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Nehemiah rebuilds the wall of Jerusalem

INTRODUCTION TO THE BIBLE

From the December 28, 1998 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel


IMAGINE this: Your hometown has been destroyed by war. Most of the people are gone. And those who are left are in great trouble and despair. This was the situation in Jerusalem. The holy city in the land of Judah was in shambles. Its wall had been torn down by the Babylonians, and many of the Hebrew people were living in captivity.

Nehemiah was one of them. He had a high position in the royal court as cupbearer for the Persian King Artaxerxes. When Nehemiah received news of the problems in Jerusalem, he was very sad. With all his heart he prayed to God to help his people. Nehemiah knew that the wall of the city needed to be repaired so that Jerusalem and its people could become strong again. But how could he help? And would the king ever let him go? The book of Nehemiah in the Bible tells us what happened.

Before Nehemiah took any steps to help his people in Jerusalem, he prayed. Later when King Artaxerxes noticed that Nehemiah looked sad, he wanted to know why. Nehemiah told him about Jerusalem. Then, after he had prayed to God, he asked the king for permission to go to Jerusalem and build up its walls. The king kindly permitted him to go and even appointed him governor of Judah.

After arriving in Jerusalem Nehemiah didn't tell anyone what he was up to. Secretly, at night, he climbed on a donkey and went out to inspect the wall. He wanted to find out where the weak spots were so that he could figure out how best to rebuild them. Later when Nehemiah told his people of his plan, they were eager to help.

But not everyone was happy to see the wall built up again. In fact, some were very unhappy about it. Among this group were Sanballat, a Samaritan leader, Tobiah from the land of Ammon, and Geshem from Arabia. These men were afraid they would lose some of their power and influence over the Hebrews if Jerusalem became strong again. So Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem tried everything they could to prevent the Hebrew people from rebuilding the wall.

At first they made fun of Nehemiah and his efforts. But that didn't faze Nehemiah. He was sure that God supported his plan. In fact, he said, "The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build" (Neh. 2:20). And that's exactly what they did. The men and women of Judah worked all around the wall, one next to the other. They worked so hard that soon almost all the gaps in the wall were closed.

When the enemies heard this, they got very angry. They even planned an attack on Jerusalem. But Nehemiah did not get discouraged. He gave the workers weapons. Many now held a sword in one hand and worked with the other. In addition, Nehemiah set up groups of armed men to watch for enemies day and night. He also held what one might call prayer watches, with groups of people praying to God for help and protection.

Then Sanballat came up with a new idea. He tried to trick Nehemiah into leaving the wall. He told Nehemiah that he wanted to meet with him to discuss the situation, but Nehemiah did not trust him. Instead, he had his messengers tell Sanballat and Geshem, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down" (Neh. 6:3). Four times they tried to get him away from his "great work," but every time Nehemiah refused to go. He knew he was doing what God wanted him to do, so he never let himself get distracted from his job.

Next, the enemies started spreading rumors about Nehemiah. They said that he was building the wall because he wanted to be king himself. But Nehemiah refused to let these lies get to him. Indeed, none of his enemies' efforts to hurt him succeeded.

Soon the wall was completely rebuilt. It took only fifty-two days. All the people living around the land of Judah recognized that it had been the work of God.

Nehemiah accomplished other things during the twelve years he was governor in Judah. He made sure the poor got some relief from their debts. He encouraged many people to come back and live in Jerusalem. And he enforced strict obedience to the laws of Moses.

Nehemiah can be an example for all of us. He didn't let anything or anyone keep him from doing what he knew was right. You can be alert, just as Nehemiah was. You, too, can trust God to help you do what's right.

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