Rise up and Build
March 18-19, 2023
Nehemiah wrote the book. It's a narrative of his leadership to the Jews who had returned from the exile there in Babylon those 70 years, and to cause them to rise up and build, for they were so discouraged, downhearted when they returned to the city only to find the city in ruins, dust, and rubble, and just downhearted. Nehemiah became the governor. He's not the priest. Ezra is the priest. He's in contemporary to Ezra. The story begins actually in Babylon where Nehemiah was living. The story involved this way. He had a friend who had come back from Jerusalem to visit the city, and so Nehemiah asked him about the city and about the Jews living there.
His friend answered and he said, "The remnant there in the city are in great distress and great reproach. The walls of Jerusalem are broken down, the gates are burned with fire." Now, when Nehemiah heard this, it just broke his heart. He says he sat down and he wept, and he mourned for days. Praying day and night for days. Fasting, praying, interceding. We have the words of his prayer earlier in this book when he prayed, "I beseech you, O God. The God of heaven. Great and awesome God who preserves the covenant, who keeps loving-kindness for those who love You.
Hear my prayer that I'm praying on behalf of the Sons of Israel, confessing our sins which we have sinned against You." It's like a prayer of national confession. It's powerful. Remember the promise of Your word, that if we are unfaithful and scattered among the nations, that if we would return to You with all our heart, that you would gather us again, even from the remotest parts of the earth and bring us back to that place where You have chosen in for Your name to dwell. Oh, what a deep prayer. We are Your servants, Lord, Your servants that You redeemed with Your great power and Your strong hand.
Hear the prayer of Your servant. Hear the prayer of those who delight to revere Your name and give me success with the king of Persia. That's the interesting part of the story, is that Nehemiah, by God's sovereign, hand had access to the king there in Babylon. The reason he had access is because he was a cupbearer. Cupbearers were very common in those days, not only as a server of the cup of wine or whatever, but also to drink of it first in case it's poisoned. Then he would be the first to die. Very common in those days. He's praying for success with the king.
What happened then was one day Nehemiah was serving the king. The king noticed that Nehemiah's countenance was sad. Now, it was not lawful in those days for anyone to be in the presence of the king with a sad countenance. The king said, "Why is your face sad though you are not sick?" This is none other than sadness of heart. Now, he was very much afraid when this was said to him, but he prayed to God because it was an opportunity. "O God," he prayed. "You're going to give me wisdom." He said, "Why should not my heart be sad when the city of my fathers lies desolate, and the gates consumed with fire?"
The king liked Nehemiah and gave him favor. He said, "What is it you propose? What is it you request?" That was the opportunity. He prayed. He asked for the king, "Release me that I might go to Jerusalem myself to cause these people to rise up and to rebuild the city of my fathers that lies desolate." The king liked Nehemiah, and granted him his request. That's the story. See, we can so relate, the theme of rebuilding, rising up and rebuilding your life is a theme. It's a spiritual theme that we can relate to, because many people understand the necessity of rebuilding.
They're discouraged or downhearted. They made a mess of things. They've broken this, they've broken that, and they need to rebuild their lives. There are principles of rebuilding, and that's what we are going to see out of these verses, that there are spiritual principles for rebuilding on a spiritual strong foundation. Let's read it. We're in Nehemiah 4. Again, we'll cover the other verses around this at the Wednesday verse-by-verse service. We begin in verse one. "Now it came about that when Sanballat--" Now we met him earlier in the book.
He is a mortal enemy of the Jews. He is a Samaritan. Of course, they have a long history living just north to them. "When Sanballat had heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious, hot of temper and angry, and mocked the Jews." He spoke in the presence of the brothers and the wealthy men of Samaria. He said, "What are these feeble Jews doing? Are they going to restore it for themselves? Can they offer sacrifices? Can they finish in a day? Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble, even the burnt ones?" Then Tobiah an Ammonite, he was near to him, and he piled onto it.
He added more mocking. Even what they have built, if a fox should jump on it, would break down that stone wall. Nehemiah's response is a prayer. "Hear, O God, how we are despised. Return their reproach." Listen to this prayer. Interesting. "Return their reproach on their own heads and give them up for plunder in a land of captivity. Do not forgive their iniquity. Do not let their sin or let not their sin be blotted out from before You, for they have demoralized the builders." Rebuild the wall, and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
I love that part there. They had a mind to work. Now, it came about that when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, the Ashdodites heard that the repair of the walls of Jerusalem was going on and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they became even more angry, and verse eight, "And then all of them conspired together to come and fight against Jerusalem, and to cause a disturbance." They're going to amp it up. They're going to bring physical violence now. Verse nine, again, he prayed. "We prayed to our God, and because of them, we set up a guard against them by day in by night.
