Biblical Places Spiritual Spaces - The Walls of Jerusalem

There have been many technological advances that have benefited mankind. Think for a moment of living in the 19th century when travel was by horse, rail and ship, and cities were used gas lamps and candles for public lighting. The electric light bulb took our cities out of relative darkness of the 19th century and literally made our days longer.

I had the privilege of bringing a young Miskito boy named Rodolio Cunningham into the city of Tegucigalpa Honduras in 1986. He had spent his entire life living in communities along the Kruta and Coco Rivers in a remote corner of Central America with no infrastructure- no electric nor potable water. I had to explain to him what a toilet was. I bought him his first ice cream cone. Other than our flashlights and electric generator that we brought to our base camp in Auka, he had never seen a lighted community. When he returned  home, he told his family that “The sun never went down in Tegucigalpa. It stayed light all night.”

The automobile allowed us to extend our personal geographical boundaries far beyond anyone’s imagination- we could travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific in a matter of days rather than months.

Our base camp in Auka was in a area where there were no roads, and no vehicles. In the dry season, occasionally a truck would come across the savannah to our refugee community, taking most of the day to travel from Puerto Lempira, the city on the Caribbean coast. In the rainy season it was impossible to make that trip. Eventually a dirt road was built, with culverts, drainage ditches and some bridges, and the trip only took four hours.

 The airplane caused cities and continents to become accessible in terms of hours instead of days and weeks.

When we arrived in Auka, the nearest cold drink was in Puerto Lempira, which was an eight hour walk through two major swamps. After we acquired our 1953 single engine Piper Pacer, it took only 15 minutes by air.

 The personal computer allowed work productivity to take quantum lengths. Atomic reactors unleashed power that can energize entire regions and power ships for years without refueling.

Aside from the invention of the wheel, the most significant technological advance for ancient mankind was the walled city.

1  In that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah:
“We have a strong city; He sets up walls and ramparts for  security. Isaiah 26:1

Think for a moment. In a walled city there was security from bandits, from marauding ‘pirates’, and defense against invading armies.

Within a walled city there could be a marketplace where goods could be exchanged, where commerce and prosperity would grow.

In the interior of a walled city there could be community with enforced standards of behavior- laws- and protection.

Inside a walled city a family could live in relative peace, and grow in numbers, and in culture. Arts literature, and education would flourish. Walled cities offered order instead of often chaotic nomadic life.

Thus the symbolism of this famous proverb.

28 Like a city that is broken into and without walls
Is a man who has no control over his spirit. Proverbs 25:28

One of the oldest existing walls is in Jericho, with this tower dating to the 8000 BC.

 

 

 

 

 Jericho is considered to be the oldest city in the world.

When Cyrus the Mede conquered the Babylonian Empire, he gave permission for the Jewish captives to return home to their lands where they lived before Nebuchadnezzar exiled them after he conquered Judah and sacked Jerusalem. The first group returned in 536 BC led by Zerubbabel, and they focused on rebuilding the Temple. A second group was led by Ezra, a priest, in 457 BC. 13 years later, another refugee came as governor.

There was a problem, and God used a man to consider the problem and become part of the solution.

Nehemiah Chapter 1

1 These are the memoirs of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah.

In late autumn, in the month of Kislev, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was at the fortress of Susa. 2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came to visit me with some other men who had just arrived from Judah. I asked them about the Jews who had returned there from captivity and about how things were going in Jerusalem.
3 They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”
4
When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.

Principle: When confronted with problems, its important to pause, sense the urgency of the issue, and then take it to the Lord in fervent prayer, often with focused fasting.

 

 5 Then I said,

“O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6 listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! 7 We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.

Nehemiah speaks to God as if he knows Him. He confesses his own sins, and identifies with the sinfulness of his family as well as the nation of Israel.


8 “Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations. 9 But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’

Nehemiah reminds God, and most importantly himself, what God’s promises are.

