In the 5th Century B.C., the Jewish people returned to Jerusalem after captivity in Babylon only to find their temple destroyed and the city’s walls in ruin. They immediately rebuilt the temple, but were then faced with the challenge of no fortified wall around the city for protection. They were defenseless against enemies, wild animals, weather, and anyone who could easily enter and cause great trouble for the people. But, there is more to this story than just the safety and protection.
According to a report received by Nehemiah, the King’s cup bearer, the people of Jerusalem were shamed. A city with broken walls meant it was a city of defeated people. They felt both unsafe and humiliated at living in a destroyed city (Nehemiah 2:17). So, God called Nehemiah to lead the people not just in rebuilding the walls, but to a much bigger project – restore Jerusalem after laying in ruins for 150 years. Nehemiah told the Jewish leaders, “Rebuilding the walls would show God’s blessing on His people again (Nehemiah 1:9).
Rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was an important sign to the enemies of Israel. Doing so would show God’s blessing again and let them know that God was with His people (Nehemiah 1:9, 2:20). As Nehemiah led the work to rebuild, the people experienced mockery, attacks, distractions, and temptation to sin. Even so, God equipped them to stand firm and be determined in their efforts. The result was completing a daunting task in just 52 days (Nehemiah 2:3-5,12; 4:3,8; 6:10-12.)
Sometimes, we face challenges that leave our life seemingly in ruins. With our temple destroyed and our “protective walls” torn down – we can feel afraid, humiliated, and defeated. Even so, it’s important to remember that God has a plan for our life, and to overcome these feelings requires much more than personal desire or reaching a goal. In the midst of the ruins, Nehemiah was driven by an understanding that God appointed him to the task of rebuilding. When God charges us with a task – whether to repair a relationship, refocus our life, or share our blessings with others – He gives us whatever skills and strength are needed to continue doing what He’s asked no matter what challenges come our way.
What kinds of challenges do you face this week? How has God equipped you to overcome them? May we pray for the grace to persevere through our challenges and finish the tasks God gives us. May our labors always bring Him glory.