Nehemiah faced a great challenge and had great faith in a great God, but he would have accomplished very little had there not been great dedication on the part of the people who helped him rebuild the wall. With the kind of humility that befits a godly leader, Nehemiah gave all the credit to the people when he wrote, “So built we the wall … for the people had a mind to work” (Neh. 4:6).
British humorist Jerome K. Jerome said, “I like work, it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.” When it comes to the work of the Lord, there is no place for spectators or self-appointed advisors and critics; but there is always room for workers.
Nehemiah was concerned about only one thing, the glory of God. “Let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach” (2:17; and see 1:3; 4:4; 5:9). The Gentiles delighted in mocking their Jewish neighbors by pointing out the dilapidated condition of Jerusalem. After all, the Jews claimed that their capital city was “beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth” (Ps. 48:2). They said that God loved “the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob” (87:2). If God loved Jerusalem so much, why were the walls in ruin and the gates burned? Why was the “holy city” a reproach? Why didn’t the Jews do something?
For the most part, the world today ignores the church. If it does pay any attention to the church, it is usually to condemn or mock. “If you are the people of God,” unbelievers ask, “why are there so many scandals in the church? If God is so powerful, why is the church so weak?” Whether Christians like it or not, we are living in a day of reproach when “the glory has departed” (1 Sam. 4:21).
The purpose of all ministry is the glory of God and not the aggrandizement of religious leaders or organizations (1 Cor. 10:31; 2 Cor. 4:5). The words of Jesus in His high priestly prayer ought to be the motivating force in all Christian ministry: “I have glorified Thee on the earth; I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do” (John 17:4). God has a special task for each of His children (Eph. 2:10); and in the humble, faithful doing of that task, we glorify His name.
Of course, the rebuilding of the walls and the setting of the gates also meant protection and security for the people. Jerusalem was surrounded by enemies, and it seemed foolish for the residents to improve their property when nothing was safe from invasion and plunder. Over the years, the citizens had become accustomed to their plight. Like too many believers in the church today, they were content to live with the status quo. Then Nehemiah arrived on the scene and challenged them to rebuild the city to the glory of God.