Come, and let us build. These were the words that Nehemiah used to address the people when he at last came from the king of Persia and stood among them in the rubble of Jerusalem. “Come, and let us build.” I pray that each one of us may hear that as the call of the risen Lord Jesus Christ to be busy in the work of His church and kingdom.
Christ said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against her.” All the building of the glorious kingdom of our God is performed by His mighty hand of grace. But He is pleased to use us as His instruments and as His servants. We love His kingdom and everything connected with that kingdom. What a privilege it is to give ourselves to the only meaningful work on earth under the sun: the building of the glorious kingdom of God and His church.
Come, and let us build. I pray that we may hear that today as the irresistible call, the exciting call of the Lord to be busy, to busy ourselves in the things of His cause and kingdom, to build up the church by maintaining the truth of the Scriptures; by maintaining the Reformed, biblical creeds; by preaching the truth of the gospel; by being involved in heartfelt evangelism and the spread of this glorious gospel. Build the walls by teaching the children of the church the Bible stories, for sure, but teach them also the blessed doctrines and the life of holiness and godliness. Let not the church fall into the ruins of indifference. Let not the church be overtaken by the weeds of heresy. Let not the church be torn down by fighting and divisions. But, come, let us build.
And build up the walls of your own spiritual life. In II Corinthians 7:1 we read, “Dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Is your spiritual life a shambles, like a broken-down wall, strewn with rocks of good intentions, never put back in place; gaping holes of indifference, that allow the world inside your heart and allow things in your life that cause others to reproach your God? Come, let us build up in the true faith in Jesus Christ.
Build up your family. Build up your marriage. Teach your children. Equip them. Build your marriage solidly upon the Word of God, love for God, and sacrifice one for another. The great work of the kingdom of God: Come, let us build.
And I pray that the response will be, “Let us rise up and build.” This was the response of God’s people to Nehemiah’s call.
I pray that sacrifices of time, energy, money will be considered a light thing for us. I pray that God will give us leaders, spiritually, to inspire us—elders and deacons to lead us. And I pray that, as we will also face opposition and discouragement in this building, even as Nehemiah faced opposition and discouragement aplenty, we may not draw back but say, as Nehemiah said: “The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build” (v. 20).
We come today to the third message on the life of Nehemiah. It is taken from Nehemiah 2:11-20. After a wearying journey of many months, Nehemiah sees Jerusalem for the first time in his life. Nehemiah, you will remember, was the king’s cupbearer in Persia. He had received word of the devastation in which Jerusalem remained, and he had been told that the walls of Jerusalem had still not been rebuilt. He was a man who sought the welfare of the children of Israel. In his heart God had placed a strong purpose—that he would give himself for the cause of God.
He was overwhelmed, no doubt, when at last he arrived and saw for himself the city’s crumbled walls, charred gates, and devastation. From the Scriptures he knew what the city of God ought to be. Jerusalem (Psalm 122) is builded as a city that is compact together, where there would be thrones of judgment. Jerusalem, in its walls and in its houses and in its orderliness, was a picture of the cause of God upon the earth. And he saw her, now, suffering—suffering under the effects of sin, under the effects of the judgments of God upon forsaking God. He has arrived within Jerusalem and sees this devastation firsthand.
There are two facts revealed in his arrival that are quite significant. First of all, as we read the passage in Nehemiah chapter 2 we see that there was no fanfare when he arrived. There was no welcome party. Although rumors had been circulated by the Jews’ enemies, and even the enemies knew there was a man who was come to seek the welfare of the children of Israel (v. 10), yet the nobles and the princes and the priests of Jerusalem formed no welcome-line to Nehemiah. And Nehemiah himself approaches without any religious hoopla, no brass bands to drum up support, no boasts, no enlistment program, no inspirational address to help the people catch the vision. No, he arrives as the servant of God who is looking to God for his strength, to God for his wisdom, and to God for his direction. We read in verse 12, “Neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem.”
The second thing that we are told is that he took time to rest (v. 11): “So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days.” This is exactly what Ezra did thirteen years before. He, too, came and rested. Physical rest was needed. The journey of months had taken its toll upon Nehemiah. And a great work stood before him. Therefore he sought to be refreshed. Tiredness robs us of perspective, multiplies our anxieties, and makes everything appear burdensome. So he rested.