Thus in Judah, it was said, the strength of the burden bearers is falling, yet there is much rubbish, and we ourselves are unable to rebuild the wall. Then our enemies said, they will not even know or see until we come among them, kill them and put a stop to this war." In other words, their intent is to come up secretly to infiltrate among them and then pull out their swords and mayhem of violence. Says, verse 12, that it came about that when the Jews who lived near them heard of this, they came. Interesting, it says, they told us, 10 times they told us, they are going to come up against you from every side.
Every place where you may turn, they're going to surround you. They're going to infiltrate. 10 times they warned us. I stationed men in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, the exposed places. In other words, he's going to strengthen the weak places. I stationed people in families with swords, spears, and bows. Now, when I saw their fear, I could see it. I looked at the people, I could see their fear, so I rose and I spoke to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people. He said, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord." He's giving an answer to their fear.
Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses. Now it happened that when our enemies heard that it was known to us that we were onto them and that God had frustrated their plan, then all of us returned to the wall, each one to his work. It came about, now from that day on, half of my servants carried on the work while half of them held the spears, shields, bows, breastplates, and the captains were behind the whole house of Judah.
I. Expect Opposition
Those who were rebuilding the wall, and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work, and the other hand holding a weapon. All right, let's look at these verses today. Again, we'll look at the verses surrounding it at the Wednesday service, but there are many principles of rebuilding your life that come out of these verses, starting with this. Expect opposition. Expect that anytime that you are trying to build something good in your life, something spiritual in your life, whenever there is revival, whenever you rise up and build, you can expect opposition.
You can expect spiritual attack. The enemy hates revival. The enemy hates it when you are rebuilding your life, and you can expect spiritual attack. Back many years ago when I was a youth leader, we would bring the kids oftentimes up to the mountain. We would have these retreats, getaway times, and there would be times of revival. Amazing things would happen. Would worship and bonfires, and bring messages out of the word to just call them to the Lord. Something would stir. Kids are recommitting their lives. Some are giving their lives to the Lord for the first time.
It was nothing short of amazing what God was doing. Before we got on those buses to go back, I would always give them the same message. Be aware of this. This has been revival. This has been a mountaintop experience. Know this, that when you go back, you are going to encounter spiritual attack. Expect it. Whenever there is something good, the enemy hates it. We just had a men's conference last weekend, 1,000-plus guys were there from all over the state. Oh my, it was a time of revival and recommitment, and drawing together as men of God.
You can expect anytime that you rebuild your life, there will be opposition. The enemy hates it. 1 Peter 5:8. "Be sober minded, be watchful for your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour." Now Sanballat was a Samaritan, and the animosity between the Samaritans and the Jews had a long history and would have a long future. So much so that when Jesus was administering and the Jewish leaders wanted to insult Jesus, they said, "Did we not rightly say that You are a Samaritan?" See, that's a insult of insults.
A. Revive the stones from the rubble
You are a Samaritan. That was the animosity of that attack against Him. Notice the theme that comes, revive the stones from the rubble. Rebuild, revive the stones out of the rubble. That's a great picture right there. Notice the nature of their spiritual attack; to discourage them. What are these feeble Jews doing? Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble. Then Tobiah added to it, even what they have built is nothing. If a fox should jump on that wall, it'd fall down. See, that's an aspect of spiritual warfare. If the enemy can discourage you, if he can get you to believe that you are nothing, you are of no worth, that any effort that you put into rebuilding your life will amount to nothing.
Many people are discouraged when the enemy attacks in such a way. Why? Because he wants you to quit. he wants you to give up. That's the whole other thing. Give up the spiritual business of rebuilding your life. Quit. See, the enemy, the Scripture is called the Accuser of the Brethren. This is one of the main thrusts of his attack. Who do you think you are, trying to rebuild your life? You'll never amount to anything. You know who you are? This is the attack of the enemy. You know who you are? You are a sinner. You are a sinner who's messed up your life.
You have disqualified yourself from asking anything from God. Why would God give anything to you? You've disqualified yourself. You messed it up. See, many people are very intimidated by that. May I suggest a very different way of looking at that? If anyone knows your past, if anyone knows the shame, if anyone knows the sin, may I suggest that it's God. God knows all about it. He's the one telling you to rise up and build. God knows intimately well. Would anybody agree with me? God knows intimately well the mess you made of it.
