In the years that took place before the Book of Nehemiah, the Jews had fallen away from God and He placed His judgment over them, allowing the city of Jerusalem to be destroyed and the temple to be burned. As He did so many times, He then allowed them to go into captivity, first to the Babylonians and then the Persians. And it is during their captivity with the Persians that the Book of Nehemiah opens up with Nehemiah being visited by one of his brothers, Hanani, and some other men from Judah.
Now it had been some time since Nehemiah had been to his homeland, and he asked his visitors about the state of Jerusalem and how the people that had escaped captivity were doing. They told him that the people in the province were in great distress, and how the wall around Jerusalem was destroyed and the gates had been burned. As I think all of us now can understand, this caused Nehemiah a great deal of heartache, thinking of his homeland in such a state and his countrymen living in despair. It says that he wept and mourned for days thinking of the plight of his country, and he rose up his voice in prayer. This is a crucial point, because in his prayer, Nehemiah acknowledged the sins of his people against God, and his own and his family’s sins against God, not adhering to God’s law and keeping the Commandments sent down through Moses. (Nehemiah 1)
At the time, Nehemiah was the cupbearer for the emperor. The emperor had never seen Nehemiah in such a sad mood, and this, together with the spirit of the Lord moving in the heart of the emperor, compelled him to grant Nehemiah permission to return to his homeland in order to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. Despite giving Nehemiah letters giving him permission to travel to Jerusalem, and also orders to give him access to the forest for lumber with which to fortify the gates, when Nehemiah arrived with officers from the emperor’s army and horsemen and delivered the letters to the rulers of the province, they were not pleased.
So when Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, he and some of his men went in the middle of the night and secretly surveyed the walls and saw what would need to be done. It was then that he gathered the people around him and told them his story and that he planned to rebuild the wall. They were supportive and willing to help him, but the provincial officials were less than pleased with what he was doing, even accusing him of rebellion against the king. Nehemiah answered these accusations stating the Lord would provide the success of the building of the wall, and reminding these officials that they were not the true rulers of the city. (Nehemiah 2)
And so the reconstruction of the walls commenced, but when the local officials heard that it was going forward, they made fun of the people that were working on it and even went so far as to make plans to attack them. Their plans to attack were overheard by some of the people and they went and told Nehemiah and the workers of the plan. This discouraged many of the people working on the project, but Nehemiah had each of them arm themselves and set up a guard shift. Even while working, each person was to be armed, so that they worked with one hand and held their weapon with the other. Everywhere they went and no matter what they were doing, they had their weapon with them. (Nehemiah 4)
Now, even as they were rebuilding the wall, the people started to complain of how some of the people were engaging in usury over other people and had started taking lands, grains and oils, and even the sons and daughters due to failure to pay the exorbitant lending fees. Nehemiah spoke to them and told them that what they were doing to one another was what the other nations had done to the Jewish people, that they were taking their own people into bondage, and commanded them to give the property and people back, having the priests oversee the exchange to make sure that it actually took place. Nehemiah took every precaution in order to make sure that the presence of his workers and the army of the emperor did not take an undue toll on the people of the area, as he understood that the people were already in a bad enough economic position. (Nehemiah 5)
Having brought the people back together again, the work on the wall was progressing quickly and soon Nehemiah and his workers had repaired all of the breaches within the wall, though the gates were not yet set back into the walls. But when the same officials heard about the progress on the walls, they devised a plan to attack Nehemiah. They sent him a letter saying that the word of the reconstruction had been spread amongst the surrounding rulers and even the king himself, and that it was suspected that once the wall was completed that the Jews would rebel. They asked to meet him outside of the city to discuss these rumors, but Nehemiah knew that if he went there, they would surely attack him, so he declined and told them that their plan was to discourage those working on the wall and that he would not allow it. They even hired a man in the city to tell Nehemiah that they were coming to attack and he told Nehemiah to seek refuge in the temple. But Nehemiah knew that this was an attempt to make him look like a coward and refused. Nehemiah and his workers finished the wall in 52 days with the blessing of the Lord, a truly remarkable feat. (Nehemiah 6)
Now, you will notice that I left out the chapters regarding who helped in the building of the wall, the first census following the completion of the wall, and the various other events following the completion. This is not because they are without value to this article, but because there are long lists of people with their specific genealogies and recounting of procedures that are very important in their own right, but not necessary within the context of the lessons we can glean from this particular book as it relates to our current situation as Christians in the modern world. However, I do highly encourage all readers of this article to go back and read the Book of Nehemiah in its totality to get the full picture for themselves.
