So, here's something fun- this post has been sitting in my queue for exactly a year now, because my inner critic makes me procrastinate posting until I eventually forget to at all. Fie on that. So, without further ado...
In my Scriptures class in college, we read a lot (A LOT) of Scripture. I had a sophisticated post-it note timeline above my bed in my dorm, so before I drifted off to sleep and right as I awakened I would be greeted by facts about the Neo-Babylonians and the Assyrians and the theme of Hebrews. I like to think it was very functional decor. For Nehemiah, I'm pretty sure I had a turquoise post-it nestled under a green post-it with the name of whatever kingdom was in charge at the time, and a bullet point that said, "WALL."
But as I read through Nehemiah as part of an IF: Equip study, I realized that Nehemiah is not just "WALL." Nehemiah is justice and brotherhood and obedience. Nehemiah is about the hammer, the trumpet, and the sword. What I'm specifically referring to is in Nehemiah 4, where Judah's adversaries planned to confuse the work the Jews were doing, and they prepared armies to come against them. Nehemiah found out about their plan and had soldiers at the ready at the gaps in the wall. From that point on, everyone worked with their tools in one hand, and their weapon in the other. They continued diligently in the work God had called them to, and they were prepared to defend it. The issue was that everyone was pretty far apart, working on their specific section of the wall. So they agreed that from wherever they heard the trumpet sound, they would rally there.
Nehemiah and the people kept at the work, kept their swords at their sides, and they believed God would fight for them. Later in the story we see that some guys, Tobiah and Sanballat, try to sabotage Nehemiah, false prophets within the city try to betray him, and consistently Nehemiah remembers the Lord and prays that their hands will be strengthened for the work.
Looking at all that came against Nehemiah and the Jews, it's easy to ask, "Where was God in all of this?" He didn't strike Sanballat and Tobiah down so they wouldn't try to distract Nehemiah and hinder the building. He didn't send angels in the night to rebuild the wall. He didn't prevent the false prophets from speaking and lying to Nehemiah. He didn't shield them from these inconveniences. How was God giving them this victory? Let's look:
- He was strengthening their hands for the work
- He was sustaining them with His promises
- He inspired Nehemiah and gave him the wisdom to direct the work
- He helped Nehemiah to hold to the truth, and gave him discernment on what was in the hearts of Sanballat, Tobiah, and the false prophets
- He made the people brave and courageous.
Let's not neglect the fact that at the beginning of this story, Nehemiah was a cupbearer, Jerusalem's wall was rubble, the people were too beaten down to build, the rich took advantage of the poor, and many of them were still in exile. By the end, the Nehemiah had been governor and head builder, the poor had justice, the people were a community, the exiles were returned, and the wall was finished, to the amazement of all who watched.
So what does it mean for us to be bearers of the hammer, the trumpet and the sword?
The hammer is the tool we use for building the Church, our spiritual gifts. How are you using your gift to strengthen the Body? How are you contributing to your section of the wall?
The trumpet is what summons us to gather with our people- for strength in numbers, for accountability, for comfort, for unity. Are you in community? Where do you rally?
The sword is the Word of God. Just as the Jews had to have their sword strapped on them at all times during the building, so we have to keep the Word of God in our hearts and minds at all times. If we hold the hammer with both hands, we aren't safe from attack. If we rally the troops but no one has their weapon, well... good luck. The Word must be central to all we do. To set down the hammer and the trumpet is to slow the work, but to set down the sword is to step into the gap in the wall defenseless. I realize I am speaking to my own sweet self right now.
At the end of the story, we see that the wall wasn't just about having a wall. Because of it, all of Israel came together and read the Word of God, they feasted and worshipped and confessed. They re-entered the covenant relationship with God that He had kept all along. Worship returned to the Temple. If God's got you working on a wall right now, pray that He will strengthen your hands for the work, provide community for you to do it with, and that He will give you spiritual eyes to see what work you're really doing.