So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem; nor was there any animal with me, except the one on which I rode. And I went out by night through the Valley Gate to the Serpent Well and the Refuse Gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire. Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal under me to pass. So I went up in the night by the valley, and viewed the wall; then I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, or the others who did the work.
Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me.
So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work. (Nehemiah 2:11-18)
Nehemiah had most likely never been to Jerusalem. He had been born in captivity and grew up in a foreign land. It was a foreign land in the fact that it was not the land of Nehemiah’s people. However, Nehemiah could have easily considered Babylon to be his home since this was the only place that he knew. He had a good position here in Babylon serving the king. Nehemiah obviously had found favor with the king as well. I have to imagine that Nehemiah was living a comfortable life in Babylon.
Then there was that burden that God had put in Nehemiah’s heart for the people and poor condition of his homeland. This burden caused Nehemiah to leave the safe and comfortable life that he enjoyed in Babylon to fulfill the calling from God. He embarked on the journey to Jerusalem as God continued to guide and provide everything that was necessary for him to be successful.
Nehemiah was not the kind of person that spends a lot of time talking about what he “is going to do”. Instead, he was focused on hearing from God. He allowed God to prompt and lead him along the path that God had ordained. Many people spend so much time talking that they are unable to recognize God’s promptings in their life. Then they complain that they never hear from God.
Upon arriving in Jerusalem, Nehemiah didn’t call a town meeting right away to share his plan with everyone. He continued to quietly listen to God and allow God to speak to him. He went out at night (a quieter time than the day) with only a few men to survey the area. These few men were likely there to act as guides to help him navigate the city and better understand the condition of the walls and gates around the city.
Had Nehemiah surveyed the city from a human perspective, the task of rebuilding would have seemed overwhelming. An attempt had been made years before to rebuild the wall but had failed when the enemy came against the people and stopped the work. For many, the task of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem had been dismissed as an unattainable dream… as far fetched as the idea of a teenage boy killing a giant named Goliath with a sling and a stone. But Nehemiah was not surveying the destruction to determine if the work could be accomplished. Nehemiah was surveying the destruction that, in his faith in God, he knew was going to be rebuilt. Nehemiah never had a doubt in God’s plan and therefore never hesitated in carrying out the work that was laid out before him. Nehemiah was operating in complete faith in God.
When the time was right, Nehemiah shared God’s plan with the people. This work (rebuilding the wall at Jerusalem) was inspired by God, carried out through God’s provision, and brought glory to God. This is true of every work that is to be done in God’s name. Nehemiah was not about to take the glory for what God was doing. Nor was he implying that the people should join in the work of rebuilding to honor him. Nehemiah was encouraging the people to enter into a work that would bring glory to their God. Nehemiah serves as an example of a great leader for all of the reasons detailed above. He was a willing servant, fulfilling the calling that God had place in his life, without the desire to achieve personal ambitions.
The result can be seen in the response of the people… “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work. The people, hardly knowing Nehemiah, were stirred to take action in rebuilding the wall to honor their God. Accomplishments are not achieved by setting around pondering the “good ol’ days” or discussing how “someone should do something”. We see accomplishments when people are stirred to action… positive actions that produce results with value.
As we look at our nation today, we need leaders who have spent time fasting and praying as a result of the burdens that God has placed on their hearts. We should be seeking to fulfill the calling that God has placed in our lives without regard for personal ambitions or desires. It’s not about what I want or what you want… the Christian’s goal is to know and serve the will of God. Take the focus off of the magnitude of the work that lies before us and place that focus on the power and the will of the God that we serve. Stand in awe of the God that created the heavens and the earth. Marvel in His goodness and love for us. Then set your hands to do this good work that He has placed in your heart.
So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work. (Nehemiah 2:18)