- The first lesson to be taken here, as is often the case in studying the Old Testament, is that falling away from the Lord and His Law is what led to this entire situation with the destruction of Jerusalem and the wall. While the Lord is a forgiving and loving God, He is also a God that will render justice. Sinning against Him and His Law will be punished, and what we see in this country today is not just a falling away but a flagrant celebration in His face of this sin. A continuation down this path will lead to His judgment upon this nation.
- Nehemiah first seeks repentance for his sins and the sins of his family and nation before the Lord. He asks for forgiveness for the falling away and for the sins. He then acknowledges the Lord as supreme and from that moment forward, he makes no move before first consulting with the Lord through prayer, always ensuring that his actions are guided by God. This is exactly what we, as Christians, must do. Man can take actions under his own conscience, but this often leads to missteps. Before any undertaking, and indeed I would encourage at the beginning of each day, we should ask the Lord for His guidance and for Him to lead us to where He needs us. If you do this, I think you will be surprised by the change in events in your life.
- When you go back and read the Book of Nehemiah, pay special attention to Chapter 3 and the variance in the different walks of life of the people that came together to help Nehemiah reconstruct the wall. Number one, it shows an entire community coming together with a singular purpose in improving the lives of those within the community. This is the perfect example of how we, as Christians, should come together as a community for the benefit of all, but also it shows that each group and person had unique gifts that they brought to bear within the project, just as we all have unique gifts that need to be used to serve the greater Kingdom. I would also like for you to pay special attention to Shallum, son of Hallohesh, who repaired a section of the wall together with his daughters. Again, this shows that it is not just men who can pitch in on such projects, but clearly shows a place within the work for our sisters in Christ.
- When enemies came up with plans to attack Nehemiah and those rebuilding the wall, Nehemiah drew up plans for defense of his work. This is one of those topics that to me has several layers from which to draw lessons. In the simplest of terms, it shows the most basic and God-given right to self-defense. But it goes beyond that, also. It shows that we have the right to defend ourselves in the physical world, but that we should also take steps for defense from the enemy in the spiritual realm as well, for he also plots against us. It also shows that while we make plans in service to the Lord, the enemy is always lurking about to sow discord and chaos into the work to disrupt it. We must always be on the lookout for such disruptions and be prepared to defend our work. We should also take Nehemiah’s steadfastness and commitment to the work in the face of such opposition as an example to follow – when faced with adversity from those outside of the work, we must remain obedient to the will of the Lord to complete that which He has set before us.
Surely, there are a myriad of other lessons to be gleaned from this book that better scholars than myself could expound upon, but these are the ones that are first foremost in my mind after re-reading the Book of Nehemiah. We are entering into an age in the United States of decadence and callousness towards our fellow man. We are seeing it play out on all the various media platforms in the form of violence and riots as the powers and principalities influence people to strife against one another on the grounds of gender, race, economics, etc. rather than coming together as brothers and sisters and realizing who the enemy really is.
The real question here is this: will we allow ourselves to continue this slide into disobedience to the Lord and face the consequences of His judgment over us, or will we cast aside these tools of the enemy of division, discord, and chaos and come together to rebuild this nation back to the prosperous country it once was? I urge each of you that read this article to read the Book of Nehemiah and think about how rebuilding that wall is similar to what we need to do to rebuild this country. Then pray, and ask the Lord what your role is to be in rebuilding this country. Ask where He needs you, what you are to do in service to Him, and how you can have the most impact. We need workers to rebuild this country. And, yes, we will face adversity from those that will ridicule and come against us in our attempt to rebuild it. But if we remain obedient, steadfast, and committed to seeing this cause through to the end, like the wall that provided protection for the city of Jerusalem for the next generation, our nation will provide prosperity for our next generation and beyond.