“Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built” (Nehemiah 4:17-18).
After the days of Solomon, the land of Israel fell into disaster. The people split into two kingdoms, and while the northern kingdom was far more corrupt than the southern, both eventually were given into captivity because of their evil. During the exile in Babylon, however, the people of the Judean kingdom repented and returned to God. When they cried out to Him for deliverance, He answered. In due time, he brought them back to the land of their fathers. But there was much work that needed to be done. Both the temple and the wall surrounding the city of Jerusalem were in disrepair, and it was imperative that both of these tasks be completed. One man, Nehemiah, recognized the importance of rebuilding the wall, and he made it his personal duty to oversee the completion of it.
When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem and announced his plan to the people who were already there, they were eager to begin. Everyone worked together on the portion of the wall in front of his own house. Profession made no difference: perfumers worked beside goldsmiths, who worked beside merchants. Because everyone pitched in and did his own part, the entire wall was completed in fifty-two days.
But the work wasn’t without opposition. There were many who did not want to see the wall rebuilt. They enjoyed the power they held over the unprotected Jews, and they did everything they could to prevent the building of the wall. They threatened Nehemiah several times, taunting the people and sending frightening letters. But instead of panicking, Nehemiah simply readied the people for battle. There weren’t enough people, nor was there enough time, to organize a full army. So Nehemiah instead armed each of the builders and instructed them to continue in their normal work. If the need for battle arose, they would be ready. It didn’t matter that few, if any, of the people were trained soldiers; they were prepared for battle nonetheless.
The building of the wall of Jerusalem is a beautiful picture of how God’s people should behave. As the body of Christ, each believer has his own particular gifts given him by the Holy Spirit. He should use these gifts to help build up his community of fellow believers as they all contribute to the work of the church. But just because one person’s gift might not be that of leading the church doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be prepared to go to war. Every believer is embroiled in the exact same spiritual war, regardless of his role in the church. We all need to be ready to fight, no matter what particular job we might have. God’s work is not exclusive to one particular function; He expects each and every one of His followers to be able to fight when the need arises. Like the builders of the wall, we must always be ready to go to war. The Sword of the Spirit must always be strapped to our side as we work together on the task God has put in front of us.