Doing a Great Work for God
Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem..
At last the time had come - Nehemiah had arrived safely in Jerusalem which, as far as we know, was the first time in his life to visit the blessed city of his heritage. Nehemiah was now confronted at last with the real task for which he had been praying and burdened about. The excitement of the planning and preparation were over, and now it was time to actually get in and do the work. (Many derive all the satisfaction in the planning and preparing and pondering what it's going to be like when they get done and end never actually doing the work). It is at this point where many Christians fail in their work for God, but this was not the case for Nehemiah for as we shall see in Chapter 3, the work begins. What was the secret of Nehemiah's success? It was his attitude! As David Woods puts it, "Attitude determines altitude".
Some Christians take up an assignment with great enthusiasm though they never expect to actually fulfill it. After all there is so much excitement and recognition as well as a sense of fulfillment when one signs off to do a great work. Some Christians are sincere in their desire and eagerly present themselves for the work in the emotions of the occasion, but when the reality of the task sinks in they become overwhelmed with the immensity of the job. This was clearly not Nehemiah's attitude. He came to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls and he fully expected to do it. Verse 11 says that he only waited for three days in Jerusalem before getting down to business. Perhaps he wisely recognized that he needed rest from the long journey or maybe he did not want to arouse too much suspicion before he had time to form a plan. In either case, he soon got busy making a trip at night to view the broken walls and burned gates. This visit to the walls says a lot about his attitude toward the work and the preparation that he evidently thought was necessary.
No doubt one of the reasons for visiting the walls was to prepare a plan for the work. Nehemiah had probably never been to Jerusalem and what he knew of the layout of the walls was probably limited to what he had read about or been told by others. In order to do the job, he would need a firsthand knowledge of the condition and position of the walls and gates. Nehemiah had come to complete his task and he knew that no great work can ever be accomplished efficiently (if at all) without having a plan. As it has been said, "failing to plan is planning to fail".
Scanning through the verses found in chapter 3 reveals the vastness of the work that would have to be done. They would soon construct walls that would entirely encompass Jerusalem separated by 10 gates and several towers. When Nehemiah took his trip around the walls, he apparently was not able to make a full circuit perhaps due to lack of a workable path. Imagine what the walls must have looked like after almost 142 years had passed since their destruction. Not only was the work itself going to be huge, there would probably have to be some preparation around the walls before they could even begin. Nehemiah had to count the cost and see the reality of the amount of work that would be required.
Jesus spoke about the necessity of counting the cost in relationship to being a disciple in Luke 14:25-33. Many Christians fail to see that they have sufficiency in Christ to accomplish their great work. Nehemiah did not become dismayed by the immensity of his work because he knew that his abilities were not sufficient. Throughout the Book of Nehemiah, he shows a continued reliance on the sufficiency of God. Counting the cost is not something we should do in order to determine whether we are able to do a great work for God. No, we count the cost in order to remind ourselves that we must trust in God's ability and not our flesh. Paul said, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13).
Finally we may assume that Nehemiah needed to make his midnight visit in order to refresh and renew his great burden for the work. It is normal and expected that our desires and vision will not remain as strong as when we first accept a role in the great work of God. There will be peaks and valleys. There will be times when our soul is on fire for the work and there will be times when we wished we had never accepted the assignment. When our vision becomes stale and our burden cold, we need to stop and take a fresh look at the work. We need often to return to the walls and remember why our great work was so important!
It is too bad that some Christians have the attitude of solitude when it comes to the work of God. Perhaps they do not want to share in the credit or they know not how to work with others. There is no room for this kind of thinking in the good work of God. After viewing the walls, Nehemiah was confronted with his fellow countrymen consisting of the priests, rulers, nobles, and workers. His attitude toward them was one of inclusion. He knew that they would all be needed to effectively get the work done. Deuteronomy 32:30 mentions that one can chase a thousand, but two can put ten thousand to flight. In other words, doubling the man power caused a five-fold increase in the result. Look at the result in verse 18, they strengthened their hands for this good work. Oh what more we could accomplish when the Church cooperates together in the work. Even when we are doing a work that can only be done individually, there is still great value in including others. Let us see this from what Nehemiah was able to do:
First, in verse 17, Nehemiah reminded them of the condition of the walls and the need to rebuild them. He brought the opportunity to them just as it had been presented to him and this had the same effect. Now there were hundreds of people involved who had the same burden and enthusiasm as Nehemiah. He had in effect replicated himself. Not only would this improve the amount of work that would be done, it also purchased a great deal of security that the work would last. If any one person, including Nehemiah, were to get cold and backslide, there would be many there to help restore that one.
