“15 When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to our work.
16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armour. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, 18 and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me.19 Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, ‘The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!’ 21 So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. 22 At that time I also said to the people, ‘Let every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so that they can serve us as guards by night and as workers by day.’ 23 Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.” NIV
‘When the builders had so far reason to think the design of the enemies broken as to return to their work, yet they were not so secure as to lay down their arms, knowing how restless and unwearied they were in their attempts, and that, if one design failed, they would be hatching another. Thus must we watch always against our spiritual enemies, and not expect that our warfare will be accomplished till our work is.’ Matthew Henry.
As we have seen, Nehemiah took a comprehensive approach to the crisis. He believed in the importance of prayer, and he prayed. But he didn’t only pray:
- He took strategic action: Much of today’s passage shows this (and we have seen examples earlier in the passage). What encouragement it must have been to the builders to know that there were armed officers who ‘had their backs’ (16b/17a). Furthermore, they were armed themselves (18a). Nehemiah had thought everything through, with great attention to detail. He spared no efforts to ensure that the people felt safe and were kept safe. (Part of this strategic approach included the recognition that he, and everyone else needed to up their levels of sacrifice (21-23). While church life always demands absolute commitment, there can come times of emergency where we need to dig deep, and give even more);
- He called for co-operation: Because the work on the walls was ‘’extensive and spread out’’ (20) and the workers were ‘’widely separated from each other along the wall’’ (19b), they needed to be willing and able to drop what they were doing at a moment’s notice, and run to fight with and for their brothers, if called for. May God deliver us from a petty, parochial approach to ministry that sees only ‘our bit of the wall’, and has little or no interest in what is going on elsewhere. Such a selfish and blinkered attitude can prevail within a church, and between churches;
- In everything he trusted God, and called the people to do the same (20): Someone said, ‘Pray like it all depends on God, and work like it all depends on you.’ I don’t know if they did, but they could have got that from reading Nehemiah. This leader somehow maintained the delicate balance between preparing the people to fight, and, at the same time, trusting that God would fight for them.
PRAYER: Lord, may we never fail to pray to you and trust in you; nor may we ever cease to do our obvious duty, even though it may be costly.