Chapter 3 paints a picture of community, including the main point that we should begin serving the body by working on “the broken wall in front of our own house.” Chapter 4 records the opposition they face and the leadership they need.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. – Ephesians 4:15-16
In chapter 1 we met Nehemiah and watched him face the tension of living between two worlds: cup bearer to the king and brother to the exiles. He spent 4 months in prayer, wrestling with how God would have him respond. His conclusion was that God was sending him to Jerusalem. The chapter ended with Nehemiah’s humble request that he would have the courage to do what he had to do.
In chapter 2, Nehemiah faces three moments where he must rely on the word of God and speak out boldly. We considered Jesus’ words: “Do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:19-20.) We saw Nehemiah in King Artaxerxes’ presence, later with the Jewish officials of Jerusalem, and then before the enemies who had gathered there against them. In each case, Nehemiah spoke based on the wisdom the Spirit had fashioned in him over his lifetime.
Chapter 2 ended with two important statements.
- Nehemiah 2:18: “I also told them [my countrymen] about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, ‘Let us start rebuilding.’ So they began this good work.”
- Nehemiah 2:19: “But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. ‘What is this you are doing?’ they asked. ‘Are you rebelling against the king?'”
On the one hand, the people who were willing to follow God and do the work. But on the other hand, they faced the persistent harassment from their enemies.
- Chapter 3 is a helpful description of community life.
- The list records 30+ households from differing regions, backgrounds and occupations, demonstrating there is no “cookie-cutter” believer.
- Not all in the community pulled their weight (3:5) while some worked diligently (3:20).
- 3:12 mentions the daughters of Shallum and 3:13 mentions “inhabitants” suggesting all ages and genders. The community of believers is diverse, expansive and inclusive.
- The community working together accomplished what they could not accomplish alone.
- Those who lived in Jerusalem were told to repair the section of the wall that was opposite where they lived.
Nehemiah 3:23 After them Benjamin and Hasshub repaired opposite their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, son of Ananiah repaired beside his own house.
- The wall-builders faced external ridicule, but the stopping rebuilding because of their internal ridicule.
- The walls were broken because their hearts were broken.
- Their hearts were broken because their God was too small.
- The walls remain broken not because the enemies are strong but because faith is shattered.
- Nehemiah provides the right kind of leadership:
- First he prayed and spoke to the Lord about the people.
- Then he spoke to the people about the Lord.
For more detail and explanation, please listen to the podcast.
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