Principle: In the midst of a crisis, its important to clear the slate between you and God- by asking for forgiveness of sins, and reminding yourself of God’s faithfulness and promises toward us.


10 “The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants. 11 O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.”
In those days I was the king’s cup-bearer.

Nehemiah recognizes that the only person who has the resources and power on Earth who can resolve this crisis on earth is King Artaxerxes. He also recognizes that God has placed him in a very unique position as the king’s chief of security to have regular access to the king. He suddenly knows why God placed him there years ago.

Principle: God will place us in our society where we are able to accomplish his purposes for our lives and those around us.

A few years in the future, there will be a crisis in the Persian Empire where all the Jews are threatened with death. However, one Jewish girl, Esther has become the Queen of Persia. Her uncle Mordecai speaks this important principle for us in our generation.

13 Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed. 14 If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” Esther 4:13-14

 

Chapter 2

1 Early the following spring, in the month of Nisan, during the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was serving the king his wine. I had never before appeared sad in his presence. 2 So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.”

Servants could never be anything but pleasant and happy in the presence of a king. Nehemiah was putting his life in jeopardy by letting his sadness show.


Then I was terrified, 3 but I replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”
4 The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?”

Principle: God often goes ahead and prepares favor of individuals toward his servants.


With a prayer to the God of heaven, 5 I replied, “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”

Was it a quick desperate prayer? Or was it the final in a series of prayer where Nehemiah and the Holy Spirit were discussing the plan of God to resolve the problem of the residents of Jerusalem?  Since w know Nehemiah began prayer and fasting the moment he heard of the crisis, it was probably a series of interactions with God where the plan was revealed.

Principle: When you ask God for His plan, He freely gives it as if He has been waiting all along for us to get to the point where we ask what He wants to do, rather that what we think we should do.

James puts it this way:

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a  double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8

Now Nehemiah gives the king details of the plan God has given, and what resources he needs from the king.


6 The king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked, “How long will you be gone? When will you return?” After I told him how long I would be gone, the king agreed to my request.
7 I also said to the king, “If it please the king, let me have letters addressed to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, instructing them to let me travel safely through their territories on my way to Judah.

8 And please give me a letter addressed to Asaph, the manager of the king’s forest, instructing him to give me timber. I will need it to make beams for the gates of the Temple fortress, for the city walls, and for a house for myself.” 9 When I came to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, I delivered the king’s letters to them. The king, I should add, had sent along army officers and horsemen to protect me.

 And the king granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me.

God’s plan included all that Nehemiah would need: Letters of Authorization for travel and the work, along with the timber needed for the project. But God gave the king one additional detail: a security force to protect Nehemiah. Obviously he knew much more about the situation that Nehemiah would encounter among the royal officials.

Principle: God often uses others to provide the details of His plans, even those considered outside the Family of God, so pay attention!

I became friends with our Arab bus driver in Israel who took our study group around the country in 2006 and 2007. Mohammed was a very sweet man, who loved his wife and three children, and he travelled with a gas stove. I made coffee every day in my hotel room with my coffee press and Nicaraguan beans, and when I discovered that Mohammed like coffee, I began to make a cup for him, handing it to him as we boarded the bus.

One day at Lachish, I decided to sit in the shaded parking lot and asked Mohammed to take out his stove and make us some coffee. A few days later we used his stove to make more coffee in the parking lot of a church in Jerusalem. While we were sitting under a tree, Mohammed said to me, holding up his cup, “Mike, this is the Friendship Drink”. Indeed it is! We had become friends. That day he told me what it was like to live as a Muslim in Israel, what he believed as a Muslim, and I told him what I believes as a Christian. The following year, we got “orders” from our Boss to start a café on the island of Utila, which we opened in the summer of 2011. That winterl we opened our first café in Vero Beach. Our coffee stores have created community, with many friendships with people from literally all corners of the globe. Mohammed was right: Coffee is the friendship drink.

