The Wall is Finished!
Doing a Great Work for God
The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
The first two verses of our text mark the end of the building of the walls. You might recall that it had been in March/April (Nisan) that Nehemiah had requested a leave of absence from the Persian Court (Nehemiah 2:1). Now 6 months later in verse 15 of chapter 6, it is August/September (Elul) and almost 10 months had elapsed since Hanani had visited Nehemiah in Shushan (Nehemiah 1:1). Yet God says that the walls were built in only 52 days, a little over 2 months. The journey to Jerusalem had taken over 3 months,longer than the actual construction of the walls.
So how could these Jews have possibly rebuilt several miles of wall and some 10 gates in only 52 days? The answer in found in verse 16: The work was "wrought of our God". In fact, it was so clear that the rebuilding of the walls was accomplished by God Himself that even the enemies of God had perceived that this was so. Its amazing that the enemies of God could have no doubts about the hand of God in this work, but a Jew like Josephus would write, contrary to Scripture, that it actually took 2 years and 4 months. It's sad that sometimes it is those who profess to be God's people that have a more difficult time believing than the heathen.
In the rest of the text we find that during this time, some of the nobles of Judah had been in league with the enemy: Tobiah! While many Jews had followed Nehemiah and worked fervently on the walls, apparently not every one of them had done so with a pure conscience. Perhaps during the entire 52 days there were intrigues and conspiracies going on in the background. Yet the work was finished because God was in it. This reveals the wonderful relationship between God and man that exists when doing a great work for God. We see that God involves man in His work, and yet He can accomplish His work in spite of man. In other words, God is going to fulfill His great work whether you take part or not. So let us consider this truth now in more detail by looking at both sides of this relationship that exists in the work of God.
Above all else that phrase stands out: "This work was wrought of our God". In Nehemiah's eyes as well as the enemies', the walls had been rebuilt by God. This brings out the following three facts:
Isaiah 14:24 says, The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand. This is so clearly borne out in the completion of the walls by Nehemiah. Well over 100 years before Nehemiah had even left for Jerusalem, God had prophesied through Daniel when the walls would be rebuilt. Nehemiah 6:15 came as no surprise to God, for He had been planning it from the beginning, and it would be done exactly as He foretold!
In Daniel 9:24-27, the angel Gabriel came to Daniel with an important prophecy concerning Israel and Jerusalem (Some of which is yet to be fulfilled). God gives the duration for this prophecy as 70 weeks. Now we must be careful that we do not mistake this word "weeks" as a period of 7 days. The Hebrew word translated as "weeks" simply means a period of seven and can be seven days, seven years, or seven whatevers. Just as there was a weekly sabbath on the 7th day, we learned previously that there was a sabbath of years occurring every 7th year. In the beginning of chapter 9, Daniel had just figured out Jeremiah's prophecy concerning the 70 year captivity. Clearly, in light of this context, the 70 sets of 7 are dealing with years. Daniel had understood the 70 year captivity, and now God was revealing to him a prophecy which encompasses 70 x 7 years for a total of 490 years.
God told Daniel in verse 25 that from "the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem" to "the Messiah the Prince" there would be a time period of 49 years (7 weeks) and another of 434 years (62 weeks) for a total of 483 years. During this time the walls of Jerusalem would be rebuilt. After the 483 years, we learn from verse 26 that the Messiah would be "cut off" and this refers to the crucifixion of Jesus. We cannot take the time in this lesson to show this, but exactly 483 years passed from the command to rebuild Jerusalem, probably the decree of Artaxerxes in Nehemiah 2:8, to the death of Jesus. God had a foreordained plan for when the walls would be rebuilt, and all this was accomplished in accordance with the timing of the slaying of our Lord, the Lamb of God.
Nehemiah's testimony in verse 16 of our text was that the work was "wrought of our God". It had been the good hand of God that had brought Nehemiah to Jerusalem (2:8), and it had been God that had brought the counsel of the enemy to nought (4:15). The psalmist said, "Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it" (Psalm 127:1). Gamaliel gave counsel in Acts 5:34-39 to leave the apostles alone saying that if their work was of man it would come to nothing, but if it was of God, "Ye cannot overthrow it". Paul said, "Neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase" (1 Corinthians 3:7).
