Nehemiah Inspects the Wall
11Three days after arriving in Jerusalem, 12I got up during the night and left my house. I took some men with me, without telling anyone what I thought God wanted me to do for the city. The only animal I took was the donkey I rode on. 13I went through Valley Gate on the west, then south past Dragon Spring, before coming to Garbage Gate. As I rode along, I took a good look at the crumbled walls of the city and the gates that had been torn down and burned. 14On the east side of the city, I headed north to Fountain Gate and King's Pool, but then the trail became too narrow for my donkey. 15So I went down to Kidron Valley and looked at the wall from there. Then before daylight I returned to the city through Valley Gate.
16None of the city officials knew what I had in mind. And I had not even told any of the Jews—not the priests, the leaders, the officials, or any other Jews who would be helping in the work. 17But when I got back, I said to them, “Jerusalem is truly in a mess! The gates have been torn down and burned, and everything is in ruins. We must rebuild the city wall so that we can again take pride in our city.”
18Then I told them how kind God had been and what the king had said.
Immediately, they replied, “Let's start building now!” So they got everything ready.
19When Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab heard about our plans, they started insulting us and saying, “Just look at you! Do you plan to rebuild the walls of the city and rebel against the king?”
20I answered, “We are servants of the God who rules from heaven, and he will make our work succeed. So we will start rebuilding Jerusalem, but you have no right to any of its property, because you have had no part in its history.”
When Nehemiah gets to Jerusalem he takes a long look at reality! He carefully surveys the ruins of Jerusalem. He is no “pie in the sky” dreamer. He confronts reality. After resting he goes on a famous night journey around the city to see the real state of affairs in Jerusalem: the broken down walls, the burned gates, the strewn rubbish, the piles of rocks, the mounds of ashes, the ruins everywhere. It is so bad at one point that there is not enough room for his donkey to pass through a gate because of all the debris.
But then comes the resolve. After surveying the problems Nehemiah knows what has to be done, and he gathers the people and relays the news they already know, and reminds them of the work that will be needed. At the same time he tells them how God has prospered him and how the King of Persia had responded to his request. The people are encouraged and respond with enthusiasm to restore the city. They have been reminded that things are bad, but bad as they are they have been also reminded of the grace and help of Almighty God.
David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, once remarked that in Israel, to be a realist you must believe in miracles. Nehemiah was not afraid of reality. Neither must the Christian be, because of the greatest reality of all – God.
O God of Heaven help me not to avoid reality but to confront it in all its brutal honesty. To see it, to name it, but at the same time to do your work in your presence so that whatever the obstacle, whatever the problem, it can be overcome with your help! I pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.