Sketched IV, Day 1
The hot sun beat down unbearably so, making sweat run like trickling rivers down my back. Yet, the men standing in front of me with their angry demands and harsh critiques were just as much a source of heat as the blazing ball overhead.
Both were relentless.
“You are weak, Nehemiah! You and your people!
You think you will finish this project?
Have you seen the rubble? Do you understand the depth and width of a project this size?
Oh, you think you’ll finish this in a day?!” (Nehemiah 4:1-3)
Sanballet’s tone dripped with mockery and disrespect, oozing with blatant attempts to dishonor me in front of my own people as he practically shouted his jeering remarks.
Outwardly, I took the hit, narrowing my focus on Sanballat’s wild, insecure eyes.
Inwardly, I was quaking.
Did my eyes look as equally unsure?
“Hear, O our God, for we are despised”,
it was the only prayer my heart could make. (Nehemiah 4:4)
What was I doing here anyways?
Remind me, Yahweh; wasn’t I just a cupbearer for the King of Babylon?
I’m neither a priest nor one of Your prophets, was it really You who called me to such an impossible task as this?
Seriously, Lord, rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem? Have you seen them?
As I lifted my eyes, surveying the walls for the umpteenth time, taking in their brokenness, seeing the despair of Israel’s people without shelter, I was reminded again, yes.
Yes, You have seen these walls, Lord.
And just as their destruction has gripped my own heart, it has surely held Your own.
Tobiah, standing small and safe in the shadow of Sanballat, couldn’t resist adding his own clever taunt, “Ha! What they are building – if a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall!” (Nehemiah 4:3)
I resisted the urge to put Tobiah in his place with my fists, choosing instead to ignore the taunts entirely, I fixed my gaze on the ruined walls.
Just as quickly as my fears had appeared, truth was re-claiming lost ground in my heart.
The Spirit of Yahweh was moving, giving me confidence.
This wall was the Lord’s.
Striding away, leaving Sanballat and Tobiah laughing at their jokes, my resolve to do as the Lord instructed was strengthening with every step.
Build the wall.
And that’s exactly what we did, praying constantly for God’s protection as word of the rebuilding spread as quickly as our mortar was mixed. The neighbors didn’t think it was such a grand idea for us to rebuild, protect ourselves, and act like a nation. The higher our walls grew, the angrier they became, and the heavier our prayers flew.
“We will kill them all, they won’t even see us coming.”
“There is too much rubble, we can make an easy attack.” (Nehemiah 4:10)
Angry threats from Sanballat, the Arabs, and other nations hung heavy around us, but oh how we prayed! (Nehemiah 4:9, 15)
It was ridiculously hard work trying to out-strategize our enemies, trusting God to fight for us, yet being wise in preparing for battle, all while mixing mortar, laying brick, and clearing debris. Truly though, I was daily astounded by what the Lord was doing!
We would hear of battle plans that had been foiled by God’s hand, and we would shout victory, encouraging each other all down the wall with these words,
“Our God will fight for us!”.
The threats continued, armies attacked, but the work continued.
While the walls steadily rose from the dusty ruins, a bigger problem came to light.
The poor were being oppressed by their own Jewish brothers.
Families were forced to mortgage their lands to buy enough grain to survive. Then, for lack of finances, found no other option than to enslave their own children to make payments.
We were enslaving ourselves!
My anger burned as I took in the outcry of the people! (Nehemiah 5:6)
How could Yahweh honor the work of our hands when, in our hearts and our bank accounts, on our land, and with our hands, we treated each other as slaves?!
Had we learned nothing from our ancestors who had lived in slavery to the Egyptians for 400 years?!
Uncles owned nieces, grandfathers owned grandsons, neighbors owned one another.
How could we rebuild our walls while inside, we were divided and destroyed?
Yahweh cared about our walls,
but He cared infinitely more about our hearts.
I called an assembly and brought these heavy charges against my fellow Israelites.
“You are exacting interest, each from his brother.”
My emotion evident in every controlled word.
Tears gathered in my eyes and my hands shook as I emphasized my point,
“We, as far as we are able, have bought back our Jewish brothers who have been sold to the nations, but you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us!”
There were no words. (Nehemiah 5:7-8)
Yahweh’s Spirit was making His point through me, so I continued with a plea.
I implored them, “Together, let’s walk in fear of Yahweh! Let’s honor Him in our hearts! Abandon this enslavement!”
The silence was heavy as I gauged their response. Would they turn their hearts back?
Then, slowly, a few came forward leading the way, raising their arms and responding,
“We will restore our brothers and require nothing from them.”
Soon the few became the crowd, and I couldn’t contain my tears.
Our hearts would be repaired, and the Lord would build the wall.
All the assembly echoed my heart, “Amen!”, they shouted!
Families came together like never before, rebuilding sections of wall that were right in front of their own homes. Even women and children joined the work.
So the wall was finished after only 52 days of work!
And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and feared greatly, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. (Nehemiah 6:15-16)
Yes, indeed, this work was undoubtedly accomplished by the unstoppable hand of Yahweh.
The Lord God, builder of walls, restorer of hearts!
Nehemiah was an ordinary man, living His everyday life.
He hadn’t gone away on a mission trip, been appointed as a pastor when he was young, or attended seminary. He lived in a foreign land, knowing nothing but exile his entire life, entered the work force just like everyone else, and risen in corporate responsibilities.
He loved his people, his nation, and the Lord.
And that was enough.
It was enough for the Lord to use one, regular man to do the incredible.
In the process, yes, a nation rebuilt their walls, reclaiming their identity as a nation ruled by Yahweh, but a deeper change happened inside their walls: love and justice.
I wonder, what will the Lord God do with the surrender of your “enough”?
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