All of our attempts to do a work for God will be in vain unless He is in it. Moses warned the Israelites not to try to enter into the promised land after God had said that none 20 years or older would enter except Joshua and Caleb. However, the Bible says they "presumed to go up" anyway and were defeated by the Canaanites (Numbers 14:40-45). King Saul wanted to smite the Philistines who had risen up against the people of God, but he didn't do things God's way and therefore the kingdom was taken from him (1 Samuel 13:8 - 14). You can never achieve success in the work of God without God.
We are not here to initiate a great work for God - that is His prerogative. Nehemiah did not come up with the idea to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. It was God's idea and God planted the desire in Nehemiah's heart (2:12). The origin of every great work that we can do comes from the heart of God. It is God who wants to build a church; it is God who wants sinners to be saved; and it is God who foreordained that believers should be conformed to the image of Christ. We don't need to pray for God to help us in our work, we need to ask God to give us power to enable us help Him in His work! When Joshua met the captain of the LORD's host (Joshua 5:13-15), he asked him, "Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?", but this captain told him, "you have the question all wrong: It's not whether I am on your side or not, its whether you are on God's side".
Having looked at the Divine side of the work, there is no denying that there must be a human side. Because it was not possible for man to bring salvation to himself, God became a man in order that we might be saved. As Isaiah said of God, "he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him" (Isaiah 59:16). When God needed the walls of Jerusalem to be rebuilt, he used a man to accomplish it. Jesus revealed God's plan to the church in Acts 1:8 - "ye shall receive power" and "ye shall be witnesses unto me". This is why when Cornelius needed to know how to be saved, no angel was permitted to tell him the way, but rather, he was told to fetch Peter and "he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do" (Acts 10:1 - 7).
Now let us consider some more doctrine that we might derive from this great truth:
1. To be used, you simply must be willing to be a channel
It almost seems like a paradox to say on one hand that God is going to fulfill His plans with or without our help, and yet on the other hand to say that it is His will to use man in His work. The only way to properly understand this is to realize that we are simply a channel through which His work will be carried out. God is looking for an Isaiah that will respond to God's plea, "Whom shall I send", with " Here am I; send me". He is looking for a Philip who will obey Him when He asks, "Arise, and go toward the south" so that an Ethiopian might be saved. He is looking for a Paul who will accept the "thorn in the flesh" when He says "My grace is sufficient for thee".
How I praise Thee, precious Saviour, That thy love laid hold of me;
Thou hast saved and cleansed and filled me That I might Thy channel be.
Channels only, blessed Master, But with all Thy wondrous pow'r
Flowing through us, Thou canst use us ev'ry day and ev'ry hour.
God doesn't need a person loaded with talent. He just needs someone who is willing to be a channel for His enabling power. When the apostles were looking for men to take care of the daily ministration of widows, they weren't looking for someone with great organizational skills or lots of money. They said, "look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom" (Acts 6:3). Men who were of an honest report would be those in submission to the commandments of God. Men who were filled with the Holy Ghost would be men who were yielded to the Spirit's direction. Men full of wisdom would be those who had the fear or respect for God. The apostles were looking for men who had allowed God to use them as a channel for His work.
2. Not everyone has to be a channel for the work to be done
Sometimes we mistakenly think that if everyone in the church would do what God wanted, then the church could really go forward. We think that if everyone would get right then we could have revival. Yet, Nehemiah was able to build the walls in spite of the fact that not all the Jews involved were right with God. Our text said that "there were many in Judah" that had bound themselves under an oath to Tobiah, the enemy. Nevertheless, God still built the walls. God can accomplish His work despite the enemy and the backslider. Jonathan told his armor bearer, "there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few" (1 Samuel 14:6). It may only take you to be a channel in order for God to do something really wonderful.
Perhaps the most important lesson to draw from this study is the realization of the
finality of the work: that eventually the walls will be finished. There is an end to God's
work! One day soon, God's work with the church will be over. After that, it will be too
late to have been involved. No doubt those that had been channels in the rebuilding of the
walls rejoiced when the work had been completed, but Nehemiah said that the heathen round
about were "much cast down in their own eyes". No one will say at the judgement
seat of Christ, "I wish I had spent more time at the office" or "I wish I
had lived more for myself"; but there are going to be an awful lot of Christians who
will hang their heads in shame and say "I wish I had been a channel". Right now
it may not be too late to get involved, but perhaps tomorrow the end will come, and there
will never again be a chance to do a great work for God.