Mondays with Nehemiah

Fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!
Last week I mentioned that this chapter was the most memorable one for me. I had heard this as a Bible story from my parents and grandparents when I was little. It’s the story that goes like this:
Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem were rebuilding the wall. The enemy was not happy. They ridiculed the workers. But Nehemiah and his people defaulted to prayer, and Nehemiah encouraged the people to continue on. He reminded them that they have a great God who’s on their side.
At last the wall was completed to half its height around the entire city, for the people had worked with enthusiasm.
But the enemy did not stop at just ridiculing them with words. They got furious and started to plot an attack. And again Nehemiah and the people prayed and they “guarded the city day and night to protect” themselves.
10 Then the people of Judah began to complain, “The workers are getting tired, and there is so much rubble to be moved. We will never be able to build the wall by ourselves.”
11 Meanwhile, our enemies were saying, “Before they know what’s happening, we will swoop down on them and kill them and end their work.”
12 The Jews who lived near the enemy came and told us again and again, “They will come from all directions and attack us!” 13 So I placed armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall in the exposed areas. I stationed the people to stand guard by families, armed with swords, spears, and bows.
14 Then as I looked over the situation, I called together the nobles and the rest of the people and said to them, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes!”
The threat was real. And Nehemiah showed great leadership skills to encourage the people and continue the work on the wall. He says, “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your homes!” Nehemiah reminds his people that they got their God on their side. Their God is great and glorious!
And another thing that stood out to me in verse 14 is that he tells his people to remember the Lord. We see that quite often in the Old Testament, that people are told to remember the Lord. Sometimes we take our eyes off God and see all the difficulties and our circumstances and we get discouraged. But if we “remember the Lord”, when we think of all the times we saw God’s hand in our lives, we become aware of His presence, we remember the wonderful ways He has led us in the past and we get encouraged again to continue on our journey. “If we look at the problem through the greatness of God, we will have confidence and succeed.” (e)
“To place whole families together – including women and children – put tremendous pressure on fathers particularly. In case of outright attack, they would have no choice but to stay and fight for and with their family members.” (a)
In verse 14 Nehemiah tells his people to fight for their families. The enemy is not just after me, he’s also after my family. Ever since I heard of this verse, I’ve been encouraged to “fight” in my prayers for my family, for my kids.
We see Nehemiah organizing the workers in two groups, half of them were working, while the other stood guard. “What a picture of trusting in God and actively standing strong for God! They prayed and posted a guard. They knew that only God could deliver them, but they also knew that God expected them to do what they could to resist this threat.” (d)
15 When our enemies heard that we knew of their plans and that God had frustrated them, we all returned to our work on the wall. 16 But from then on, only half my men worked while the other half stood guard with spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. The leaders stationed themselves behind the people of Judah 17 who were building the wall. The laborers carried on their work with one hand supporting their load and one hand holding a weapon. 18 All the builders had a sword belted to their side. The trumpeter stayed with me to sound the alarm.
19 Then I explained to the nobles and officials and all the people, “The work is very spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 When you hear the blast of the trumpet, rush to wherever it is sounding. Then our God will fight for us!”
21 We worked early and late, from sunrise to sunset. And half the men were always on guard. 22 I also told everyone living outside the walls to stay in Jerusalem. That way they and their servants could help with guard duty at night and work during the day. 23 During this time, none of us—not I, nor my relatives, nor my servants, nor the guards who were with me—ever took off our clothes. We carried our weapons with us at all times, even when we went for water.
And this is the picture from that Bible story in my childhood: The people worked with one hand while carrying a weapon in the other. I still remember the picture that went with the story. Today, I see prayer as my most efficient weapon. This picture encourages me to work and fight, to work and pray! I just remembered that my parents had this little plaque in their kitchen, it said “Bete und Arbeite” (Pray and Work). It’s a good reminder for me that the enemy is real, that there is a way to work that might not seem very efficient at first glance, but if work and prayer goes hand in hand, my God will give the victory!
Be encouraged and have a great week!
(a) Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck
(d) Bill Hybels with Kevin & Sherry Harney “Overcoming Challenges”
(e) Warren W. Wiersbe, “Be Determined”

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