It was after he had rested that Nehemiah performed a moonlight inspection of Jerusalem’s walls—one of the most dramatic scenes in the book of Nehemiah. We read: “And I arose in the night … and I went out by night by the gate of the valley.” This inspection was done in the night out of secrecy that, to Nehemiah, was very important at that point. The rulers, men such as Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem (of whom we will learn more in the coming weeks), had lobbied the king of Persia to have the work on the walls of Jerusalem cease by force. So Nehemiah wants to keep the enemies in the dark as long as possible concerning his intention and give them no opportunity to rally opposition before he can even start.
As for the Jews (the priests, the nobles, the rulers, and the working men), Nehemiah does not want a big display. He wants to avoid the question as to what his purpose was that he had in mind. So, with a select few whom he takes with him, in secret he goes forth to inspect the walls. It was a thorough inspection, out of the gate leading to the valley. Jerusalem was built on the top of cliffs. Stones had rolled down when the walls were destroyed. He uses the obscurity of the dung port (the sewage canal). He passes through the gate of the fountain of the king’s pool, we read. Wherever he goes, it is a scene of devastation. The walls of Jerusalem were broken down and the gates were consumed with fire. Nebuchadnezzar and his soldiers had done a thorough job, a spiteful job, so that the beast, we read, upon which Nehemiah rode could not pick its way across the rubble. Nehemiah had to dismount and jump from rock to rock. Anything that could be used for defense had been pulverized. All the memorable structures displaying Zion’s beauty had been marred by fire and crushed by sledgehammers. His assessment was that it was a ruinous heap. His assessment was that the work before him of restoring these walls and this city was daunting and demanding and hazardous. And humanly impossible.
This is very applicable to today. You love God’s cause. You desire the good of God’s cause. Well, you are to make an assessment. You must not be under any delusion. The walls of Jerusalem, as we have said, represent those things that must be in place if we are to enjoy our salvation—those things that must be steadfast if we are to prosper in our faith in Jesus Christ. The walls of the church are the preaching of the pure doctrines of Jesus Christ, a God-centered worship in the call to faith and repentance, and a holding fast to the word of life and truth. In our own individual lives, those walls are the knowledge of Holy Scripture, a life of prayer, a life of holiness, a life of repentance, the communion of saints, faithful marriages, loving families. These are the walls. When we pray, “Build up the walls of Zion,” we are praying, “Lord, preserve all of these things in their place.”
Now inspect the walls quietly. Walk around. Gain an understanding. Look at it. The church, today, in the world—how much rubble! How much has fallen apart! Is the worship of God as He requires it, or is the worship of the church that which suits men? The building blocks of the wall, the foundation stones, the Reformed and biblical creeds, are discarded. Emotion is mistaken for faith. Holiness is forsaken. The allowance of divorce for every cause and remarriage and Sabbath desecration and the tolerance of unholy lives—the church’s walls are always in danger of becoming rubble.
But look upon your own walls, your own spiritual lives. Do you have little interest in the gospel? Do you give way to doubt in the midst of your difficulties? What about how you come to church? Do you come to church with love for God and a desire to hear His Word? What about your personal walls? Inspect those personal walls of maintaining in your life those things that must be there if you are to prosper spiritually. What about your Sabbath observance? What about the purity of your life, sexually? What about your friendships? What about your family? What about your marriage? Make an inspection. Certainly you must find that it is so easy for all of these things to fall down around us.
This was the word, now, of Nehemiah after he made his inspection: “Come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.” As he stood the next day before the people, that was a spiritually electrifying moment, a moment of true courage and true faith. I would hardly have blamed Nehemiah if, after his inspection, he had booked himself the next morning on the first camel train back to Persia. I could hardly blame him if he had said, “I can’t do this! There’s no sense in trying. This is a hopeless cause.” But instead of that, this servant of the Lord addresses the people with these words: “Come, and let us build.” He walked by faith. He saw the difficulties. He saw the opposition. He understood it better than any other man. The Jews had returned some seventy-five years earlier. For seventy-five years they had been looking at those strewn boulders that had formerly been the walls of Jerusalem. This was not going to be an easy thing to do. But Nehemiah is focused upon God. He saw God who is invisible. Against hope he believed in hope. He embraced the living God by faith. Nehemiah saw that the founder and builder of the city of Jerusalem, the church of God, is God!
And, in faith, he stepped forward in leadership. The next morning, instead of quietly exiting the city, he comes into the public eye with a direct and challenging word: “Come, and let us build.” We read, “Then I said unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.”
