Ezra & Nehemiahby Robert M. Solomon
In today’s reading, we delve further into the details of Nehemiah’s defensive measures. Realising that there is a spiritual battle going on, Nehemiah takes measures to ensure the work on the wall can proceed uninterrupted. He organises the workers into work teams and armed groups. Half will work while the other half will guard the city with armour and weapons (Nehemiah 4:16), with their military officers standing behind them to protect them.
The sight of armed guards and officers will help the workers concentrate on their work and do it without fear. Those who carry materials may have had to walk outside the wall, and would have been particularly vulnerable. So they are instructed to carry the building materials “with one hand and held a weapon in the other” (v. 17). Those who work on the wall have to use both their hands for their work, so they each “wore his sword at his side as he worked” (v. 18).
Moreover, Nehemiah has a trumpet blower with him all the time, so that he can rally the people even though they are spread out. If any part of the wall is attacked, the trumpet blower will sound the alarm and gather defenders to ward off the attack (vv. 19–20).
At the same time, Nehemiah reminds the leaders that even with all these military strategies, they must not forget that it is indeed “Our God” who “will fight for us!” (v. 20). The defensive army of Jerusalem is effective only because God is with them. Ultimately, the battle belongs to God (1 Samuel 17:47; 2 Chronicles 20:15).
“So we continued the work,” Nehemiah observes with satisfaction (Nehemiah 4:21), having effectively converted the people into “guards by night and as workers by day” (v. 22). The people do not let down their guard even when they rest at night. The work on the wall, and the honour of God, is too much at stake. Nehemiah sets a personal example of this attitude. He shares, “Neither I nor my brothers nor my men nor the guards with me took off our clothes; each had his weapon, even when he went for water” (v. 23). They are never off duty.
There are spiritual lessons for us here. As we live for and serve Christ, we will realise that we are in a spiritual battle, in which Satan is working with the sinful world and fallen human nature to thwart our growth in Christ and our work for Him. Just as Nehemiah and his people took appropriate defensive measures, we too must be spiritually watchful and alert (Matthew 25:13; 1 Peter 5:8). We must encourage one another in this spiritual battle, as some may feel they are more in the line of fire than others. We must stand together in faith and courage.
Read Ephesians 6:10–18. How does this passage help us to apply the principles found in Nehemiah 4:16–23 in our spiritual lives? How are your spiritual defences?
How can we balance between focusing on defensive measures and doing the work of God? Are there any changes that need to be made in your life in this regard?