When we began the refugee relief project in Honduras in 1984, we have no desire to begin a primary school project- until a refugee teacher name Augusto asked us to help him start a school in the refugee community of Sawa. We bought pencils and notebooks and blackboard paint, and Augusto began teaching the first grade. The next year with the help of Earl and Sharon Washburn, we trained four more techers because four more refugee communities had asked for a school. 

After a month of training, I was sent to Tegucigalpa with the assignment to fins books that we could use. I went to the Friends of Americas office,and asked the secretary where they bought books for their school the began that year in Rus Rus, another refugee community along the Coco River. I was handed the receipt with an address. I jumped in a taxi and found myself in front of a private residence. After making a phone call, a lady opened the gate and invited me in. as I struggles with my Spanish, she suddenly asked me if we should speak in English. She was Victoria Palacios, who taught education at the National University. She had been educated in Tennessee and got her Masters at the University of New Mexico.

Victoria had written a new curriculum for Honduran public schools that incorporated the latest North American techniques. I told her about our refugee relief project and our desire to start schools. She offered to sell us her books at cost, and then amazingly offered to fly out to the Mosquitia and train our teachers in using her materials.

Wow! In a few months, Victoria came out and spent a week with our 20 teachers. She did, and returned for the next three years. Her help allowed our school project to become effective in educating the refugee children. Her support of our teachers and her personal attention was a great encouragement to them all.

Victoria with our teachers in 1987 - Auka Honduras

I was in a student bookstore in La Ceiba and I saw Victoria's books on the shelf. I told Belinda, the owner, "Those are the books we use on our schools."

"How did you get them?" she asked.

I told her that Victoria was my friend and she has sold them to us and I had flown her out to Auka for teacher workshops.

Belinda was amazed! "You know Dona Victoria Palacios? Do you know who she is?"

I shrugged my shoulders. "I know she teaches at the University."

Belinda said" "Well ,she is one of the most respected educators in all of Latin America. You are extremely fortunate to be working with her."

Vicki was friends with the current Minister of Education. Unbeknownst to us, we could not start a school project without official approval. The refugees from Nicaragua were not officially allowed to be in Honduras. When Vicki told her that she was making trips out to the refugee communities to help us with our schools, the Minister told her :"Tell your friends that I like what they are doing. They have my permission."

Like Nehemiah, we were given resources that we didn't even know we needed and were beyond our expectations.

Principle: God knows what we need even before we do! As we take steps of faith in His plan, the details get amazingly revealed.

10 But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard of my arrival, they were very displeased that someone had come to help the people of Israel.

Principle: Whenever there is a plan of God put into effect, you can count on opposition from the enemy. Expect it and prepare for it.


11 So I arrived in Jerusalem. Three days later, 12 I slipped out during the night, taking only a few others with me. I had not told anyone about the plans God had put in my heart for Jerusalem.

Principle: Ministry is the actuation of a plan from God through his children to meet the needs of a situation and bring more people in His family. It is a cooperation between God and us to work together to accomplish some significant for the Kingdom.

Jesus states this plainly in the Great Commission:

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.                                                  Matthew 28:18-20

 

We took no pack animals with us except the donkey I was riding. 13 After dark I went out through the Valley Gate, past the Jackal’s Well, and over to the Dung Gate to inspect the broken walls and burned gates. 14 Then I went to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but my donkey couldn’t get through the rubble. 15 So, though it was still dark, I went up the Kidron Valley instead, inspecting the wall before I turned back and entered again at the Valley Gate.


16 The city officials did not know I had been out there or what I was doing, for I had not yet said anything to anyone about my plans. I had not yet spoken to the Jewish leaders—the priests, the nobles, the officials, or anyone else in the administration. 17 But now I said to them, “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire. Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!” 18 Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king. \

They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work.

People are amazed when they hear of things God does through us, especially when it is going to affect them personally. That’s why your personal testimony is so important.

Principle: God gives us personal experiences with Him that often amaze us and those around us. It’s important to give your testimony when confronting situations where God’s presence and power is needed.

