Let Us Arise And Build

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Arise And Build!  All Things Are Possible With God’s Help

Let Us Arise And Build!

Nehemiah 2:11-20

       The California Coast was shrouded in fog on the 4th of July morning in 1952.  Twenty-one miles to the west on Catalina Island, a 34-year-old woman waded into the water and began swimming toward California, determined to be the first woman to do so.  Her name was Florence Chadwick and she had already been the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions.

       The water was numbing cold that July morning and the fog was so thick she could hardly see the boats in her own party.  Millions were watching on national television.  Several times, sharks which had gotten too close had to be driven away with rifles to protect the lone figure in the water.  As the hours ticked off, she swam on.  Fatigue had never been her big problem in these swims—it was the bone-chilling cold of the water.

       More than 15 hours later, numbed with the cold, she asked to be taken out.  She couldn’t go on.  Her mother and her trainer alongside in a boat told her they were near land.  They urged her not to quit.  But when she looked toward the California Coast, all she could see was the dense fog.

       A few minutes later—at 15 hours and 55 minutes—she was taken out of the water.  It was not until hours later, when her body began to thaw, that she felt the shock of failure.  To a reporter she blurted out, “Look, I’m not excusing myself.  But if I could have seen land, I might have made it.”

       She had been pulled out only a half mile from the California Coast!  Later she was to reflect that she had been licked not by fatigue or even by the cold -- the fog alone had defeated her because it obscured her goal.  It had blinded her reason, her eyes, and ultimately her heart.  It was the only time that Florence Chadwick ever quit.  Two months later, she swam that same channel, and again fog obscured her view, but this time, she swam with her faith intact—somewhere behind that fog was land.  Not only was she the first woman to swim the Catalina Channel, but she beat the men’s record by some two hours!

       How do you respond to discouragement?  How do you respond when Satan is doing all that he can to fog you or stop you from reaching a certain goal or pursuing the purpose of your life?  How should we respond to the challenge to become the spiritual family God wants us to be?  How do we respond to the challenge to complete The Elder Johnson Family Life Center, new office space, new parking, the remodeling of the Shopping Plaza to house extension ministries, the Learning Lab, the café, and new classrooms?  We can respond in perseverance, when we can see the goal.  We can respond in faith, when we realize that God has put that goal in our hearts.  We can better maintain our focus, when we have a God-given purpose!

       The Bible records a similar story in the book of Nehemiah.  “There is a period of twelve years after the book of Ezra closes before the book of Nehemiah begins its story.  Then Nehemiah records the events of the next twenty years.  The background up to this point includes the following:

1.     Artaxerxes I was king of Persia when Nehemiah ministered.

2.     A second return of the Jews to Jerusalem, led by Ezra.

3.     The enemies force the Jews to cease building the walls, and virtually destroy the parts already built.  News of this reaches Nehemiah.

4.     Nehemiah leads a small group of exiles to Jerusalem to organize the Jews already there to rebuild the walls.”[1]

(Now let’s pick up the story in Nehemiah 2:11-20.  Let me read this aloud for us.  Okay, let’s consider first:)

I.     The Reconnaissance (vv. 11-16).

This was a big step in Nehemiah’s life.  He had been in Susa, but God had brought him to Jerusalem.  He had progressed from working for the boss to being the boss.  It is sometimes tougher to handle a promotion, than it is to handle trials.

       Can you handle the new season?  How are you handling the promotion that God has given you through the new season and the breakthrough?

       We have become so used to rejection, failure, and poverty that it is difficult for us to handle God’s promotion!  Stop the negative!  Focus, accentuate, and speak the positive!!!

(In the passage before us, I can see:)

A.    The season (vv. 11-12).

Notice that Nehemiah was there for three days before he did anything.  Perhaps Nehemiah needed some more think time?  Or perhaps he was waiting for the right time or season?  The writer of the Ecclesiastes said in

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT), “There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under heaven” (emphasis mine).

There is a season, an opportunity, an appointed period or fullness of time for certain things that God is doing.  We have got to know the season!!!

The Bible states in

1 Chronicles 12:32 (NLT), “From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives.  All these men understood the temper of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take” (emphasis mine).

This is the same word that is translated “season” in the Ecclesiastes 3:1.  Leaders understand the temper or emotional condition of the season!

       Leaders also understand that a season is preceded by preparing the soil and the planting of seed.  They understand that a new season is preceded by rain and plowing!!!  They understand what Nehemiah understood and are willing to rise at night for prayer, Bible study, and to travail for souls!

       Jesus encourages us to work while it is day, because the night is coming when no man can work!  There are certain kinds of work that can’t be done at night.

       Then, on the other hand, there are certain kinds of work which can only be done at night.  At night God puts into our minds the ideas and plans that he wants carried out, in the day.  I have gotten some of my best ideas at night or in prayer early in the morning.  You are away from the hustle and bustle of the world where God can have your full attention.


