Nehemiah 4-7
(Finishing the Wall)
May 19th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2015

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Nehemiah prayed, “Oh listen to us, dear God. We’re so despised: Boomerang their ridicule on their heads; have their enemies cart them off as war trophies to a land of no return; don’t forgive their iniquity, don’t wipe away their sin—they’ve insulted the builders!”

- Nehemiah 5:4-5 (MSG)

Summary of Chapters

A group of Israelites had returned to Jerusalem after nearly 70 years in exile in Babylon and other locations. A layperson named Nehemiah had led a group of people back to their homeland and organized the rebuilding of the wall surrounding Jerusalem - a project that was completed despite many obstacles. Today's reading continues the account of events surrounding this activity. For instance, in chapter 4, Nehemiah reports that Sanballat, who was governor of Samaria, taunted the builders of the wall with insults and plotted to fight against it:

Nehemiah prayed for justice against these plotters and had some of the builders stand guard while others worked. Every man carried a sword.

Nehemiah shifts gears in chapter 5 to discuss a problem of local extortion. Some of the poor Jewish people had been taken advantage of by the richer ones. Apparently the 1% who had excess cash were loaning it at unfair terms and then took away the land from the borrowers when they defaulted on loans that they could not have afforded (like the subprime mortgage crisis of the early 21st century). Nehemiah convinced these robber-barons to give back what they took and to stop being so hard on the people.

The story in chapter 6 notes that Sanballat and his gang tried to lure Nehemiah out of Jerusalem for a meeting, but most likely wanted to ambush him. These snakes also sent a spy to suggest that Nehemiah hide in the temple. Nehemiah ignored all of these requests. Nehemiah did not become distracted or worried. Instead, he remained on course with regard to the building of the wall, and eventually finished it. Nehemiah then instructed the people when to allow the gates to be opened (not at sunrise, but when the day is warm) to help ensure that enough people would be awake and ready to defend the city if necessary.

Afterwards, Nehemiah assembled the people and reviewed the genealogies in order to determine who should rebuild and occupy the houses within the city walls, as recorded in chapter 7.

Reflection and Application

When others mock our work we can follow Nehemiah’s example of praying for justice (not revenge). We can also follow his model of praying for discipline and focus so we can remain dedicated to our task. We might encounter mockers in any parts of our lives, but the most dangerous ones are those who mock the good work of the LORD carried out by his people. Be especially cautious of these types. Jesus warned his disciples of snakes and wolves for this same reason and Paul advises us to take on the shield of justice.

Part of our cautious nature should include applying wisdom to discern what requests to follow. Anything that runs contrary to God’s commandments should be viewed with suspicion, such as the suggestion for Nehemiah to hide in the temple, which was a place reserved for consecrated priests. It would have been tempting for Nehemiah to think he could make an exception for personal safety, but he allowed God’s law to be upheld.

We might require a team of theologians, language experts, and bankers to achieve a complete understanding of the section regarding extortion and unfair loans. The devil is in the details on this one – because we could get distracted trying to figure out if the extortion was in the interest rate or the collateral or both. However, we can find God in the principle of treating our neighbor with respect and not setting unreasonable business terms when we are in a position of advantage. Nehemiah and other Bible authors also remind us that we are to care for the poor, and not take advantage of them. For example, the author of Proverbs wrote, “He who gives to the poor will lack nothing (Proverbs 28:27 - NIV).”

By setting a schedule for opening the gates, Nehemiah demonstrated a thorough follow-up process to ensure that a completed project serves its intended purpose. This is a good example for us to remember in our business, family, ministry, or other areas. The project is not necessarily done when we built the structure, delivered a service, or prepared a training manual. We need to ensure that the results of this good work are put to use. In the software and technology world this practice is often referred to as a maintenance plan, which is essential for any good project plans.

The Rev. Sam Schreiner continued a series on Nehemiah when he delivered a sermon on the 4th chapter of Nehemiah. He provided additional background, such as estimating the length of the wall as about 2.5 miles and describing why Sanballat and others were fiercely opposed to the wall project. Schreiner also emphasized Nehemiah's commitment to finishing what he started and practicing his reliance on God. He encouraged the people around him in many ways, including the listing of key people in the official record that we read today. You can hear this sermon by clicking the play button on the object below:

"Ideal Conditions or Ideal Commitment," Nehemiah 4:6-18

Sermon by Rev Sam Schreiner

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What experiences can you think of where someone tried to discourage you from finishing a project?
    2. What words can we use to encourage others?
    3. How do we discern warnings of the wise from the taunting of fools?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know you are always there to protect us and can defeat any army. Please help us to pray to you for protection and guidance.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Project Managers

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Nehemiah 8-10 (Back to School Week)

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