Today we begin the book of Nehemiah (chapters 1-4), one of the most exciting and practical books in the Old Testament. There are so many lessons in Nehemiah’s story they practically write themselves! It is an excellent read if you are discouraged in the work God has called you to do. And aren’t we all discouraged at times?
Nehemiah is a contemporary of Ezra living in Susa. He is cupbearer to the king, a position which God has put him in, as we will see. Nehemiah receives word that the walls and gates of Jerusalem are still broken and burned; the people have not been able to rebuild them, and the city lies open to its enemies. This is a burden on Nehemiah, and God puts a vision on his heart to do something about it. He prays and fasts for several days and asks God for favor from the king. The king notices his countenance is unusually sad, and after a God-ordained conversation and decisive preparation, Nehemiah leaves Susa with permission, authority, and support to do what God has put on his heart: rebuild the walls.
Nehemiah is very strategic, a wonderful leader. He first assesses the condition of the walls and then engages all the people to work together, each working in their own section. We leave him in today’s reading in the middle of the reconstruction.
What are my takeaways today? First, if God puts something on your heart to do for His kingdom (2:12), He will make a way for it to happen. We can confidently trust Him to open the doors, provide the resources, and give us the wisdom to do it. Nehemiah repeatedly uses the phrase, “The gracious hand of my God was on me.” We can’t assume that every plan we think of is God’s plan, but if He puts a burden on your heart to do something that grows the kingdom, reaches others with the gospel, encourages, builds up, and equips the body, you can be pretty confident He’s in it. Our human flesh thinks up plans for our own glory, not His. Seek wise counsel from godly mentors, but trust God to make a way if He’s calling you to do it.
Second, each one of us has a part. We all have a “section of the wall” to build. Nehemiah called on all the people, not just the “professional builders” to take responsibility for a portion of the work that needed to be done. There were men and women, officials and poor people, perfume-makers, goldsmiths, priests, district rulers, Levites, and temple servants. People who had probably never built anything at all were willing to come out and do their part. Together, they accomplished the work. This encourages me when I feel overwhelmed that there is so much work to be done. I don’t have to do it all; I just have to be faithful to my part; I just need to get up every day, pick up my “hammer and chisel” and get busy on the section of kingdom work that He has equipped me and gifted me to do.
I love this little book. It reminds me of how big God is. It encourages me in the great things that He can accomplish when each one of His children does their part. What has God called you to do for the Kingdom? What’s your section of the wall?