Peter expresses this in his letter:

But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and  reverence; 1 Peter 3:15


19 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab heard of our plan, they scoffed contemptuously. “What are you doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” they asked.
20 I replied, “The God of heaven will help us succeed. We, his servants, will start rebuilding this wall. But you have no share, legal right, or historic claim in Jerusalem.”
Nehemiah 2

Chapter 3

1 Then Eliashib the high priest and the other priests started to rebuild at the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set up its doors, building the wall as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and the Tower of Hananel. 2 People from the town of Jericho worked next to them, and beyond them was Zaccur son of Imri.

3 The Fish Gate was built by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid the beams, set up its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. 4 Meremoth son of Uriah and grandson of Hakkoz repaired the next section of wall. Beside him were Meshullam son of Berekiah and grandson of Meshezabel, and then Zadok son of Baana. 5 Next were the people from Tekoa, though their leaders refused to work with the construction supervisors.

6 The Old City Gate was repaired by Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah. They laid the beams, set up its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. 7 Next to them were Melatiah from Gibeon, Jadon from Meronoth, people from Gibeon, and people from Mizpah, the headquarters of the governor of the province west of the Euphrates River. 8 Next was Uzziel son of Harhaiah, a goldsmith by trade, who also worked on the wall. Beyond him was Hananiah, a manufacturer of perfumes. They left out a section of Jerusalem as they built the Broad Wall.


9 Rephaiah son of Hur, the leader of half the district of Jerusalem, was next to them on the wall. 10 Next Jedaiah son of Harumaph repaired the wall across from his own house, and next to him was Hattush son of Hashabneiah. 11 Then came Malkijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath-moab, who repaired another section of the wall and the Tower of the Ovens. 12 Shallum son of Hallohesh and his daughters repaired the next section. He was the leader of the other half of the district of Jerusalem.

13 The Valley Gate was repaired by the people from Zanoah, led by Hanun. They set up its doors and installed its bolts and bars. They also repaired the 1,500 feet of wall to the Dung Gate.


14 The Dung Gate was repaired by Malkijah son of Recab, the leader of the Beth-hakkerem district. He rebuilt it, set up its doors, and installed its bolts and bars.
15 The Fountain Gate was repaired by Shallum son of Col-hozeh, the leader of the Mizpah district. He rebuilt it, roofed it, set up its doors, and installed its bolts and bars.

Then he repaired the wall of the pool of Siloam near the king’s garden, and he rebuilt the wall as far as the stairs that descend from the City of David. 16 Next to him was Nehemiah son of Azbuk, the leader of half the district of Beth-zur. He rebuilt the wall from a place across from the tombs of David’s family as far as the water reservoir and the House of the Warriors.


17 Next to him, repairs were made by a group of Levites working under the supervision of Rehum son of Bani. Then came Hashabiah, the leader of half the district of Keilah, who supervised the building of the wall on behalf of his own district. 18 Next down the line were his countrymen led by Binnui son of
Henadad, the leader of the other half of the district of Keilah.

19 Next to them, Ezer son of Jeshua, the leader of Mizpah, repaired another section of wall across from the ascent to the armory near the angle in the wall. 20 Next to him was Baruch son of Zabbai, who zealously repaired an additional section from the angle to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 Meremoth son of Uriah and grandson of Hakkoz rebuilt another section of the wall extending from the door of Eliashib’s house to the end of the house.
22 The next repairs were made by the priests from the surrounding region.

23 After them, Benjamin and Hasshub repaired the section across from their house, and Azariah son of Maaseiah and grandson of Ananiah repaired the section across from his house. 24 Next was Binnui son of Henadad, who rebuilt another section of the wall from Azariah’s house to the angle and the corner. 25 Palal son of Uzai carried on the work from a point opposite the angle and the tower that projects up from the king’s upper house beside the court of the guard. Next to him were Pedaiah son of Parosh, 26 with the Temple servants living on the hill of Ophel, who repaired the wall as far as a point across from the Water Gate to the east and the projecting tower. 27 Then came the people of Tekoa, who repaired another section across from the great projecting tower and over to the wall of Ophel.