The next thing that Nehemiah did, in verse 18, was to share the testimony of what God had done. It is difficult, if not impossible, for a spirit-filled Christian to hear another's testimony of what God has done without being motivated. In fact we often err in holding back our testimony in such cases when it could be used in such a powerful way. Even if these people would not be able to take part in Nehemiah's work, their faith in God would have been increased. This would have the affect of improving their efforts in any current work or in motivating them to take part in a similar work. Now Nehemiah not only had people who shared his vision, he had a large group of people who believed that God was going to rebuild the walls. Nothing could stop them now!
Nehemiah was first confronted with his soon to be adversaries in verse 10 when he first arrived in Jerusalem. The Bible does not say how Nehemiah came to know their feelings, but we may well assume that they were made public. Throughout the rest of the book, these three individuals would remain his chief enemies using all kinds of tactics to stop the work. It would be a good idea to stop and consider these men before examining Nehemiah's attitude toward them.
(Let me say right here anything you ever set out to do for God will be opposed. Mark it all the way down... There will always be adversity when you serve God! God uses it..
Ted W. Engstrom (1916- ) wrote, "Cripple him, and you have a Sir Walter Scott. Lock him in a prison cell, and you have a John Bunyan. Bury him in the snows of Valley Forge, and you have a George Washington. Raise him in abject poverty, and you have an Abraham Lincoln. Strike him down in infantile paralysis, and he becomes Franklin Roosevelt. Deafen him, and you have a Ludwig van Beethoven. Call him a slow learner; "retarded," and write him off an uneducable, and you have an Albert Einstein. Adversity is the True test of our Character...
Sanballat held some form of authority in Samaria which many believe was that of being the governor. The title of Horonite probably refers to being a citizen of the Samaritan city of Beth-horon. The daughter of Sanballat later married into the family of Eliashib, the high priest (13:28). It is quite probable then that Sanballat had his eyes set on a leadership role over Judah as well as Samaria and the marriage of his daughter may have been an attempt to strengthen his position with the Jews.
Tobiah had perhaps been a slave (servant) of the Persian court but had now risen to a position of considerable influence. Many believe he was the governor of Ammon at this time. He had quite a league with the Jews, many of which had sworn allegiance to him (Nehemiah 6:17-18) because of his family connections. In fact, later the high priest gave him a large room in the Temple for his personal use.
Geshem was probably the powerful chief of the Arabs dwelling south of Palestine. Geshem's involvement is especially mentioned in connection with plotting against the life of Nehemiah.
With a set of antagonists such as these, many would have started packing for home. First they tried to make Nehemiah feel that he was trying to start a work that would be impossible to accomplish. Then they tried to deflate his plan by stating that this work would be seen as rebellion against the King of Persia. Nehemiah showed absolutely no sign of fear or resignation, but on the contrary he displayed an incredible amount of determination. Again we see that he came with the attitude of finishing the job no matter what. Perhaps even greater though then this is the attitude of faith that he displayed. In verse 20 he makes it clear to his foes that the God of heaven would see to their success. His confidence and source of determination were rooted in his faith in both the ability and will of God. He reminded his enemies that they had no part and no connections with the work. Therefore, there would be absolutely no reason why they would be able to cause the work to stop.
Have you completed the work that God has set before you? Have you let the immensity of
the work or the words of the enemy prevent you from success? Is your burden what it was
when you made the decision to follow God's leading? Perhaps you need to examine your
attitude - it is essential for success.