We will arise and build

Devotional thoughts for the month of January 2020

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... where I discuss the thinking that led to this article.)

“Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.” (Nehemiah 2:20) (Nehemiah responding to the naysayers — Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem.)

Although the nation of Israel was in captivity, the people’s hearts were not — and I’m not talking just about the Israelites here. It was King Artaxerxes, a pagan king, who gave the command to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem. What makes this command so cool is that it was also a prophetic signpost for predicting Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem... but we’ll leave that prophecy for another day. Instead, we’ll be contrasting Nehemiah’s building project with Solomon’s.

The first thing to note is that, although God was the general contractor on both projects, their executions were decidedly different. For example, David had prepared the way for Solomon’s temple. He purchased the land, gathered the bulk of the materials, and prayed... being desirous to build a house for God. But God would not allow David, a man of bloody hands, to build this holy place. So, God assigned the job to Solomon whose reign was one of peace.

Solomon was a king when he started to build — not a humble cupbearer like Nehemiah — and David had set all his ducks in a row. But Nehemiah didn’t have many ducks. He had a burden, a prayer — and access to the king! ... and these were enough... so propelled by all God put on his heart, Nehemiah risked his life to ask Artaxerxes’ permission to pursue his vision.

But Nehemiah had other problems. Jerusalem was not a safe place in his time. The walls were down; the gates were burned and men of the region did not want to see this city set and secure... so the land was not at peace as it was under Solomon. But God would use this to test Nehemiah’s determination... and he would also use this to test the power of words.

So, let me ask, what is the power of an encouraging word? It means the world sometimes! And what is the power of a discouraging word? It’s can be devastating... and Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem had a few... mocking Nehemiah to scorn by asking things like, will ye rebel against the king? But Nehemiah put God right on the spot with his response: God will prosper this project.

Nehemiah had put God on the spot earlier, too, because the inhabitants of Jerusalem had done nothing to rebuild this wall. But God had stirred their hearts by using — as he often does — a man with a vision to energize other men. Nehemiah told the people his intentions, but he also shared the testimony of how God had worked in this project up to now — and particularly, how miraculously he had dealt with the king and with other administrative roadblocks.

His simple plea, “Let us rise up and build,” was greeted by a people who then, “strengthened their hands for this good work.”— and against all odds, the people rose to the challenge. But take a minute to consider what Nehemiah was asking them to do: spend long days in heavy labor... moving stones — and keep looking over your shoulders for armed invaders.

So, what was Nehemiah’s secret? He said, “…The God of heaven, he will prosper us…” — and that’s an underused concept in Christianity! So let me ask, are you willing to risk it all to engage with the vision God has given you? If not, you’re no Nehemiah. If yes, then grab a trowel.

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20191230 Nehemiah said, we will arise and build).

(For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com)