28 Above the Horse Gate, the priests repaired the wall. Each one repaired the section immediately across from his own house. 29 Next Zadok son of Immer also rebuilt the wall across from his own house, and beyond him was Shemaiah son of Shecaniah, the gatekeeper of the East Gate.

30 Next Hananiah son of Shelemiah and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section, while Meshullam son of Berekiah rebuilt the wall across from where he lived. 31 Malkijah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired the wall as far as the housing for the Temple servants and merchants, across from the Inspection Gate. Then he continued as far as the upper room at the corner. 32 The other goldsmiths and merchants repaired the wall from that corner to the Sheep Gate.  

 Individuals are important to the Lord, and He remembers any participation we make in the work of the Kingdom. Here Nehemiah lists the workers by name. Note their normal professions. Not many are professional builders, yet they have all the skills needed to accomplish the mission.

Principle: God uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things.

Notice how Nehemiah assigned the workers to repair the wall “across from their own house?”

Why do you thing he did that?

 

Chapter 4

​​1  Now it came about that when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious and very angry and mocked the Jews. 2 He spoke in the presence of his brothers and the wealthy men of Samaria and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore it for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day? Can they revive the stones from the  dusty rubble even the burned ones?”

3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was near him and he said, “Even what they are building—if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down!”

4Hear, O our God, how we are despised! Return their reproach on their own heads and give them up for plunder in a land of captivity. 5 Do not  forgive their iniquity and let not their sin be blotted out before You, for they have demoralized the builders.

6 So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. Nehemiah 4:1-6 NAS

Principle: Whenever God’s work is being accomplished, there will be opposition from our enemies, those fallen angels who wage war against God’s people.

Morning Walk around the Old City Walls 2006

Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. 8 And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. 9 This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels…… 

17 And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her childrenall who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus.   Revelation 12:7-9, 17

Morning Walk around the Old City Walls 2006

There is an active war in the spiritual world against God and His people. Those who are not of God and have open themselves up to the influence and control of satan are the instruments that he uses against God’s people. Remember what Jesus said:

Jesus told them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, because I have come to you from God. I am not here on my own, but he sent me. 43 Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me! 44 For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies

 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.              John 8:42-44,10:10

Whenever you encounter unusual rage from those outside the family of God, consider them channels of satan’s rage. Sanballat and Tobiah were instruments of satan and channeling his rage. They mocked and ridiculed the workers, which resulted in their demonization. These are common tactics of our enemy.

What was Nehemiah’s response? He prayed to God, asking God to take the appropriate action against them.

Principle: Whenever we encounter rage against the work and people of God, there can only be one source- satan, and one solution on the part of the followers of Jesus- praying that God would deal with them.

Morning Walk around the Old City Walls 2006

7  Now when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repair of the walls of Jerusalem went on, and that the breaches began to be closed, they were very angry. 8 All of them conspired together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause a disturbance in it.

9 But we prayed to our God, and because of them we set up a guard against them day and night.

10 Thus in Judah it was said,
“The strength of the burden bearers is failing, Yet there is much rubbish;
And we ourselves are unable To rebuild the wall.”

11 Our enemies said, “They will not know or see until we come among them, kill them and put a stop to the work.” 12 When the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times, “They will come up against us from every place where you may turn,13 then I stationed men in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, the exposed places, and I stationed the people in families with their swords, spears and bows.

14 When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people: “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses.”

Morning Walk around the Old City Walls 2006

John, Flint, Jodie, Laura, Craig, Kandi, Pat, Carlie & Luke

 

Now Sanballat and Tobiah now turn to threats against the lives of the workers with plans to attack the city, which results in a wave of fear and confusion to sweep over the city. What was Nehemiah’s response?

Again he prayed to God, and then obviously received direction from God to have men guard the city and the workers. He stationed armed men at strategic places to protect the city. When he saw their fear, he spoke words of encouragement to them, reminding them of what God was doing in their midst.

