23. “Rise Up and Build” (Nehemiah)
Many lessons of a very practical nature might be
gleaned from the inspired diary of “the king’s cupbearer”
(Neh. 1:11). For the present purposes, however, we shall concentrate on the
qualities of character that constituted Nehemiah “a wise
masterbuilder” (1 Cor. 3:10) and give us guidelines to do
Having learned from his brother Hanani (Neh. 1:2)
that the wall of Jerusalem was broken down and the gates burned (v. 3), Nehemiah
pleaded with Artaxerxes for permission to travel to the land of his fathers to
promote a reconstruction program (2:1-8). After a long and rigorous journey he
finally arrived at Jerusalem; within only three days, ever the tireless worker,
he was up and about on an inspection tour of the city and its fortifications.
Nehemiah found many adversaries ready to hinder the work (v. 10), while very few
were willing to help in the building.
After viewing the desolations, he called the
nobles and the priests together and explained his purpose, and how the king had
supported him. They were so impressed that their response was immediate,
concerted, and sincere — “Let us rise up and build” (v. 18).
The work was well organized by Nehemiah, and construction began without
But it did not go perfectly; the characters of
Nehemiah and his brethren, like ours, must be tempered by adversity and
hardship. There was opposition from the neighboring Samaritans and Gentiles, who
used both guile and physical threats in an attempt to intimidate Nehemiah and
impede his work. Most troublesome yet, there were internal dissensions: the
Tekoite nobles would not “put their necks to the work” (3:5), and
the men of Judah were prophets of pessimism (4:10). But Nehemiah did not
despair, or lose hope; he maintained his impressive example and cheerful
disposition at all times. It was characteristic of this man (and typical of
Christ!) that he prayed for the forgiveness of the sins of the people as
though they were his sins too! “We have sinned”, said he,
and he was willing to share in the guilt of his nation, his
“ecclesia” (1:6,7). The knowledge of the sins of his brethren did
not discourage him, nor impel him to disassociate himself from the work, but
only to redouble his efforts to bring the nation to repentance and finish their
task. His enthusiasm was infectious, and the great work of repairing the wall
was completed in only 52 days (6:15), “for the people had a mind to
“ ‘The people had a mind to
work.’ When that is condensed into one word, it spells cooperation.
The same idea was expressed by the apostles in such terms as ‘one
mind’, ‘like-minded’, and ‘with one accord’. This
thought should impress us deeply, because it is the only way possible for an
ecclesia to succeed.
“If we do not work together, our love will
grow cold; bitterness and evil speaking will be generated, and if this is
augmented by the continual agitation of some crotchet which has been developed
by our desire to have our own way, the foundations of our ecclesia will
disintegrate and the whole structure will collapse. We must be on our guard at
all times, and examine our purpose and motives....” (G. Gibson, “The
People Had a Mind to Work”, The Berean Christadelphian, Vol. 59,
No. 12 — Dec. 1971 — p. 354).
Chapter 3 of Nehemiah enumerates 44 teams who
begin work on the wall. Each team is assigned its own portion to build.
Did some complain about the quality of their brethren’s work at other
stations? Did others grumble because they could not be everywhere and do
everything and supervise? Did some sit down and refuse to help?: ‘We just
are not sure that we can approve of all the details of this operation.’ In
the divine retrospect on the work of Nehemiah, all such petty hindrances and
worries are put to one side. “Let us rise up and build” was the
mandate; this call to the men of the city did not admit of any paltry quibbles.
The work was too great to let personalities and prejudices and pride stand in
It is the same with us as we strive to fortify
God’s “city” today. There may be fears without, fightings
within; but each brother, each individual ecclesia has pressing responsibilities
near to home. Each of us has his portion of the “wall” to build. No
matter what we think of our neighbor’s building, or that “shoddy bit
of work” way across on the other side, when the True Masterbuilder comes
to inspect the work, each of us will be judged on his own
“Every unit of the body must do its part by
— ‘....speaking the Truth in love,...growing up into him in all
things, who is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined
together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the
effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the
body unto edifying of itself in love’ (Eph. 4:15,16).
“This is the only formula of a true
ecclesia. What we do for our brethren and sisters, is what we do to God. If what
we do is dominated by love, all will be well, but if we are not truly motivated
by love and kindness in all we say and do, there will be no edification, and no
bodily growth, and we will be brought into condemnation, and will never enter
the kingdom of God. For, said Jesus,
‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of
the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me’ (Matt.