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Battling and Building

Nehemiah 4:11-23


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Building is a battle.  Just finding good weather is tough for roofers.  It's too hot or too cold, it's raining or there's frost and it's too slippery.  It's too steep!!  Or the Pastor is too demanding!!!  Add to that how difficult it is to build anything in a city like ours w/ ridiculous zoning ordinances that don't make much sense, and town leadership that's all about money instead of community.


Well we each are trying to build something of our lives, of our family.  We each are trying to improve our homes.  We're trying to build a church and build the kingdom of God.  On top of all these challenges we each have personal struggles we are dealing with and the constant attack of our enemy Satan, who wants to destroy our lives and our life's work.


That's why I like this short passage in Nehemiah about battling and building.  They had a tool in one hand and a sword in the other.  They didn't have the luxury of a security force to back them up so they could focus on their work.  They had to multitask and keep one eye on the work and the other eye on the enemy.


ill.--like Gideon's troops - he was instructed to lead them to a brook to drink, and choose only those who crouched in battle stance and cupped the water up to their mouths, and not those who got down and lapped it like a dog, leaving their back exposed to attack.


We need to remember there's 2 worlds, one is seen and one is unseen.  Yes, we seem to just live in a physical world, but the spiritual world is just as real, and it is more powerful and eternal!  I challenge you to live in light of eternity, remembering your Creator, making sure He's your Savior, and allowing Him to be your helper as you go about your work and your lives.


And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease.

And it came to pass, that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you [Neh. 4:11-12].


The enemy planned a surprise attack. "We are going to take them when they are not looking for us."


What will be Nehemiah's strategy against a surprise attack?


Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows [Neh. 4:13].


Nehemiah put every man in the position where he could defend his own family, which made him more comfortable when he was building, of course. With his family at home, some distance away from him, a builder did not know whether or not they were safe. So Nehemiah put them with their families and armed them well.  And our first priority and main job on this earth is to take care of our family.  But remember, we're not just talking about providing food, shelter, and necessities of life, but also providing for them spiritually.  This includes loving and nurturing, but also training them, leading them to church to learn about their Creator...the one we all will face someday!


And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses [Neh. 4:14].


"Remember the Lord" was to be their motto, their rallying cry. As you may remember from history class -- in the Spanish-American War, our nation's battle cry was "Remember the Maine." The sinking of that ship motivated our response.  In World War I it was "Remember the Lusitania." In World War II it was "Remember Pearl Harbor." 9/11 happened and we said, "Never Forget".  It should motivate our response to Islamic Terrorism.  Napoleon always reminded his soldiers of some past history to stir them up to fight.


When Paul the apostle wrote his letters to a young preacher named Timothy, he gave him a rallying cry.

2 Timothy 2:8
8 Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:

That is the rallying cry of believers today. "Remember the Lord" was the rallying cry for the Jews in Nehemiah's day.


And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work [Neh. 4:15].


The Jews could go back to work now. The enemy had retired. They found they could not surprise the Jews.


Nehemiah is an ingenious fellow. He still has more strategy. I like him -- I wish I had him around today.


And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons; and the rulers were behind all the house of Judah. They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon [Neh. 4:16-17].


I love this. Each builder had a trowel in one hand with which to build, and in the other hand he carried a sword with which to defend himself. These two weapons or instruments should be in the hands of believers today. The trowel represents the fact that believers should build themselves up in the faith.


I disagree with folk who say that when a person is saved he should jump right in and start serving. I really don't think new converts ought to be used too quickly in a ministry. They first need to learn from experience that Jesus saves and keeps and satisfies. It is wonderful to hear that So-and-So was saved yesterday, or last week; but let us hear from him in a year or two years from today to see if he has been built up in the faith. You see, we need to be built up. The trowel needs to be in our hand.


Also we need to hold the sword of the Spirit. That is also important. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God with which we defend ourselves. We need the trowel in one hand and the sword in the other.


It's an unbalanced life that just focuses on life, money, and things...and then you die!  When you die is when eternity begins somewhere.  And besides, God wants something better for you while you are alive anyway!


For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me. And I said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another.

In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us [Neh. 4:18-20].


Nehemiah said, "I will watch. When you hear the trumpet, come to that spot, and we will meet the enemy head on."


So we laboured in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared [Neh. 4:21].


I don't know what union these men belonged to, but they certainly worked longer than eight hours. They worked from the rising of the sun until the stars appeared in the sky. Believe me, they were tired and weary in the work of the Lord.


Likewise at the same time said I unto the people, Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, that in the night they may be a guard to us, and labour on the day [Neh. 4:22].


To men who had come from far away places, like Jericho, Nehemiah said, "Stay close by, because we want you to be ready to guard at night."


So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, saving that every one put them off for washing [Neh. 4:23].


Nehemiah says, "Of course when we took a bath we took off our clothes." (You see, there is humor in the Bible. Even in a crisis like this, the Lord inserted a little humor.) Otherwise they never removed their clothes -- day or night. They were on guard all of the time. Oh, to be so clothed today with the armor of God!


They had a mind to work. v. 6

They had a heart to pray. v. 9

They had an eye to watch. v. 9 [seeing the spirit world]

They had an ear to hear. v. 20


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