Today we are going to start a three day mini-series that will walk us through the 11 Kingdom building lessons found in Nehemiah. We will be drawing an analogy between Nehemiah’s project of rebuilding the walls around the city of Jerusalem and our endeavor to build the authentic Kingdom of God in our hearts and our community.
In this passage Nehemiah takes a midnight survey of the damage. When he was back in Persia he had only heard reports about the ruined condition of the city. Now, before he would make a public proclamation and commit himself to take on this project, he needed to know what he was getting into. Not only was he going to be leading a large construction project – which was a big enough task in itself – he was also going to be leading the people into a political struggle as the building of the walls would no doubt raise opposition from nearby enemies.
Jesus told us that, to be His disciple, we must count the cost as well (Luke 14:25-25). Entering into and dwelling in the Kingdom of God is not an easy task. It will require sacrifice and commitment through good times and extremely difficult times. It is not for the weak of heart or the wishy-washy. To be a follower of Jesus is an all or nothing thing. Jesus promised that He would provide the strength we need, but He did not say it would be a walk in the park. Each one of us needs to take a ride around the city wall of our heart and our church and ask, “Am I ready to go the distance with this project, even when it seems like everything is against me?”
As you read through chapter three notice how the project was divided up. Each section of the wall was assigned to a different family unit. This is a beautiful picture of how the church should function. The task of creating space for God to do His work in our lives and spheres of influence is far too great a task for any one person or a small “discipleship” committee. It is the task of the church itself and if each family unit would take on the full responsibility of their own piece of the wall, then, collectively, we will have a cohesive, solid, well-built space where God can do amazing things. The key here is to realize that every person — from the oldest to the youngest, from the most brilliant to the simplest, from the most talented to the most basic — has a part that they can play in the collective spiritual formation of a church community. It is our job to discover which piece of the wall each family should take and then, joyfully jump into the job of building it.
Here we can refer back to Monday’s devotional. Anytime we try to do something that will bring honor and glory to God, we are going to run up against fierce opposition. Spiritual warfare is alive and well and takes on many different forms. For some it will come through the physical political entities that will try to squelch any type of organized God-honoring systems. For others it will come through dissension amongst the ranks, with Christian brothers and sisters fighting with each other and not being able to reconcile. For others it will be a battle with sinful temptations that drag you away from your first love and take you away from the collective project.
Whatever the enemy may be, be assured that the community will be attacked on several fronts. We need to stay tied together. Notice what Nehemiah did. He divided the population in half. While the enemy plotted, Nehemiah prayed and posted. He had half the people working while the other half stood guard over their back. He told them to work and watch, they were to grunt and guard, and they were challenged to build and beware.
In Christian community this emphasizes the need for two important things.
1. We must be in accountability relationships with one another. Each person needs to have one other person (at least) watching their back against an enemy assault.
2. We must be in constant prayer for one another. Intercessory prayer is the greatest tool against the enemy that we have for our community.
As the leader of Jerusalem, Nehemiah inherited a huge problem. The governors who were before him had taken advantage of their political position and had lorded it over the poor. They espoused a policy that made the rich richer and the poor poorer. Nehemiah knew that, in God’s economy, there is no place for social stratification. In order to help the poor and needy to become healthy, contributing members of the working community, he voluntarily denied himself the special treatment that the previous leaders had enjoyed.
Nehemiah saw his role as a leader as that of a servant. God had placed him in leadership for the good of the people, not for self-indulgence. If our communities are going to be healthy and authentically building the Kingdom of God, then our leaders need to have servant hearts. Also, our “wealthy” need to be willing to help those in need in order to bring every person into a place where they can be a vital, contributing factor to the health and growth of the community.