Principle: Prayer is the first step when the enemy attacks with fear, and orders of practical steps of protection are usually issued from the Throne Room. “Fear Not” we are told many times in the Bible, because fear and pride are open doors to the enemy’s presence.

Lukas & Mikaela Garden of Gethsemene 1999

Here is what Peter, who was experiencing real persecution from the Roman government, says to do when fear comes our way:

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

9   But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 1 Peter 5:6-10

Casting: epirríptō; to cast. To throw or cast upon, Figuratively, in regard to concern or care, to cast off upon in filial confidence, relating to, or befitting a son or daughter.

Sober: nḗphō;  To be sober-minded, watchful, circumspect The word does not mean to abstain from the use of alcohol but rather to refrain from the abuse of it which leads to intoxication.

Resist: anthístēmi; to stand. To stand against, resist, whether in deed or word.

Pride and Fear are two “handles” that satan potentially has on us. Peter says we are to have the attitude of a son or daughter looking to our Heavenly Father for protection. Then we are to stand with God, obey His commandments, and resist the thoughts and emotions that naturally come from ourselves as well as the demonic forces. Remember, the battle is fought one thought at a time.

“Never take counsel of your fears.”  General George Patton

Mikaela & Lukas on the Old City Walls

 

15 When our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had frustrated their plan, then all of us returned to the wall, each one to his work. 16 From that day on, half of my servants carried on the work while half of them held the spears, the shields, the bows and the breastplates; and the captains were behind the whole house of Judah.

  17 Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon. 18 As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built, while the trumpeter stood near me. 19 I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is great and extensive, and we are separated on the wall far from one another. 20 At whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

21 So we carried on the work with half of them holding spears from dawn until the stars appeared. 22 At that time I also said to the people, “Let each man with his servant spend the night within Jerusalem so that they may be a guard for us by night and a laborer by day.” 23 So neither I, my brothers, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us removed our clothes, each took his weapon even to the water. Nehemiah 4:7-23

 

Nehemiah’s response to the fears of attack were effective and practical for them as well as for us.

First of all, Prayer to God, asking God to protect as well as give him direction for the situation.

Secondly,  Words of Encouragement to the people, reminding them of God’s presence, His plans, and his purposes, reminding them that God would fight and win the battle.

31 The horse is prepared for the day of battle,
But victory belongs to the LORD. Proverbs 21:31

Third, Intercession.  Nehemiah has his trumpeter beside him, so that if an attack comes, he can rally all the fighters to the points of attack. He has his intercessors ready for fighting the battle.

Fourth, Unity. He commands all the families to sleep inside the city walls so they can work and guard together. Unity among the Body of Christ is essential in spiritual warfare.

Fifth, Vigilance.  Nehemiah commands the workers to be ready at any moment for an attack. Everyone had their weapons on them as they worked and slept.

Principle:

When engaged in a spiritual battle, prayer to God is essential, as is active words of encouragement remembering who God is and what his plans and purposes are.

Having those called to intercessory prayer engaged in the spiritual battle will often be the key factor in turning the tide.

Unity among the Body of Christ is mandatory, because there is strength in our numbers and bonds of the Holy Spirit. Never let anything separate you from your brothers and sisters in Christ.

Finally, Vigilance is required if we are to be successful in defending ourselves and seeing God’s purposes established.

Prayer, Encouragement, Intercession, Unity and Vigilance; Key weapons in our spiritual battles.

 

 

Laura outside Zion Gate

Chapter 5

1 About this time some of the men and their wives raised a cry of protest against their fellow Jews. 2 They were saying, “We have such large families. We need more food to survive.”
3 Others said, “We have mortgaged our fields, vineyards, and homes to get food during the famine.”
4 And others said, “We have had to borrow money on our fields and vineyards to pay our taxes. 5 We belong to the same family as those who are wealthy, and our children are just like theirs. Yet we must sell our children into slavery just to get enough money to live. We have already sold some of our daughters, and we are helpless to do anything about it, for our fields and vineyards are already mortgaged to others.”
6 When I heard their complaints, I was very angry. 7 After thinking it over, I spoke out against these nobles and officials. I told them, “You are hurting your own relatives by charging interest when they borrow money!” Then I called a public meeting to deal with the problem.

