of our adversaries, human or diabolic.
Christians must be prepared to fight as well as work. The enemies of their souls and of their Lord are various, numerous, and determined, and must be encountered. (2) Prayer, watchfulness, and courage must be combined in the Christian warfare (comp. ). (3) Faith in God and fear of him will conquer the fear of our adversaries, human or diabolic. (4) Regard for the highest welfare of their families should inspire Christians in opposing the enemies of religion.
(4) Regard for the highest welfare of their families should inspire Christians in opposing the enemies of religion.
2. Diverse. Different in nature, and mode of attack; assuming different forms; appealing in turn to every passion and principle of our nature.
1. Numerous. Satan and his angels, his own corruptions, the world. 2. Diverse. Different in nature, and mode of attack; assuming different forms; appealing in turn to every passion and principle of our nature. 3. Insidious. “The wiles of the devil.” He can take the form of “an angel of light.” Evil often appears as good. Danger lurks where we should least suspect it: in needful occupations, in lawful pleasures, in the society and influence of dearest friends. 4. Intent on our destruction. “Seeking whom he may devour.” Our highest interests, our eternal well-being, are imperilled.
3. Insidious. “The wiles of the devil.” He can take the form of “an angel of light.” Evil often appears as good. Danger lurks where we should least suspect it: in needful occupations, in lawful pleasures, in the society and influence of dearest friends.
4. Intent on our destruction. “Seeking whom he may devour.” Our highest interests, our eternal well-being, are imperiled.

Our Safeguards:

1. Prayer. To him who is mightier than our mightiest foes; who has a perfect knowledge of them, and of our weaknesses; whose eye is ever upon them and us; who loves us and desires our safety; who has promised help and victory to those who call upon him. In his strength alone can we conquer.
2. Watchfulness. Habitual vigilance, for our foes may spring upon us from unexpected quarters; special watchfulness “over against them” (as the last words of the text should be rendered). Where from experience we have learned that our weakness and the enemy’s strength lie.
3. The two combined. God will protect those who watch as well as pray. Prayer aids watching, and watching prayer. “Watch unto prayer.” Prayer without watchfulness is presumption. Watchfulness without prayer, sinful self-confidence. Each without the other is sure to fail. Both together will insure deliverance.
I. The Church’s warfare. Each for himself and his family; all for the common good. Against the world, the flesh, and the devil, in all the forms they assume: infidelity, heresy, ungodliness, wickedness of all kinds. The war is—1. Defensive. To preserve themselves, and their households and Churches, from spiritual and moral evil. 2. Offensive. To subdue the world to Christ. Destroying the errors and sins which prevail in it, and rescuing their victims.
II. The Church’s liability to fear. On account of the number, and power, and subtlety of her enemies, and the hardships and perils of the war. There is a fear which is good. “Happy is the man that feareth alway.” But not the craven fear which shuns the fight.