He's the one saying, I want you to rise up and rebuild this thing. I'm telling you to rebuild it. I know your past, and that's why I'm telling you to rebuild it. Philippians 3:13-14, Paul writes it this way. "One thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." That's a theme right there. Forget what lies behind. All right, you messed up. All right, you broke this. All right, you did that. Then let's press on and look forward to what God is going to do when you rebuild this thing.
God is the one who says, rebuild that. Amen. Let's give Him praise for that. Amen. Notice these words of discouragement. Will these feeble Jews revive stones out of the rubble? Yes, they will, and so will you. That's the theme. Because God's the one telling you to do it. This time, when you rebuild your life this time, rebuild it on a foundation of the Spirit of the living God, on the word of God. Rebuild it on a rock. Rebuild it on a foundation. This time, rebuild it on revival. This time, God is the foundation, and that will change everything. God is the one.
B. Let God settle all accounts
Let Him rebuild it. He will make all things new. Revelation 21:5. "He who sits on the throne says, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' Then He says, 'Write this down, for these words are faithful and true.'" Now back to our story. Would you notice this then, let God settle all accounts. Notice that Nehemiah did not even give an answer to these discouragers. Now this is a good principle. In other words, never give a sharp word in exchange for a sharp word. Never give a sharp word when the discourager, when the accuser, when the attacker says a sharp word to you, don't return it.
1 Peter 3:9. "Never return evil for evil, or insult for insult, but give a blessing instead, for you were called for this very purpose that you might inherit a blessing." I like to say it this way, stay out of the weeds, stay out of the drama, stay out of the mess. As was said by that famous American philosopher, George Bernard Shaw, "Never wrestle a pig, for you get way too dirty, and he has way too much fun." Is that not true? Stay out of the drama, out of the weeds. Instead of returning a sharp word for a sharp word, Nehemiah turned to the Lord.
Now, this is an interesting prayer. "Hear, o God, how we are despised. Return their reproach on their heads. Do not forgive their iniquity. Do not let their sin be blotted out from before you." Now, what should we make of this prayer? What should we say about this prayer? This doesn't sound like love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, which is what Jesus said in Matthew 5. What do we do with this prayer? First, I think we should commend Nehemiah for praying. Let's start with that. He turned to the Lord. He did not engage them with evil or hurtful words, which is a common response.
If someone hurts us, anger often rises. That's the first reaction. You want to say something hurtful in response. You want to give spit for spat? No. You begin where Nehemiah began. You begin with prayer. I love this quote from John Bunyan where he said this "You can do more than pray after you've prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you've prayed." In other words, let's start there. Let's start with prayer. That's the place to begin, because it will set your heart in the right place. Notice in this prayer that he's asking God to settle the account.
See, this is faith. To let it rest with God, to let God settle the account. Paul wrote this, Romans 12:19. "Never take your own revenge, beloved. Leave room for the wrath of God." In other words, God will settle the account. Leave room for God to do it. Don't do it yourself. Let God do it. It is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." Can we pray like that? Is that a prayer that we can pray? Get him, Lord. Heap burning coals on his head. Can we pray like that? Now I must admit, something like this happened to me. A number of years ago, I was down at the coast.
I was driving home and coming through Lincoln City. You know at the north end of the city where two lanes merged into one, right? We was all busy and traffic-wise, and so we're trying to merge. This guy rudely cut me off. I know. I couldn't believe that. I merged in behind him, even though he was so rude, I merged in behind him. It was dark but I can see in my headlights that his wife was giving him some words. I have to admit that I said back there, I said, "You go, sister. You give it to him, he deserves it. You go. Yes, you go." Then all the way home, I had to repent of my attitude.
Here's another interesting story. At one point, Jesus was-- He was up in the north and He was heading to Jerusalem. He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they entered the village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. When they heard that Jesus was headed toward Jerusalem, they were not receiving. We pick up our story in Luke 9:54-56. Now, when His disciples, James and John, saw this-- James and John are brothers. They're called sons of thunder for their attitude, hot of head. When the disciples, James and John, saw this, they said, "Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?
II. Strengthen the Places that are Weak
You just say the word, Lord, and we'll consume them with fire." Jesus turned and rebuked them. You do not know of what kind of spirit you are of. No, that is the wrong spirit. You do not know what you're saying. For the Son of man did not come to destroy, but to save, and they went on to another village. Here's what we should see in this prayer. Nehemiah's prayer wasn't for personal vengeance. It wasn't out of personal hurt, personal contempt or vengeance. No, these enemies were hindering the work of God. They were hindering the construction for worship of the Almighty.