Why was Nehemiah VERY angry? Because God specifically told his people never take advantage of another’s poverty.

Arab man entering Zion Gate

It was an accepted practice in that culture and time for an impoverished person to arrange a contract of labor to another to pay off debts. God gave specific instructions on how to handle these situations.

39If one of your fellow Israelites falls into poverty and is forced to sell himself to you, do not treat him as a slave. 40 Treat him instead as a hired worker or as a temporary resident who lives with you, and he will serve you only until the Year of Jubilee. 41 At that time he and his children will no longer be obligated to you, and they will return to their clans and go back to the land originally allotted to their ancestors. 42 The people of Israel are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt, so they must never be sold as slaves. 43 Show your fear of God by not treating them harshly. Leviticus 25:39-43

 “If a fellow Hebrew sells himself or herself to be your servant and serves you for six years, in the seventh year you must set that servant free.
13 “When you release a male servant, do not send him away empty-handed. 14 Give him a generous farewell gift from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress. Share with him some of the bounty with which the LORD your God has blessed you
. 15 Remember that you were once slaves in the land of Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you! That is why I am giving you this command.
16 “But suppose your servant says, ‘I will not leave you,’ because he loves you and your family, and he has done well with you. 17 In that case, take an awl and push it through his earlobe into the door. After that, he will be your servant for life. And do the same for your female servants.
18 “You must not consider it a hardship when you release your servants. Remember that for six years they have given you services worth double the wages of hired workers, and the LORD your God will bless you in all you do. Deuteronomy 15:12-18

“If you lend money to any of my people who are in need, do not charge interest as a money lender would. Exodus 22:25

“If one of your fellow Israelites falls into poverty and cannot support himself, support him as you would a foreigner or a temporary resident and allow him to live with you. 36 Do not charge interest or make a profit at his expense. Instead, show your fear of God by letting him live with you as your relative. 37 Remember, do not charge interest on money you lend him or make a profit on food you sell him. 38 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God. Leviticus 25:35-38

19Do not charge interest on the loans you make to a fellow Israelite, whether you loan money, or food, or anything else. 20 You may charge interest to foreigners, but you may not charge interest to Israelites, so that the LORD your God may bless you in everything you do in the land you are about to enter and occupy. Deuteronomy 23:19-20

God commanded that dignity and respect should always be shown to those indentured servants, and that they should be well taken care of. He also forbade His people to charge interest on loans to fellow Israelites. They should consider them as extended family members.

 

Lions gate- Northeastern corner of the Old City

8 At the meeting I said to them, “We are doing all we can to redeem our Jewish relatives who have had to sell themselves to pagan foreigners, but you are selling them back into slavery again. How often must we redeem them?” And they had nothing to say in their defense.
9 Then I pressed further, “What you are doing is not right! Should you not walk in the fear of our God in order to avoid being mocked by enemy nations?

10 I myself, as well as my brothers and my workers, have been lending the people money and grain, but now let us stop this business of charging interest. 11 You must restore their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes to them this very day. And repay the interest you charged when you lent them money, grain, new wine, and olive oil.”

 

Principle: We will always be faced with choices of ‘doing what everyone else is doing’ or doing what God say to do.


12
They replied, “We will give back everything and demand nothing more from the people. We will do as you say.” Then I called the priests and made the nobles and officials swear to do what they had promised.
13 I shook out the folds of my robe and said, “If you fail to keep your promise, may God shake you like this from your homes and from your property!”
The whole assembly responded, “Amen,” and they praised the LORD. And the people did as they had promised.
14 For the entire twelve years that I was governor of Judah—from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of the reign of King Artaxerxes—neither I nor my officials drew on our official food allowance. 15 The former governors, in contrast, had laid heavy burdens on the people, demanding a daily ration of food and wine, besides forty pieces of silver. Even their assistants took advantage of the people. But because I feared God, I did not act that way.

