By I Gordon
4:16-17 ‘And it came about from that day on, that 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. 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.’
Obviously, having seen off the first two attacks, the enemy gave up, all of Nehemiah's problems went away and everyone lived happily ever after. Right? Well, not quite. For we read that "it came about from that day on, that half of my servants carried on the work while half of them held the spears, the shields, the bows and the breastplates... 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." (vs 16-17). They were beginning to learn the nature of the enemy and the need to constantly be alert, prepared and watchful.
We can learn a couple of things from the passage above. Firstly, that everyone within the walls was vulnerable to the enemy’s attack and therefore all of them needed to be able to fight when the time arose. And secondly, their priority was not in attacking the enemy, but in continuing to rebuild the walls. Rebuilding the walls was a victory in itself and would render the enemies activity useless. When we come to our Christian lives, the principles are exactly the same. Spiritual warfare is not just for some elite commando group within Christianity, but for all - simply because all are open to attack. Writing to the 'Saints who are at Ephesus', Paul wrote, "Finally be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the full armour of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the powers... against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Eph 6:10-12) For Paul, and for Nehemiah, everyone is involved in this fight whether they want to (or know it) or not. Therefore, be ready. Nobody would rush into a battle and then try to put their armour on! Not a good plan. No, Nehemiah ensured that they all had their armour or weapons ready before the attack came. Paul would have got on well with this man!
4:18-21 ‘As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built, while the trumpeter stood near me. And 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. “At whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”
So we carried on the work with half of them holding spears from dawn until the stars appeared. ‘
The second point to note is that while they carried their weapons by their side, the focus was the work at hand - rebuilding the walls of salvation. If the walls and gates went up, it would provide security for the people of God as well as an entranceway for new people to come into his presence. Through it the kingdom of God would increase on earth and the enemy would be defeated all the more. In talking about spiritual warfare, it seems to me that the Apostle Paul gives the same emphasis. The key words in Ephesians on spiritual warfare are 'stand' and 'resist'. He wrote, "Therefore, take up the full armour of God, so that you will be able to resist in that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore..." (Eph 6:13) And in the same passage as the armour of God, Paul writes "With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit..., and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel.' (Eph 6:18-19) In other words - do what Nehemiah did. Be alert and watchful with your spiritual weapons ready, but keep on with the work at hand - pray and preach the gospel so that the walls of salvation may increase.
The next few verses in Nehemiah also tell us that spiritual warfare is not an individual’s job. When one part of the body hurts the whole body is affected. When one part of the body is attacked with trials and hardships then the rest of the body should help out. Nehemiah put it like this - "The work is great and expansive, and we are separated from one another. At whatever place you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there." (ch 5:19-20) Paul said it like this, "be on the alert with all perseverance and pray for all the saints." (Eph 6:18) Both of these quotes are in the context of our warfare. Apart from Paul Simon, no man is a rock and no man is an island. Prayer and help for the one in need are required.
4:22-23 ‘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.” 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.’
Again I want to point out that for Nehemiah to win this battle it had to be a joint effort. Each person needed to spend time in Jerusalem, to be a guard by night and a worker to build by day. Nehemiah alone couldn’t do it. While we all have an individual walk with the Lord, we all form one family of God and it is that family which stands against the enemy when one member is being attacked. Notice also that the Christian life involves both guarding and building. We need to guard against false teachers and their influence on our Christian brothers and sisters, and we also need to build others up with the truth so that they will not be so susceptible to the enemy in the future.
So with this kind of attitude, Nehemiah was able to be victorious
over Sanballat’s second attack. Time to change the tactics don't you think? It
seems that trials and physical attacks can actually increase a wall builder’s
resolve and faith! But there is a man, an old man, who very rarely fails. Enter
|Bible Studies in the Nehemiah Series|
Nehemiah Bible Study Chapter 1 - Understanding the nature of the fall
Nehemiah Bible Study Chapter 2 - The reproach, the rock and the rubble
Nehemiah Bible Study Chapter 3 - The gates of spiritual progression
Nehemiah Bible Study Chapter 4 pt 1 - Sanballat's initial attack on the mind
Nehemiah Bible Study Chapter 4 pt 2 - Sanballat's physical persecution
Nehemiah Bible Study Chapter 4 pt 3 - Our stand: The armor of God
Nehemiah Bible Study Chapter 6 pt 1 - Geshem's worldly compromise
Nehemiah Bible Study Chapter 6 pt 2 - Our Defense: The Heavenly call
Nehemiah Bible Study Chapter 6 pt 3 - Sanballat and the angel of light
Nehemiah Bible Study Chapter 7 - Tobiah that 'good' man (not!)
Nehemiah Bible Study Chapter 13 - Tobiah in the temple!
 Ditto with the armour of God. It should be on BEFORE the time arises. So what is it? Well, here was Paul, chained up & guarded by Roman Soldiers. Staring at them day and night he starts writing.....
Gird your loins with the belt of truth. - The belt on the Roman Soldiers was the most important piece because nearly all of the other armour was fastened onto it. It held everything together and in place. This is how important truth is. If your faith is based on error, then your armour will fall off! All of the armour is related to truth. The truth of the gospel sets us free!
Put on the breastplate of righteousness - This guarded the heart. The righteousness that defeats the enemy is the righteousness of God, given as a gift to the believer. Satan cannot answer the work of God and all his accusations and condemnation is totally repelled by the believer who knows that thru Jesus' righteousness he is spotless and without fault.
Shod your feet with the gospel of peace - The shoes were for grip and secure footing in the battle. The gospel of peace is that through Jesus' work we have peace and free access to God. This peace and rest gives us the assurance and stability needed for the fight. Not wavering in our salvation but standing firm, sure that our salvation is secure in God.
Taking up the shield of faith - The shield guards us from the enemies assault. It is faith that does this. Not faith in faith, but faith in the faithfulness of God! Psalm 91:2 'His faithfulness is a shield'. Gen 15:2 'Do not fear. I am a shield to you'. It is a faith that continues to believe despite our feelings or circumstances.
Take the helmet of salvation - Protect the head cause you don't want to lose that! Guards our mind. 1 Thess 5:8 'put on... as a helmet, the hope of salvation.' This is salvation in its fullest sense. This is the hope (confident assurance) that in whatever situation we find ourselves in, God can and will bring us through safely. This guards the mind!
The sword of the Spirit - Our only attacking weapon. It’s the word of God. The enemy cannot counter the truth of Gods word. This is of course what Jesus used when he was tempted by the Devil. The word of God is 'living and active, sharper than any two edged sword.' Again, truth is important here as even the enemy will use scripture out of context when need be.
 It is interesting that the word of God is given both to guard and build. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ‘All scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.’ In other words, two out of the four reasons the word is given is for correcting and guarding against wrong teaching. And two out of four are given for building and training in the correct way. Some see correction as negative, but it is all necessary and positive, just like in Nehemiah’s day where both were necessary.