Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Dec 21 2019 - Nehemiah 6:1-7:3 – The completion of the walls

The previous reading shifted the focus away from Nehemiah's work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem to the reformation of the society of the people of God – his concern to create a community pervaded by godliness. Now, however, our attention is turned back to the walls. The work has been continuing and is now nearing completion; the walls are finished and it only remained for the gates to be fitted.

Sanballat's taunts and threats have failed. He now tries new tactics to prevent the completion of the project. First he suggests that Nehemiah meets with him to discuss their differences and nominates a meeting place in the plain of Ono in the remote northwest corner of Judah on its border with Samaria. Nehemiah sees this as a plan to harm him or even kill him so he says that he is too busy supervising the building work.  Sanballat then turns to a campaign of misinformation – of false news and rumour – seeking to suggest that Nehemiah is planning sedition against Persia. Nehemiah replies with the simple assertion, "Not true." His own actions are transparent and speak for themselves. Nehemiah commits the whole matter to the Lord in prayer and carries on (v. 9).

Nehemiah is next encouraged to go into part of the temple reserved for priests to keep himself safe from attack. He sees this as an attempt to discredit him with the people and, instead of running away, continues in prayer and supervision of the building work until it is at last completed (v. 15).

The remarkable completion of this project in 52 days (6:15), bears testimony to Nehemiah's persistence and leadership, to the concerted action of the many who worked together amid hardships to see it through, but most of all to the goodness, grace and power of the living God who had protected Nehemiah and the builders from harm and had given them the strength to carry on.

But opposition did not go away. Verses 17-19 of chapter six tell us that Tobiah had significant influence with the nobles of Judah and continued to stir up trouble for Nehemiah and to send him threats. But once again these were ignored by Nehemiah who pressed on with his work of organising the security of Jerusalem, placing it in the hands of his brother Hanani who had originally informed Nehemiah of the state of Jerusalem (see 1:2) and of Hananiah because, "he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most people do" (7:2). Nehemiah also ensured that those needed to conduct worship in the temple were appointed to their positions.

Christians in many parts of the world today face threats, and campaigns of misinformation like those suffered by Nehemiah. We read of Christians in Muslim countries who are imprisoned on trumped up charges of insulting the prophet Muhammed. We read of Christians in North Korea who are imprisoned simply for being Christians and for possessing and reading a copy of the Scriptures. It is too easy for us to say that, like Nehemiah, they should give themselves to prayer and carry on. We also need to pray for them. We need to be aware of the threats they face, to do what we can to counter the false claims made against them and to campaign for their release from prison and for them to enjoy the freedom to worship and serve the Lord.

We also need to take to heart the vital importance of prayer in our work of building the kingdom of God and to give ourselves to prayer – to corporate prayer and to individual prayer; to planned times of prayer and to "arrow prayers" in moments of immediate need. We need to be aware that without the help of our God we cannot be effective in the work of the kingdom.

Lord God, give us the vision, discipline, courage and persistence that we see in Nehemiah. Help us to work well together to build your kingdom and make Christ known. May those around who do not know you recognise that the living God is with us and want to learn more of you. We pray this, Lord, not for ourselves alone, but for your church throughout the world, and especially those who face daily threats and persecution. Lord, confound those who oppose your work and scorn your name.

Peter Misselbrook