Nehemiah did not follow the ‘custom’ of the previous governors to tax the people food items for the government staff. He paid his own way.

Principle: Modeling Godly behavior speaks volumes to those struggling to understand God and His ways.

Lions Gate


16 I also devoted myself to working on the wall and refused to acquire any land. And I required all my servants to spend time working on the wall. 17 I asked for nothing, even though I regularly fed 150 Jewish officials at my table, besides all the visitors from other lands! 18 The provisions I paid for each day included one ox, six choice sheep or goats, and a large number of poultry. And every ten days we needed a large supply of all kinds of wine. Yet I refused to claim the governor’s food allowance because the people already carried a heavy burden.
19 Remember, O my God, all that I have done for these people, and bless me for it.

 Nehemiah took an active part in rebuilding the wall. As governor, he could have sat in the shade and ‘supervised’ the work. Instead, he led the people by participating with them in the work and giving of his own resources towards the project.

Principle: Godly leadership is mostly understood by actions, not just words.

 

Damascus Gate - North side of the Old City of Jerusalem 

 

 Chapter 6

1 Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies found out that I had finished rebuilding the wall and that no gaps remained—though we had not yet set up the doors in the gates. 2 So Sanballat and Geshem sent a message asking me to meet them at one of the villages in the plain of Ono.
But I realized they were plotting to harm me, 3 so I replied by sending this message to them: “I am engaged in a great work, so I can’t come. Why should I stop working to come and meet with you?”
4 Four times they sent the same message, and each time I gave the same reply. 5 The fifth time, Sanballat’s servant came with an open letter in his hand, 6 and this is what it said:
“There is a rumor among the surrounding nations, and Geshem tells me it is true, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel and that is why you are building the wall. According to his reports, you plan to be their king. 7 He also reports that you have appointed prophets in Jerusalem to proclaim about you, ‘Look! There is a king in Judah!’
“You can be very sure that this report will get back to the king, so I suggest that you come and talk it over with me.”
8 I replied, “There is no truth in any part of your story. You are making up the whole thing.”
9 They were just trying to intimidate us, imagining that they could discourage us and stop the work. So I continued the work with even greater determination.
10
Later I went to visit Shemaiah son of Delaiah and grandson of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home. He said, “Let us meet together inside the Temple of God and bolt the doors shut. Your enemies are coming to kill you tonight.”

11 But I replied, “Should someone in my position run from danger? Should someone in my position enter the Temple to save his life? No, I won’t do it!”

 The enemy will always throw obstacles into God’s work. Usually they take the form of lies and threats. Intimidation is often the goal. How do we overcome these barriers?

Nehemiah chose to stay focused on the mission.

 

Damascus Gate

12 I realized that God had not spoken to him, but that he had uttered this prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 They were hoping to intimidate me and make me sin. Then they would be able to accuse and discredit me.
14 Remember, O my God, all the evil things that Tobiah and Sanballat have done. And remember Noadiah the prophet and all the prophets like her who have tried to intimidate me.

Principle: When on God’s mission, stay focused on the mission, and don’t get distracted by the enemies tactic of discouragement, fear, and intimidation. Be courageous knowing that God is fighting the battle for you.

31 The horse is prepared for the day of battle,
but the victory belongs to the LORD. Proverbs 21:31


15 So on October 2 the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun. 16 When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God.

17 During those fifty-two days, many letters went back and forth between Tobiah and the nobles of Judah. 18 For many in Judah had sworn allegiance to him because his father-in-law was Shecaniah son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan was married to the daughter of Meshullam son of Berekiah. 19 They kept telling me about Tobiah’s good deeds, and then they told him everything I said. And Tobiah kept sending threatening letters to intimidate me.

Principle: Perseverance in God’s work will result in miraculous results that will be evident even to the enemies of God.

 

Western Walls of the Old City of Jerusalem 

 

 

 

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