Pastor Mark’s Devotions, May 20


“So, the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.” Nehemiah 6:15


Our state governors are beginning to open up economic activity in order to rebuild our economy. I thought it might be interesting to explore the actions of a governor who lived in a very different era. Nehemiah was a cupbearer who served King Artaxerxes in Persia around 445 B.C. He became governor of Judah and oversaw the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Jews returned from exile. Nehemiah’s name means, “Yahweh Comforts”. Not only did God bring comfort through Nehemiah, He also brought leadership, vision, resolve, strength, unity and perseverance to God’s people. Nehemiah was a great leader! Nehemiah led the Jews to do a miraculous work, rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem in 52 days. This great effort would be met with great opposition.

As we seek to rebuild our economy, our community, our congregation and personal lives; much can be gleaned from this ancient leader. He followed the Ancient of Days, and restored the name of this ancient people.

The story begins as Nehemiah questioned his Jewish brothers about those who had survived the exile. He also inquired about the conditions of Jerusalem. When he heard the news that the people were in great trouble and the wall of Jerusalem was broken down, Nehemiah broke down and wept. Nehemiah exhibited great compassion and concern for his people. We are told that he mourned, fasted and prayed for days over the circumstances that faced his people. His compassion moved him to pray. All throughout the course of rebuilding, Nehemiah constantly turned to God in prayer. His prayer began with a declaration, supplication and confession. He prayed, “Let your ear be attentive and your eyes be open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel.” He continued, “I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s house, have committed against you.” (Nehemiah 1:6)

Even before Nehemiah was called to action, this one who was going to rebuild Jerusalem, exhibited a heart of compassion, godliness and humility. These are key qualities for any leader wanting to rebuild.  Nehemiah closed his prayer by asking God to bless him and grant him success before the king. It is at this point in the story, that Nehemiah is described as a simple cupbearer to the king.

When Nehemiah was called to serve the king, he was sad and the king inquired of his sadness. Nehemiah described the living conditions of his people in Jerusalem. The king asked him what he wanted. Nehemiah replied, “Then I prayed to the God of heaven 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 of Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.’” (Nehemiah 2:5)

Nehemiah was very much afraid to voice his desire as it could be interpreted as disloyalty. But he did not let fear control his actions. He turned to God first, then openly confessed his will. The king was pleased with his request and gave him permission to go to Jerusalem. Before he left the king, Nehemiah also exhibited worldly wisdom. He asked the king to write a letter that would provide for his safe travel. He also asked for a letter granting him the authority to procure timber for the rebuilding of the wall. The king obliged. Nehemiah arrived safely and secured the resources to undertake the project.

When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, he waited three days before evaluating the full extent of the rebuild. Nehemiah demonstrated maturity and insight as he did not rush into action. He educated himself regarding the conditions and went at night to avoid any questions. After gaining a clear and complete picture of the challenges, he called the people together and cast the vision. He declared, “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.” (Nehemiah 2:17) Not only did Nehemiah cast the vision for the rebuild, but he also invited them to join in the effort. Then, he also expressed confirmation for the vision. He stated, “I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me.”

Because the vision was cast and the authority and confirmation had been given, the people were excited to jump on board. They said “Let us start rebuilding!” So, they began the good work.

Immediately, the people would face opposition. As Nehemiah led the charge to rebuild, he would face no less than 11 different conflicts that could potentially derail him. Through it all, Nehemiah continued to stand, turn to God in prayer, and communicate clearly to the people.

Sanballat, the Horonite, Tobiah, the Ammonite, and Geshem, the Arab continually tried to destroy the project. As their efforts failed, their threats escalated. They first began by mocking and ridiculing the Jews. (2:19) They grew angry and greatly incensed (4:1) as they continued to ridicule them. Sanballat said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble – burned as they are?” Tobiah chimed in, “What they are building – if even a fox climbed upon it, he would break down their wall of stones.” (4:3)

Nehemiah continued to turn to God and prayed, “Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity.” (4:4)

The people continued to build the wall so that all of it reached half its height. The people were fully committed and engaged in the project. But so too was the opposition. Their enemies plotted to come together and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.

Again, Nehemiah prayed. But this time he also posted a guard to protect the project both night and day.

Then the Jews began to complain that they were getting tired and there was too much rubble. They also feared the growing threats from their enemies. They said, “Our enemies said that 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.” (4:11) They also heard from fellow Jews, over ten times, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.”

Nehemiah, then stood up in Winston Churchill like fashion and said, “Do not 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.” (4:14)

From that day on, half of the men did the work, while the other half stood guard equipped with spears, shields, bows, and armor. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other. The builders all wore swords at their sides while they worked.

Then there was an outcry from their Jewish brothers. Some were being starved. Some were being enslaved. And some were being left powerless. Nehemiah brought the people together.

So, Nehemiah called a large meeting to deal with this situation. He said, “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? Let the exacting of usury stop! Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them.” (5:9-10)

The brothers responded, “We will give it back. And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.” (5:12)

Then Nehemiah called forth the nobles and officials so that they would take an oath. Nehemiah made the men accountable for their words and that they would follow through with action.

Nehemiah then addressed the whole general assembly. He explained that throughout this project, not once did he ever take the food allotted to him, as the governor. He never lorded his authority over the people – but rather, devoted himself to the work on the wall. Nehemiah took on a servant’s heart and sacrificed his own comforts for the sake of all the others and for the sake of the project.

Further opposition continued. They sent messages asking for Nehemiah to come meet with them. He said, “They were scheming to harm me; so, I sent messengers to them with this reply: ‘I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down.” (6:2) Four times they sent the same message and each time he gave them the same reply.

Then his enemies bribed one of Nehemiah’s countrymen to have him hide in the temple in an attempt to ruin his reputation and discredit him. Nehemiah turned to prayer again, “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.” (6:14)

After all the trials and tribulations, we hear the conclusion of Nehemiah’s efforts along with the Jewish people: “So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. 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.” (6:15-16)


As we begin the rebuilding projects of our own. Let us learn from the leadership qualities of Nehemiah.

Let our name, as Christian, be known to bring Yahweh’s Comfort.

Let our hearts be filled with compassion, godliness and humility.

Let us be a people of prayer – confessing our sin and calling upon God who is attentive and faithful.

Let us not be afraid to ask and then to take action on behalf of others.

Let us not be surprised that we will face opposition in our efforts.

Let us be prepared, resolved, focused and inspired in a project greater than ourselves.

Let us clearly articulate the vision and exhort others to join in.

Let us call people together and care for one another equally.

Let us hold one another accountable.

Let us be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

Let us not be intimidated.

Let us believe that with God all things are possible–even building an entire wall around the City of Jerusalem in 52 days.  

And in the end, whatever project we are involved in, let a testimony ring loud and clear, that all the work was done with the help of our God.

God Bless You All!

Pastor Mark