On Christian Responsibility- 1/31/12


By Pastor Gregory J. Scalzo


            In the book of Nehemiah, we have a historical narrative that provides for us a wonderful symbol of what our walk and determination should be as believers in Jesus.  Unfortunately, all too often we as individuals and the church as a whole fall short of this model.  Just how do you reckon your place in Christ our Lord?


            BACKGROUND:  Much of the Jewish population had been taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar around 586 B.C.  When the Persians defeated the Babylonians, Cyrus the Great permitted Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple (approximately 536 B.C.).  Decades later, the returned exiles were in great distress.  Nehemiah, a descendant of the captives who remained in the east, was the personal cupbearer of the reigning Persian king, Artaxerxes.  Hearing of the plight of his kinsman and the condition of the city—the wall of Jerusalem remained broken down and its gates burned—Nehemiah weeps and fasts and prays to God.  You will find this prayer in Nehemiah chapter 1 to be one of the most moving petitions in the Old Testament.  Artaxerxes sees Nehemiah’s sadness.  When Nehemiah tells him it is because the city, the place of his fathers' tombs, lies in waste, Artaxerxes gives him permission in 445 B.C. to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city.  He also provides timber for the project.


            Reading:  Nehemiah 2:11-4:23; 6:15-16


            After Nehemiah makes a survey of the terrible conditions of the wall around Jerusalem, he speaks to the Jewish officials, nobles, and priests.  He reviews with them the current condition:


Neh 2:17a

            Then I said to them, "You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire." (NKJVTM)


            Jerusalem is a city is in ruins.  In many ways is that not the condition of the church as well as the society around us?  Things are terribly wrong.  The very walls that define us are shattered.  Christian values are fading from our generation, and the church too often seems powerless, confused, and discordant.  The enemy seems to have successfully brought down the defenses, and the job before real believers seems monumental.  Many of your lives might also reflect this destruction and frustration.  You may indeed feel that the walls have come down and your life and family lie in waste.

Nehemiah goes on to tell them:


Neh 2:17b

            "Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach." (NKJVTM)


And after Nehemiah fills them in about how God has worked and how the king had given him authority over the task, they reply, “Let us rise and build.”  The Scripture tells us that then they set their hands to this good work.  The question is:  Are we, believers and followers of Jesus Christ, as ready and willing as they were to do the good work which He has called us to complete for His kingdom?  Are we eager to rebuild the ruined walls of our society?  Of our churches?  Of our families?  And although this question applies to every believer—male, female, young and old—I direct my question specifically to Christian men.  God has called you for such a time as this.

            In this endeavor, the Jews where confronted with three enemies—Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arab—who first ridiculed the Jews and then conspired to come and attack them.  But the Jews proved more than adequate in their defense.  Back in verse 10 of chapter 2 we are told that when these adversaries initially heard of Nehemiah’s arrival “they were deeply disturbed that a man had come to seek the well-being of the children of Israel.”  The same response is true today when men of faith step out in real commitment to the well-being of the children of God.  

            What is recorded in chapter 3 is a thorough account of the building project, listing the names of the different groups involved and the precise area of the wall each built.  And you may have wondered why such detail is included in Scripture.  You begin with Eliashib the high priest arising with his brethren and building the city’s Sheep Gate.  They consecrate it and hang its doors.  And then verse 1 tells us the extent of the section of the wall which they built, followed by:

Neh 3:2

2          Next to Eliashib the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built. (NKJVTM)


            Chapter 3 continues this way listing a specific section of the wall and then the work being none right next to it.  If you have a map of Jerusalem at the time of Nehemiah, you will see that the Sheep Gate is at the far north of the city.  And as you follow the record of each section constructed, you move counterclockwise around the city till you come full circle in verse 32.  There were no gaps!  Everyone accomplished their part.  Only in verse 5 you read:


Neh 3:5

5          Next to them the Tekoites made repairs; but their nobles did not put their shoulders to the work of their Lord. (NKJVTM)


            Some believers have the attitude of those nobles.  Maybe they might see the hard labor as beneath them, or somehow not applying to them.  But our Lord came down and emptied Himself of the privileges of heaven to serve us.  Do we not all have the responsibility to put our shoulders to the work?  And I mentioned before, I am directing my focus specifically at Christian men.  1st Corinthians 16:13-14 declares:


1 Cor 16:13-14

13        Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.

14        Let all your things be done with charity.        (KJV)


Or, as the NIV puts it:


1 Cor 16:13-14

13        Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.

14        Do everything in love.                        (NIV)


            Clearly these Jewish men in Nehemiah’s day were strong, watchful, men of courage who stood firm in the faith.  But ladies, notice down in verse 12:


Neh 3:12

12 And next to him was Shallum the son of Hallohesh, leader of half the district of Jerusalem; he and his daughters made repairs.          (NKJVTM)


You Christian women also are called to build and repair the broken walls in our land.

            The point is, when everyone does the work God has ordained for them, the project is completed and the city is rebuilt.  And Christians, do not be mistaken.  We are called to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world (reflecting the eternal light of our Lord), and a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.  It is my contention that the church has been too often unsuccessful in her task because everyone—each individual—does not pull his or her weight.  Many neglect their section of the wall.

