With so much being said right now about building a wall, it caused me to think of the Book of Nehemiah and God’s call for him to lead the people in Jerusalem to rebuild the wall around the city. God had also sent people to Jerusalem like Ezra and Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple. If the temple was to be rebuilt there needed to be a wall around the city to protect the people inside it and to protect the temple of God that was being rebuilt. When you read Nehemiah it is amazing that without any professional builders the wall around the city is rebuilt in less than two months in spite of tons of opposition. It is a witness to the difference good leadership can make in any job and a witness to what amazing things can be done when everyone works together.
When Nehemiah and his companions arrived in Jerusalem they first took the time to go through the city and look at the need for themselves before mentioning anything to any of the people there about what should be done. When He did meet with the people he made two things very clear. First, he made it clear that God was behind the whole plan, that he had been called by God to come and lead in this mission and that he had spent time in prayer asking for God’s help. Second, he made it clear that it was a job that everyone was needed to be able to accomplish. It couldn’t be done by Nehemiah and the handful of people who had come with him but would need every one of the people to get involved and work hard to get the wall built. When the people heard this they replied, “Let us start rebuilding.’ So they began this good work.” When the opposition arose from Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab, Nehemiah answered them, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”
One of the most important things that happened at this point was that people began to rebuild the wall that was near to where they lived. They weren’t professional. But they could build near their home and get that section put back together. People were involved in building from all kinds of background and social standing. Many of the workers were extremely poor and because of their taking time from their work to do the job, their family got into trouble and many were going hungry. Nehemiah had to reach out and help them and tell the ones who were wealthy to stop charging interest to the poor among them and hurting their own people. God makes all of them know their place mattered. They were able to rebuild the wall because they had a mind to work.
There were constant efforts from the enemies to intimidate, spread rumors, ridicule and spread fear among the people. Yet Nehemiah and the people kept on working. Some of the time they worked with the sword at their side and tools of work in the other hand. They crossed all kinds of lines to help one another and to complete the work.
When the wall had been completed they brought all the people together for a time of worship to God. A platform was built and Ezra the scribe stood on the platform and read to them from the Books of the Law. As he read about God’s love and the commitment the people had made to follow God’s law in everything and saw how they had really failed in their commitment to God over and over again, which led to the destroying of the temple and the wall and the seventy years of captivity. Many of the people began to weep. They were broken hearted over their sin and rebellion against God. Nehemiah stood before them and pleaded with them to stop the crying and said it wasn’t the time for such weeping or sorrow. He told them instead to eat, drink, be merry that the wall was built, “For the joy of the Lord is our strength.” It is true that many things in their lives needed to change. Many were involved in marriages with foreigners and their children were mixed up in what they thought and spoke the language of the foreign nations and their gods as much as the language of the Jews and the faith in God Almighty.
But it is vital that we see that while there are times when we need to see the sin in our lives and be broken because of it so we turn from the sin to God in repentance. It is also vital that we rejoice in our God, that we praise and honor his name and that we tune into His word and the glory of His name. In every age, there has been the challenge to do both the repentance and the praise, to be broken because of our sin and rejoicing that God loves and accepts us anyway. It is vital to remember that it is the joy of the Lord that is our strength.
When it comes to walls they can be either good or bad based on their purpose and their use.