God has highlighted to us the strategic sequential steps by which Nehemiah led God’s people to rebuild their city wall and gates.
1. Keep our eyes fixed on observing what God is doing so we move with Him.
We must not move ahead of him or move too slowly. Jesus did what he saw His Father doing and said what he heard the Father saying. (John 8:30)
‘The true watchman is someone who watches God, who is the Chief Watchman – beholding Him in His awesome, majestic glory and what He is doing. The watchman is attentive to Him with all his faculties and consequently sees things more clearly through God’s eyes and His Word; he clearly hears and obeys God’s voice and is faithful in practising aspects of watching as led by the Holy Spirit.’ Tom Hess Watchmen, piii.
2. Pray 24/7. To intercede we need to identify empathically with our city, fast and pray -confessing our sins and theirs, obeying God and relying on the relationship covenant we have with God and worshiping Him with adoration, declaring His authority, power and character. (Neh 1:3-11) Prayer coverage day and night -24/7prayer – was a critical part of Nehemiah’s strategy. (Neh 1:5-6, 4:9)
3. Seek God’s will and leading, even for the details of specific strategy which will be administered through human leaders. (Neh 2:4)
4. The agreement and support of those in authority –the spiritual leaders appointed by God – to build protection for those who will rebuild our city’s spiritual defences. (Neh 2:7-9)
5. God’s identification of the areas and aspects of our city that are exposed and vulnerable to spiritual attack. We need God’s holiness. (Neh 1:3, 2:11-16, Neh 4:13) Faithful ones are falling and weakened with exhaustion and the attack of the enemy. (Neh 1:2, 4:10) We need to ask God to identify, cleanse and renew the vulnerable exposed places of our personal lives and of the city.
6. Invite others into a shared vision to work together and ensure there is faithful prayer coverage for each aspect of city defence. We need to strengthen what remains (Rev 3:2) and bring new watchmen (Isaiah 62:6-7) to the wall.. (Neh 2:3-5, 17-18) Nehemiah credits by name those who worked on specific sections of the walls ofJerusalem. The city wall was rebuilt by particular families, ministry groups or locals working together, next to each other so that there were no gaps. (Neh 3:1-32) Leaders worked cooperatively. Many of them were rulers or groups who worked under the rule of recognised rulers. (Neh 3:14-17) They worked should to shoulder, systematically according to the function God has given us, to build up every section of the defence of our city to cover each area, gateway and for city leadership, pastors, ministry leaders (etc) and their families.
7. Defend ourselves from resistance, ridicule, false reports and (threats of) personal and corporate attack without allowing these issues to become distractions from our focus.
(Neh 2:10, 19,4:1-10, 6:1-14) We need to build together while maintaining our defence. (Neh 4:14-19) We need to defend the territories we are responsible for, fighting not against each other but against spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:10-12) even when intimidation comes from infiltrated ranks. We need to reject attacking words, pray and persist vigilantly in the face of trouble, exhaustion and confusion and keep working with all our heart. (Neh 4:4-23) We need to faithfully pray for each other and speak of each other with loving respect.
8. Maintain constant communication so we can mobilise critical focus as needed.
(Neh 4:17-23) Praise God for email and phone communication, although relational connection has to have some face to face too!
9. Maintain prayer for social justice. (Neh 5:1-14) Social transformation needs to occur alongside spiritual transformation in the city so we need prophetic prayer support for those who are leading the focus on and management of social justice issues and services.
10. Be servant leaders, focussed on the work rather than ‘lording it over people.’ We are not to profit e.g. financially from the project. (Neh 5:14-19)
11. Give the credit constantly to God. (Neh 1:5, 10, 4:15, 15, 19, 6:16)
A sequential study from Nehemiah on rebuilding the city walls and gates.
Great trouble. Nehemiah 1:3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”
Intercessional prayer and fasting. 4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
24/7 prayer. 5 Then I said: “O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel.
Confession. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you. 7 We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. 8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations,
Obedience 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’
Relationship 10 “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand.
Worship 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king.
Authority Given in the natural realm. Nehemiah 2: In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before; 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” 4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”
God’s Will not Ours.Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city inJudah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.” 6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.
Protection from authority’s agreement and resources carries weight with other authorities.
7 I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king’s forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests. 9 So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.
Resistance 10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.
Nehemiah Inspects Jerusalem’s Walls 11 I went toJerusalem, and after staying there three days 12 I set out during the night with a few men. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do forJerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on. 13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls ofJerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; 15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.
Calling Others to Work Together. 17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.
Ridicule 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share inJerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”
Together rebuilding, systematically section by section under different governance, each taking responsibility for different aspects. Nehemiah 3: Note repetition of the phrase “Next to him.”
Opposition Nehemiah 4: 1 When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, 2 and in the presence of his associates and the army ofSamaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!”
Prayer and Persistence in face of trouble, exhaustion and confusion. 4 Hear us, O our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity. 5 Do not cover up their guilt or blot out their sins from your sight, for they have thrown insults in the face of the builders. 6 So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart. 7 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the men of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. 8 They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it. 9 But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat. 10 Meanwhile, the people in Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot rebuild the wall.”
Station & maintain defense, family by family at the exposed point, trusting God. 11 Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.” 12 Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.” 13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” 15 When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his own work. 16 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people ofJudah 17 who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, 18 and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked.
Critical communication But the man who sounded the trumpet stayed with me. 19 Then I said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “The work is extensive and spread out, and we are widely separated from each other along the wall. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, join us there. Our God will fight for us!” 21 So we continued the work with half the men holding spears, from the first light of dawn till the stars came out. 22 At that time I also said to the people, “Have every man and his helper stay inside Jerusalem at night, so they can serve us as guards by night and workmen by day.” 23 Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water.
Social Justice. Nehemiah 5:1 Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers. 2 Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.” 3 Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.” 4 Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5 Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.” 6 When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. 7 I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them 8 and said: “As far as possible, we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say. 9 So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? 10 I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop! 11 Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them—the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine and oil.” 12 “We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.” Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised. 13 I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, “In this way may God shake out of his house and possessions every man who does not keep this promise. So may such a man be shaken out and emptied!” At this the whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the LORD. And the people did as they had promised.
Self funded, servant leadership focused on rebuilding work. 14 Moreover, from the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, until his thirty-second year—twelve years—neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor. 15 But the earlier governors—those preceding me—placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that. 16 Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled there for the work; we did not acquire any land. 17 Furthermore, a hundred and fifty Jews and officials ate at my table, as well as those who came to us from the surrounding nations. 18 Each day one ox, six choice sheep and some poultry were prepared for me, and every ten days an abundant supply of wine of all kinds. In spite of all this, I never demanded the food allotted to the governor, because the demands were heavy on these people. 19 Remember me with favor, O my God, for all I have done for these people.
Attempts to intimidate resisted. Nehemiah: 6:1 When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates- 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.” But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer. 5 Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter 6 in which was written: “It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king 7 and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us confer together.” 8 I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” 9 They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.” 10 One day I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was shut in at his home. He said, “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you—by night they are coming to kill you.” 11 But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should one like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” 12 I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me. 14 Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, O my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets who have been trying to intimidate me. … 17 Also, in those days the nobles of Judah were sending many letters to Tobiah, and replies from Tobiah kept coming to them. 18 For many in Judah were under oath to him, since he was son-in-law to Shecaniah son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berekiah. 19 Moreover, they kept reporting to me his good deeds and then telling him what I said. And Tobiah sent letters to intimidate me.
The Completion of the Wall 15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. 16 When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God.