Learning from Nehemiah

III. The Church’s remedy against fear. 1. Remembrance of God. (1) His greatness. “Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” He has all power to sustain his servants, give them the victory, and reward the victors. (2) His terribleness. To his enemies to subdue them; to his professed friends if they decline to do battle for him.
“Fear him, ye saints, and you will then
Diligence in work, combined with readiness for contest. It is work that secures prosperity, but conflict may be necessary for the work’s sake. We must be ready for and actually do battle against iniquity and false teaching. Like Nehemiah, we must especially mount guard for the protection of the whole community against threatened assaults of unbelief, superstition, immorality, &c., and be ready, if necessary, to summon all to fight against them.
Have nothing else to fear.”
2. Thought of the interests involved. As here, of brothers, sons, daughters, wives, and houses. 3. Mutual encouragement. “Be not afraid,” &c.
Our main work is to “edify;” but in doing so they must not only be ready for but actually do battle against iniquity and false teaching. Besides which, they, like Nehemiah and his retinue, must especially mount guard for the protection of the whole community against threatened assaults of unbelief, superstition, immorality, &c., and be ready, if necessary, to summon all to fight against them (see , seq.; 33:7, seq.).
The lessons from this paragraph for any Christian Church or society, and indeed for any community, are, the importance of—1. Diligence in work, combined with readiness for contest. It is work that secures prosperity, but conflict may be necessary for the work’s sake. 2. Thorough union. 3. Division of duties. Each taking what he is best fitted for, or is thought to be by those in authority. 4. Good organisation. 5. Good rulers. 6. Obedience to them. 7. Self-denial. In all—those highest in authority the most careful to practise it.
3. Division of duties. Each taking what he is best fitted for, or is thought to be by those in authority.
He who is well “built up” in Christian faith and life has an experience of the preciousness of that which the enemy assails which will make him earnest and bold in contending for it. The Christian who has arrived at great maturity becomes unassailable by either serious error or temptation to sin. Growth in grace renders the disciple more and more like his Master, who could say, “The prince of this world comes and has nothing in me.” After many a conflict, he settles down in quiet enjoyment of what he has won; his walls so strong, his gates so secure, that no enemy can enter.
4. Good organisation.
5. Good rulers.
6. Obedience to them.
7. Self-denial. In all—those highest in authority the most careful to practise it.
Vers. 17, 18.—Building in readiness to fight. “They which builded on the wall, &c. For the builders.… so builded.” Regarding the work of building the wall of Jerusalem as an image of Christian edification, whether of the individual or of the Church, notice—
I. The need which Christians have of preparation for combat while engaged in building. 1. In seeking each his own spiritual profit. Must be intent on improvement and growth, but at the same time ready to fight. For his spiritual foes are near, and may make their onset at any moment and from any direction. 2. In seeking to profit others. Instruction in the truth is of primary importance; but there must be preparedness to meet objections and reprove or warn against errors and sins. Applies peculiarly to Christian ministers. Their main work is to “edify;” but in doing so they must not only be ready for but actually do battle against iniquity and false teaching. Besides which, they, like Nehemiah and his retinue, must especially mount guard for the protection of the whole community against threatened assaults of unbelief, superstition, immorality, &c., and be ready, if necessary, to summon all to fight against them (see , seq.; 33:7, seq.).

Things to Consider

II. Their relation to each other. 1. They are mutually helpful. Fighting, or readiness for it, renders building possible. If infidelity or sin get the upper hand, “edification” ceases. Building aids fighting. Gives strength for it, supplies with strongest motives to it. He who is well “built up” in Christian faith and life has an experience of the preciousness of that which the enemy assails which will make him earnest and bold in contending for it. So with a Church established in all goodness, and richly enjoying the privileges of the gospel. In the end, however (as when the wall was finished), building may render preparation for fighting unnecessary. The Christian who has arrived at great maturity becomes unassailable by either serious error or temptation to sin. Growth in grace renders the disciple more and more like his Master, who could say, “The prince of this world cometh and hath nothing in me.” After many a conflict, he settles down in quiet enjoyment of what he has won; his walls so strong, his gates so secure, that no enemy can enter, even if he do not cease the vain attempt. A Church, also, well built up at once in Christian life and character and in numbers, needs not take much heed of enemies without. Her life and works speak for her more powerfully than arguments. 2. Readiness for fighting may hinder or stop building. The attitude of mind favourable to the former is in no small degree unfavourable to the latter. Besides, when men are armed for conflict they may come to prefer it, and engage in it needlessly or excessively, to the neglect of edification. But no Church (or state) can live by fighting. This is partly true of direct battling with evil tendencies and habits in ourselves and others; let good be nourished and strengthened, and evil will decay. It is especially true of religious controversy. It is very apt to injure Christian life and character. The antagonistic spirit which it engenders is unfavourable to meekness and charity, and even justice and truthfulness. A Church must be militant and ever ready to fight; but a Church mainly militant will effect little good.
When we serve faithfully, we can expect Satan and his minions to increase their efforts to distract and weaken us.
The lessons are—1. Be “ready, aye, ready” for battle. With the “whole armour of God” about you, and trained to the use of your weapons. But—2. Be mainly intent on building.
When opposition increases, prayer should increase.
3. The Renewed Work (4:16–23)
We are called to stand for what is good even as we stand against what is evil.
4:16–18. Encouraged by their ongoing success, the Jewish builders applied themselves to the labor with renewed vigor. “Each one to his work” (v. 15) recalls the significance of the labor of each participant. For the remainder of the task, half of Nehemiah’s forces were on constant military alert (with spears, shields, bows, and breastplates), while even the half that continued building did so with the other hand holding a weapon (v. 17). This militarization of all of Israel turns even the mundane task of stonemasonry into a military campaign. Israel is certainly at war, with her captains who were behind the whole house of Judah (v. 16) directing the forces.
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