This is righteous indignation, that's what this is. If anything makes God angry, it's that. Question for you. Did Jesus ever get angry? Yes He did, out of righteous indignation. In fact, we will be looking at this very soon because the near triumphant entry is that story. Of course, when Jesus, He's descended from the mount of olives, there was Jerusalem, He wept and prayed over the city. He entered into the city, entered into the temple. What was there? Money changers taking advantage of people who had come to worship and honor God. Then He saw people selling doves, again, taking advantage of people wanting to worship, wanting to honor God.
They were changing money at exorbitant prices, hindering the work of God for selfish motives, selling doves at tremendously inflated prices, hindering the work of God. Jesus was incensed. Jesus got angry over this, and He overturned their tables. Now, these are not the plastic tables we have in our fellowship. These are thick wooden tables. He took hold of the table and He threw the table, money flying everywhere. Doves, threw over the tables of doves. Doves flying everywhere. Get out. I think Jesus is hot. Get out. This is My Father's house.
It's to be a house of prayer, and you are making it a den of robbers. Then He took a whip and chased them out. This was righteous indignation. See, here's my point. Let's discern and distinguish between the two. We need to guard our hearts from anger over personal hurts, over personal wounds, and leave it to God to settle those accounts. Never take your own revenge. Never give a sharp word for a sharp word. Never give a spit for a spat. Let God settle those accounts. There is a righteous indignation, and that's what we're seeing in the story.
Now, back to our story. We see this then, strengthen the places that are weak. When he hears of these amped-up attacks, see, when the enemy heard that the work of rebuilding was continuing, and that the breaches in the wall were beginning to be closed, then they conspired to bring violence. See, in other words, when the enemy attacks and you don't quit, when you don't give up, then he's going to amp it up. He's not going to just easily give up. Oh, I guess that would-- no, he's going to amp it up. This is a serious escalation. Now, their first response was to pray.
A. Don’t be afraid; remember the Lord
Then to set up a guard. They prayed, they took action. They prayed, they set up a guard, to strengthen the weak places. It's a great spiritual principles. Notice also, he says, "When I saw their fear, I spoke to their fear." Now, this is another great principle. Fear needs an answer. He saw their fear. What if this happens? What if that happens? That's the question of fear. What if this, what if that? Fear needs an answer. He drew them all together to give a speech of encouragement. Don't be afraid, remember the Lord. That's the answer to fear. He stationed men first, stationed men to stand in the weak places.
Strengthen the weak places. Now, that's a good starting point right there, because the enemy knows to attack at your weakest point. Isaiah 35:45. "Now, say to those with an anxious heart." Anxious means anxiety. It's weakened by fear. "Say to those with an anxious heart, take courage, don't fear. Behold, your God will come and the recompense of God will come, and He will save you." Then strengthening the weak places, he speaks to the weak aspect of their fear. "Don't be afraid," he says, verse 14, "remember the Lord." That's the answer.
Remember the Lord who is great and awesome. See, that's the answer. Remember the Lord. Remember that He's great and awesome, and that He's for you. See, that's what you see. He has proven Himself to you over and over. I've lived enough years now that I've seen God prove Himself to me over and over, and over. So much so that I can say, I know my God. I know how He moves. I know that He will rescue and save. I know my God, I know that He's going to move. Amen. Let's give the Lord praise. It's the key to spiritual attack. Don't be afraid, remember the Lord.
In other words, be bold. Be bold to stand where God has asked you to stand. Notice James 4:7-8. He starts out by saying, submit therefore to God. It means to come under the covering. Submit means to come under the covering. The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous runs into it and are saved. Start there, submit therefore to God. Then he adds, resist the devil and he will flee from you, draw near to God and He will draw near to you. It's the nearness of God is the key. We are not to be afraid. God has given us authority, and God has given us armament for a victorious battle.
Notice Matthew 16:18. "I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it." Now that verse suggests that God wants us to be on the move spiritually, to be on the offense spiritually. In the armor of spiritual warfare or spiritual battle as mentioned in Ephesians 6, there's no mention of any armor to protect the back. No, you move forward with the authority and the support and strength of God. I was studying one time on how lions strategize, and how lions attack. I was preparing for a message.
B. Fight for your brothers
I remember coming upon this video of a buffalo that had become separated from the herd. He noticed, he looked up and saw that he was separated. As he was coming back toward the herd, he came upon a pride of lions sleeping. Fascinating to see what happened next. He stopped, assessed the situation, lowered his horns and charged right through the middle of them, and they all scattered and ran. That's how you attack a pride of lions. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Would you notice this next in the story, fight for your brothers. Notice this.