B.    The staff (vs. 12).

Nehemiah only took a few men with him.  These men were faithful followers.  They arose in the night.  Nothing was explained to them and they walked while Nehemiah rode, but we do not see one word of discontentment being murmurred.  Evidently they were committed to their leader and to the vision of seeing the walls restored.

       I can only do what God has put into my heart with men, women, boys, and girls who are willing to arise at night with me.  Only those who have the heart that God gives to them at night!  It is not going to be the multitude, but just a few; a few who will walk with me without excessive talk, complaining, and negativity!!!

(It is also interesting to note:)

C.    The secrecy or secretness (vs. 12).

Sometimes it is unwise to tell people what you are doing.  They may not understand and they may discourage others.

       I love to share exactly what God is doing, but I have learned that not everything can be shared with everybody!!!

Perhaps another reason for Nehemiah’s secrecy had to do with the fact that a vision and a conviction were being formed in his heart.  A vision is a mental picture of what God wants to accomplish in the future.  Conviction is “the beyond the peradventure of a doubt knowledge or faith concerning what God wants to do in the future.”  Conviction comes from the heart.  Both, vision and conviction are formed by spending time alone with God in His Word!!!

Additionally, Nehemiah may have been somewhat secretive because God had not totally solidified the vision in Nehemiah’s mind or perhaps Nehemiah understood the fact that not everybody has vision and conviction.

God may have you alone right now, so that He can form His vision and conviction in you?  As it was with the Israelites and even with Jesus, we must walk in the wilderness before we walk in The Promised Land!

(Notice next:)

D.    The survey (vs. 13-16).

Nehemiah went out to inspect the walls before he started working.  He needed to survey the situation so that he could make proper plans.  Jesus said in

Luke 14:28-30 (NASB-U), “For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? [29] Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, [30] saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’”

A leader must know the details of the job.  Yet, s/he must not get lost in those details.  Nehemiah had to plan the job so that it would be done right.  The Jews had suffered enough humiliation.

       But, the city was in shambles.  There was so much debris that there was no place for him to pass by, while he was mounted.

       Sin will ruin any people!  Sin will ruin your life.  Sin will bring you down.  Sin will destroy you.  Sin will make a disaster area out of your life.

       Sin always takes you further than you planned to go; cost you more than you intended to pay; and keeps you longer than you intended to stay!!!

       After Nehemiah’s inspection, he returned to his quarters and waited for the proper time to divulge his plan.

We need an inspection of the local church.  Remember people do what you inspect, not what you expect.

       We all periodically also need an inspection of our lives.

After such inspections, we need time alone with God to contemplate and pray through the situation.

(Having finished his reconnaissance, Nehemiah is now ready to make:)

II.    The Report (vv. 17-18a).

(Let’s consider first:)

A.    His estimation or examination (vs. 17).

Notice that Nehemiah used the word ‘we’.  Nehemiah identified with the people and the bad situation that they were in.  He could have said, “See what a mess you are in!”  “You” messages are accusatory and transmit blame!!!

Americans, see what a mess we are in!

       Church, see what a mess we are in, i.e. without Jesus Christ!

       Believers, see what a mess we are in, i.e. without the Holy Spirit guiding our decisions.

I could say, “You,” and it would be true, but that would not be effective and that would not identify me with or endear me to your hearts!!

       In addition, Nehemiah accepted the sovereignty of God!!!  He accepted the fact that God had allowed him and the Israelites to be where they were.  This helped him persevere through the difficulties!!!

Have you accepted God’s sovereignty in your situation?  Accepting God’s sovereignty helps us persevere through difficult situations.

(Consider next:)

B.    His exhortation (vs. 17).

Then, Nehemiah calls for joint action, “Come let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.”  He could not do it by himself and they could not do it without him as their leader.

       Likewise, I want to exhort us corporately, “Come let us rebuild the wall of the Church of Jesus Christ, by rebuilding The House of the Lord!”

·        Will you join me?

·        Will you work along with me in making The House of the Lord the church God wants it to be?

       Secondarily, “Come let us rebuild the wall of our own personalities!”  The local church is only as strong as the individual members.

·        Will you come on Wednesday nights and learn about Discipleship, Forgiveness, and Relationships from the Bible?

·        Will you go through Grief£ Recovery®?

·        Will you practice Grief£ Recovery®?

       Now, what did Nehemiah use to motivate the Jews to take up the work of rebuilding the wall?  He used their value for pride in the holy city of Jerusalem.  He used their religious and civic pride in not allowing the holy city to remain in ruins.  He knew what they valued and used that intrinsic motivation.