            Consider this successful project in Jerusalem.  If one person failed to do his part, there would be a gap in the defenses.  Either that or those next to him would have to do double the work.  But there is a limit to what any one person can accomplish in life.  We are limited by time and space and strength and resources.  Too often in the church some are strained with too many burdens because others refuse to do that which God requires of them.  The clergy-laity distinction is an example of this.  Certainly it was important that the high priest rose up early and got the work going—displaying true leadership.  But everyone was involved.  Christians often see the ministry as the place that God’s work is fulfilled and see themselves as little more than observers.  The result is either burned out ministers or ego-centered individuals that draw all the attention onto themselves.  There are many basic things that need to be accomplished for any local church or ministry just to operate, much of which is not glamorous.  Surely, the completion of the wall was glorious, but that could only happen if some of the people first dug down in the mud.  And digging in the mud is not glamorous, but it is necessary.  The Lord never meant for His people to have a “pew-only” mentality.  But this is only part of the problem.

            Many of us are turned off by ministries that so emphasize their appeal for money that the gospel fades into the background and God’s people are ridiculed by the world.  And yet true works of the Lord often suffer insufficiency.  It should not take brazen tactics to motivate the people of God.  And I have to ask, if each person did that which is reasonable and proper even in the area of their giving—doing that which God requires—would any true work of God suffer from lack of finances and would any requests have to be made at all?  But again, this is only part of the problem.

            The problem goes far beyond what you do for your local church or how you give to Christian works.  Really the issue is an issue of your entire life—your responsibility to your spouse, your parents, your children, your schools and jobs, the society around you, and the very special call God has for you.  You may not be a minister, but you have a ministry.  I believe the Lord has a specific blueprint for each of your lives to rebuild that section of the ruined wall He has placed directly in front of you.  And how do you build? 


1 Cor 3:12-15

12        Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw,

13        each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is.

14        If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.

15        If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.            (NKJVTM)


            In many ways our generation has been reduced to rubble.  And you can only do that which the Lord has given you to do.  But you should not do less!  The burden is easier when shared by each.  The work might be tough, but enjoyable when every believer is eager to put his shoulder to the task.  But I’m sure we all know people who, in selfishness, suck the oxygen right out of the room.  They take and never give.  And the work becomes weary and tedious for the rest.  Rarely can the project be completed, or it is completed only by a strain on others God never intended.  You’ve seen them in family situations and school and job situations.  But it was never meant to be in the church of the living God.  The degree of cooperation and commitment displayed by these Jews in Nehemiah’s time is indeed rare.  Christians, you must build and restore that part of the wall God has entrusted to you, and every one of you has a section designated with your name.    Build following the prescriptions of Scripture and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to the glory of the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The undertaking is multifaceted involving your commitment to your church, your family, your ministry, and every arena in which the Lord God desires you to shine—that the walls be complete for the next generation and the defenses established against the enemies of God.  In this serious time that we are in, we can no longer allow Satan to enter by the gaps.

            Notice the reaction of God’s enemies on hearing that the wall was being rebuilt.  Sanballat was furious and very indignant, and he mocked the Jews (4:1).  He spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and in his ridicule he said, “What are these feeble Jews doing?  Will they fortify themselves?...  Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?...  Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.”  Beside the derision (which we should expect when we step out to do that which is right and holy and noble and good) notice how much Sanballat underestimates what God’s people can accomplish when they work together.  Nehemiah continues the account:


Neh 4:6

6          So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. (NKJVTM) {Emphasis added}


            And that is the key.  The people had a mind to work.  And that makes the enemies of God mad.  When we as believers set our hands to God’s work, it makes not only the human adversaries of God mad, but it riles up the demonic realm.


Neh 4:7-8

7          Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry,

8          and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion.      (NKJVTM)


            In verse 11, the adversaries say, “They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease." (NKJVTM)  Too often God’s people are unaware of the spiritual battle they are in.  And too often they are unaware that believers in Christ must wrestle against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, and against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).  So they are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).  But in this account, Nehemiah and the Jews are aware of their enemies’ plot.  And look at what they do (we can learn a lesson from it):  They pray to God (verse 9).  They position men with swords, spears and bows at the weakest point and the point of most likely attack (verse 13).  They deal with fear by first remembering in faith whose battle it really is and then remembering what they are fighting for—their very families:


Neh 4:14

14        And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses." (NKJVTM)


            There is a demonic tide that has arisen against your family and our very society.  If you understand this battle and the Lord whom you serve, how can you not arise and fight to complete the wall?

            Then Nehemiah had half of his men work at the construction and half wearing armor and holding weapons (verse 16).  And those who built had swords girded at there sides as they built.  Verse 17 gives the vivid description of this readiness, telling us that “with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon.”  We can never forget that, as we go about the work, we must be equipped with the weapons of our warfare, which are not the weapons of this world, but are mighty in God for pulling down the enemy’s spiritual strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4).  These Jewish builders were watchful!  They were alert!  The listened for the trumpet sound.  And they pulled together to help those brothers that the enemy was attacking:


Neh 4:19-20

19        Then I said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, "The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall.

20        "Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us."                        (NKJVTM)


            And they were dedicated.  They worked by day and stood in the city by night as a guard.  They did not even take off their clothes, except for washing (4:22-23).  Believers, be careful that having put your hand to the task you do not “change your clothes” and become again captivated by the things of this world.  The responsibility is great; the commitment must be serious, because the enemy is always waiting.  And success is close at hand—when God’s people commit to do that which is right:


Neh 6:15-16

15        So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days.

16        And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God.                (NKJVTM)




© 2012 Gregory J. Scalzo


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