Notice two things in Nehemiah’s call, both of which things are crucial. First of all, he identified himself with the people. “Ye see the distress that we are in.” The man had arrived just a few days before. He does not say, “I see the distress you are in.” Oh, no. “That we are in. I am one with you.” Oh, the need for unity of heart in the Lord’s work. Not separation from the church’s woes. Not condescension toward those who are immersed in those woes. But true unity and compassion with the church of Jesus Christ.
Then note, secondly, that his call struck a deep spiritual nerve: “Let us build that we be no more a reproach.” And he means, not personally, but a reproach upon the name of God. He says that the big issue here is not our reputation and our comfort and our problems, but the shame that all of this is bringing upon the name of our God. For, you see, if nothing else would stir a child of God into action, that will, that must. The name of God is being reproached. We must do something! If the church has any spiritual life, that will get the church up and moving. What is it that is being said about God!? What is being said about God when church members act like the world? What is being said about God when church members, you and I, have no time for the Word of God? What is being said about God when the truth of God’s Word is compromised? What is being said about my God when a child of God acts and talks like the world? Here is the nerve of grace: That we be no more a shame to our God.
He encouraged the people. He encouraged them, first of all, by reminding them of what God had already done. We read in verse 18, “Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me.” He told them of the gracious work of God, of how he as a cupbearer to the king was given the opportunity to bring Jerusalem’s need before the king and of how the king had been favorable to all of his requests and had authorized that the work be done. That was no little thing. The work had the authorization of the king. So he encouraged them that the good hand of God was already upon them.
Second, he encouraged them in God. In two things about God, especially—His power and His omnipresence. “The hand of my God which was good upon me.” This God has a mighty hand, a hand that is present with us. And this God is a God of great power, great ability. He is with us.
We read, “And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.” The people were not disobedient. They answered the call of Nehemiah. By faith working within them, and livened by God’s servant, they expressed a resolution to be devoted to the work of the Lord. In the same faith with which Israel went forward at the Red Sea when Moses said, “Go forward,” so also now the people of God go forward in faith.
Does this resolution work in your soul? God has called you to be active in your church, to work unto the church’s good and edification. God has called you to be active in your family, in your marriage, in your life, to build up the walls, to be to His honor and to His glory. Now, let us go. Let us strengthen our hands in God and let us go forth unto this work dependent upon God.
There was going to be opposition. Nehemiah knew it. There was a troublesome trio. We are going to learn more about them in the coming weeks. There was a man called Sanballat, who was a political leader. Sanballat means “sin gives life.” He was a wicked man. There was also a man called Tobiah. He was a religious leader. And there was Geshem, who was a merchant. He was a materialistic man. These three men were going to become the source of strong opposition. Opposition is always present in the building of God’s kingdom. Wherever that kingdom is—in the church, in the home, in your own personal life—there will always be opposition. There will be verbal assaults. These three men laughed Nehemiah and the people to scorn and despised them. Then they began to impute evil motives to Nehemiah. “Will he rebel against the king?” they said. That was intended to make Nehemiah afraid.
Nehemiah, however, hardly paused in his work to answer their lies. We read in verse 20: “Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.” God will prosper us. Nehemiah exalts God, and he is not intimidated by their insinuations and their smear campaign. He believed that God would bless the project. And that is all that mattered to him. He instructed the workers to ignore the taunts of the enemies. Let them talk, we have work to do. And he showed them that he would not be bullied by them. “You do not have a portion, you don’t have a place here, you don’t have a right. The king has authorized me, as the governor now of Jerusalem, to proceed with this work. It does not matter what you say. We are going on in the work that God gave us.” And he went on in the work. He would not take the time to dillydally or to engage in discussion with those men or to quibble with those who were scorning and objecting to the work. It was time for commitment to God’s cause. It was time for exertion of ability. It was time for involvement. It was time for sacrifice. It was time for wholehearted devotion to the Lord and His church and His work.
And that is the time also in which you live. It is time for those who love God’s church to say, “Come, and let us build.” It is time for all those who love the kingdom of God in the church and in their own lives and in marriage and in the family and in Christian schools—it is time for you to say, “Let us arise and build. The God of heaven, He will prosper us. Therefore we his servants will arise and build.”
Let us pray.
Father, we do thank Thee for Thy Word. We pray that it may be a blessing upon us in this day. Keep us faithful unto that glorious cause of Thy kingdom. In Jesus’ name, Amen.