In the book, Hand Me Another Brick, Charles Swindoll talks about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.  Extrinsic motivation is outward motivation.  Nehemiah didn’t say, “Let’s rebuild the walls and we’ll give you each a new donkey.”  That would have been extrinsic motivation.  He appealed to their spirituality.  He used intrinsic motivation.  No physical reward was offered, only an intellectual, emotional and spiritual reward.  Let’s rebuild the wall because we are a reproach to ourselves and to God, and we want to redeem ourselves so that we may honor and glorify God!!!

       Our real motivation for rebuilding the church and our own personalities should be spiritual.  I am saddened that we have to use extrinsic motivation for various projects, but that illustrates where our values lie.

(Nehemiah not only gives them his estimation and his exhortation, he also gives them:)

C.    His encouragement (vs. 18).

He explained to them the circumstantial providence of God.  Providence is God working in the details of our life to give us our destiny.  Nehemiah told the Israelites how God had opened up closed doors and even made the king favorable towards this project.  The circumstantial providence of God is one of the things that should help us persevere, when the devil tries to deter us from our God-given goal or purpose!!!

       God has given us many great providential miracles!  From Douglas Street to Thornton Street; from Thornton to Brown; From Brown to the purchase of this land; From Brown to J.C. Penney’s; From J.C. Penney’s to here; From the many buildings that have been built for cash; from the loans that we have received, in spite of economic recession or turndown.  What a gracious God we serve!

(This story would not be complete without:)

III.   The Reaction Of The People (vv. 18b-20).

(We can see:)

A.    Their attitude (vs. 18).

“Let us arise and build.”

       I hope our attitude is, “Let us arise and build!!!”

(We can see:)

B.    Their action (vs. 18).

“So they put their hands to the good work.”

       Let’s put our hands to the good work!  This is good work!  It is the work of winning souls to eternal life, equipping them to do the stuff of ministry, and to ultimately reign with Jesus throughout eternity.

(We can also see:)

C.    Their adversaries (vs. 19).

There will be mockers and detractors, even among us.  Sometimes they will pose as a part of us.  Satan hates us.  Satan is going to instigate talk about us.

       This will not only be done corporately, but individually!  It may even be in your own house?!

(But, there is much to be learned from:)

D.    The answer (vs. 20).

Notice Nehemiah’s reply:  “The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we, His servants, will arise and build.”  Success comes from God!

What should we say to Satan’s lies?  Nothing!  Keep on working!

       Secondarily, discipline and excommunicate those who are stirring up the dissensions and factions.  That is just what Paul says to do in the NT.  That is what Nehemiah did.  He would not let them work on the wall.

       “In general, the book of Nehemiah seeks to show how God favored His people, so recently exiled, by strengthening their roots in the homeland of Judah in the face of all kinds of opposition.

       Specifically, the book shows how the broken-down walls of Jerusalem and the failing faith of the Jews were restored, through (1) the competent leadership of Nehemiah, a man of prayer and faith; and (2) through a host of Jewish brethren, who responded to the divine challenge to rise and build.”[2]

       John C. Whitcomb makes this appraisal of the book:  “It must be said...that no portion of the Old Testament provides us with a greater incentive to dedicated, discerning zeal for the work of God than the Book of Nehemiah.  The example of Nehemiah’s passion for the truth of God’s Word, whatever the cost or consequences, is an example sorely needed in the present hour.”[3]

       “Problems, pains, prayer, and perseverance are some of the ingredients of the success story of Nehemiah.”[4]  Although we don’t like it, these are often teachers in the school of the Spirit.  They help to train and conform us to the likeness of Jesus Christ!  We must respond to trials, tribulation and pain with perseverance that can only be supplied by faith in Jesus Christ, which is supported by providence and God’s sovereignty!!!

       We must understand as Nehemiah understood and Florence Chadwick understood that there is a goal behind the fog of trials, tribulation, and pain.  God wants us to accomplish something for Him.  Norman Willis wrote in his little book, Playing God:  Overcoming The Torment Of Unforgiveness, “If the purpose is important enough, we will overcome all known obstacles that we might accomplish the goal.”[5]  We have a divine goal or purpose should be important enough to motivate us to build a great local church for the salvation and edification of souls and for the glory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

       Let us arise and build!

(Now is the Day of Salvation.  Come to Jesus, now!)


Call to Discipleship


[1] Irving L. Jensen, Jensen’s Survey Of The Old Testament, Moody Press, Chicago, 1978, p. 235.

[2] Ibid, p. 235.

[3] John C. Whitcomb, “Nehemiah”, in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 435.

[4] Irving L. Jensen, Jensen’s Survey Of The Old Testament, Moody Press, Chicago, 1978, p. 240.

[5] Norman Willis, Playing God:  Overcoming The Torment Of Unforgiveness, Christ Church Publishing, the United States of America, 1996, p. 45.

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