This is a very important part of the story. Verse 14, "Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, and your wives." This is very powerful. Please don't miss this. In other words, there's more at stake here than just you. When you are defeated, the people around you are impacted by it. When you are victorious, when there is revival, when there's a foundation, the people around you, your family, are blessed because of it. You are strengthening those who are around you.
Do it for them. Do it for your family. Fight for them. Fight for your brothers. Fight for your sons. Fight for your daughters. Do it for them. Do it for the ones you love. Church is a family, made up of families. When the family's made strong because there's revival in the father or revival in the mother, it blesses the entire family does it not? Do it for your wife. Do it for your children. Do it for those whom you love. It's powerful. We are part of each other. We are connected to one another. We are part of each other. I was thinking of an illustration.
There was an American missionary family serving in the Philippines. One day, they were having a rest day and decided to play croquet. Some of the Filipinos said, "Oh, what are you doing?" "We're playing a game that we play back home. It's called croquet." "Can we play?" "Sure, you're welcome to play." "What are the rules?" "It's simple. We'll just show you as you go. There's these hoops, and then there's these mallets, and then these balls. We're going to go through here. It's very simple." "Okay, that sounds fun." They're all playing along.
This one particular Filipino was quite good. He went through the course and he finished first. The Americans then said, "Now that you finished, now you are what's called poison. Now you can come out and any ball that you hit, they will be dead. Then see, you can win the game." He said, "What? I'm going to kill my brothers?" "It's a game. You are poison. You can kill them and they're dead." "No, I'm not going to do that. They're my brothers." He put his mallet down, and he went to the next guy, and he started to encourage him as he's nicking the shots.
Then that guy finished, and then the two of them went back to the third guy. They're all together now, all moving together. Then they all started-- then others came and joined them. By the time the last guy came in, there's a big crowd who had been hollering, "Yes, you finished." That's a whole 'nother way to play that game. I love the heart behind him. No, we are brothers. That's why they wanted to do it that way. Then lastly, we'll close with this, keep one hand on your sword. Notice verse 17. "Those who were rebuilding the wall were doing their work with one hand in keeping the other hand on their sword."
C. Keep one hand on your sword
See, that's a picture of spiritual readiness. Jesus said, be dressed in readiness. For we are living in days of tremendous spiritual battle. We are living in days where there needs to be an urgency on spiritual matters. This is not the time to be asleep. This is the time to arise in spiritual revival. This is the time to rise up and build. If you're going to rise up and build, build your life on that foundation, on that rock, let there be spiritual revival, and therefore keep one hand on your sword. Be dressed in readiness. Ephesians 6:10-11, be strong in the Lord.
This is the key to spiritual victory. Be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God. Be dressed in spiritual readiness so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. You can stand firm. Do you believe that? You can stand firm. Be dressed in readiness. Keep one hand on your sword. Ephesians 6:16-17. "In addition to all, take up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one." The faith is that which arises.
Build your life on this foundation and faith will arise so that when the enemy attacks with those flaming arrows, your faith is that which extinguishes that arrow that comes, which is on fire, and in order to attack you. Faith says, I know my God. I know how He moves. I know how He stands. I know that He stands with me. I know that He walks with me. It is the key to that victory. Then there's Ephesians 6:16-17. "In addition to all, take up the shield of faith with which you'll be able to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one, and take up the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
Take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Keep one hand on your sword, which is the word of God. Be dressed in readiness by having the word of God written upon your heart, that it is ready upon your lips, ready upon your mind, ready upon your heart. For God sends His word with power to accomplish His purpose. That purpose is to strengthen your faith and your life. There was spiritual readiness in Nehemiah and in the Jews under his leadership. Keep one hand on your sword, the word of God, and having done everything to stand, stand firm therefore.
These are days of tremendous urgent days. Now is the time for revival. Now is the time to rise up and build. Amen. Lord, we love You and thank You for your word that You send in power. You have shown us how to rise up and build. God, I pray for the church that there will be revival in this place. That You move upon us. You stir us up. These are such difficult days. Spiritual battle all around us. God, I pray that the church would be stirred to arise. Church how many would say today, I want to build my life on this rock, I want to build my life on this foundation, and I want to do it? Yes, God, I want to do it for that what You're doing in my life, yes, but I want to do it for those I love.
I want to do it for my family. I want to do it for my sons, my daughters, for those I love. I want to do it for my wife. I want to do it for my husband. I want to do it for You. Church, is that you? Is God stirring you up to say that to the Lord? Would you just raise your hand unto the Lord as a way of saying that? I want to do that. Lord, let there be revival. Build it on this rock. I want to do it for You. I want to do it for what You're doing in my life. I want to do it for those I love.