Building with God
The Lord invites us into partnership with his big building project.
The idea that God invites us into a building partnership soundns exciting. But it raises a question: What is God doing? What's he building? In simple terms, God is building a people who will reflect his glory on the earth.
When we come to the book of Nehemiah, it's about building the wall of Jerusalem. In Nehemiah 2:17-18, we read about Nehemiah's appeal to the people of Jerusalem: 'Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem'. They responded affirmatively, 'Let us rise up and build'.
In scripture, the building of Jerusalem physically is related to God building his people spiritually. In Psalm 147:2, we read that The LORD builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the outcasts of Israel. This brings us to the key message from Nehemiah:
Building Jerusalem teaches us about the power of participation in the purposes of God.
From Nehemiah 6:15, we know the end of the story: So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. But this raises a question: how did they get there? How did they get it done?
The first step towards getting it done was participation. In Nehemiah 3:1-3, we read the beginning of a list of people who were involved. It's amazing - there are long lists of people doing many different things: carrying, building gates, setting doors, fixing hinges, hauling rubbish, placing stones.
The key to success is that everyone is involved. Some people participate because of their skill, others because of their heart. For example, in Nehemiah 3:8, we read about goldsmiths helping with a portion of the wall, and we think, 'That's their area of expertise; they should be involved'. But in the same verse, we read about perfumers helping out as well. And their help wasn't to make the walls smell nice, it was to help build the wall.
Here's the lesson: some people contribute in the area of their expertise, but everyone can contribute something if they have a willing heart. But not everyone has a willing heart. In Nehemiah 3:5, we read that their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord. Some people think that certain functions are beneath them. So here's the key point to take away:
Jerusalem gets built when everyone is willing to participate
2. OVERCOMING OPPOSITION
It would be nice if things went from 'participation' to 'job finished'. But it is almost never a straight line from concept to accomplishment. And it wasn't for Nehemiah. We read in Nehemiah 4:1-3 that voices of opposition rose up to try and derail the work.
Please understand: there is always opposition to the purposes of God. So how should we respond? How do we overcome the opposition? In Nehemiah 4:4, we read that his response was to pray. The immediate reaction to opposition was not fear, intimidation, or quitting, but rather turning to God.
And the result? Nehemiah 4:6 tells us there was progress - the work resumed. So all the problems were over, right? No, In Nehemiah 4:7-8, there was more opposition. And in Nehemiah 4:9, more praying. So a pattern emerges:
Getting the job done, however, took more than prayer; it also took action. In Nehemiah 4:9, we read that they prayed and set a guard. There were practical steps they had to take to get the job done. We read more of these in Nehemiah 4:15-18 and Nehemiah 4:21-23:
- Half worked, half held spears.
- They worked with one hand, weapon in the other
- Everyone wore a sword
- They slept clothed and armed
So with these practical steps in mind, we need to amend our pattern:
4. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED
Finally, after all the work, opposition, prayer, and practrical measures, we read the result in Nehemiah 6:15: So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. After all that, it only took 52 days! In the midst of the struggle, it felt like eternity, but it just took two months.
How did they get it done?
- Everyone got involved
- They overcame opposition
- They prayed and took practical measures.
What does this mean for us? REMEMBER: God is building a people who will reflect his glory on the earth. And so this is what we read in 1 Peter 2: 5:
You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house.
How does this happen? First, there's what God does. Jesus promises in Matthew 16:18 that 'I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it'. So Jesus is the builder of his church, his people.
But according to 1 Thessalonians 5:11, we also have a role: 'Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing'. So while we trust God to get the job done because He has the primary role, he uses us in that process. It is our job to encourage each other and build each other.
Remember, the Lord is building Jerusaelm - a picture of his people, and in doing so, he is inviting the outcasts to be part of his building. It's going to be a grand and glorious building that reflects his glory on the earth. How does that get done? How we we become the people God has called us to be?
- Proactive participation
- Perseverance through opposition
- Prayer and Practical Measures
When everyone is involved, and we fight through opposition with prayer and practical measures, we'll get the job done. That's how we build with God.