“Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, ‘Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.’ And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work. So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah. Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon.” Nehemiah 4:13-17 (NKJV)
We live in perilous times. War, financial uncertainty, moral decay, family breakdown - dangerous times. Would it surprise you to know that it’s all spiritual? Yes, in real-time, here on earth, it seems like the “enemy” is some extremist, corporate tycoon, media giant, or family member. But in reality, the enemy is the World, the Flesh, and the Devil. When we have human conflict, it is really the effects of the Lord in our lives standing in opposition to the effects of the “enemy,” both in our lives and the lives of others.
“For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens.” Ephesians 6:12 (HCSB)
There is hope, therefore, beyond human conflict because if our oppressors submitted to the Lord, they would cease oppression and join us as brothers. It is part of the reason we suffer affliction for the cause of evangelism. We must love a person beyond their actions against us and see them apart from the “enemy’s” influence on them.
It is important, then, for us to take Nehemiah’s struggle to build the walls of Jerusalem both literally and metaphorically. True, the citizens of Jerusalem faced strong human opposition and risked their lives to rebuild the city’s walls and gates. But it also reminds us of a greater reality: The mission field is also a battlefield!
While we “wrestle not against flesh and blood,” recognizing the greater spiritual narrative, we still face human opposition. We need each other. The purpose of “community” is to render our weaknesses ineffective. So, from today’s passage, we can glean that we need to work together to rebuild the “walls of Jerusalem” in the Church at large. That means pastors and laity, husbands and wives, parents and children, and denominations with other denominations. When we work alone, the “enemy” has a greater chance of picking us off. But when we work in close proximity, we can lean into each other, or shall we say we lean into “the Lord’s strength, working within each of us”?
We must die to the notion that God exists solely to provide for our comfort and pleasure. We are created to live in community, which means dying to ourselves and living to serve the body of believers, trusting that they are doing the same for you by God’s grace. If the World saw that, many unbelievers would be more willing to believe!
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