As I prepared for this message today, I thought beginning the new work, it might be a good thing to read from Nehemiah chapter 4. And so we want to take a good look in Nehemiah chapter 4 and learn a lesson from that chapter for the beginning of this new work!
I realize that probably to most of you this is a relatively new thing. It is a great new adventure to begin a new work for the Lord. It is not anything near the first time I've ever participated in such an event, or even the second time or the third time!
But still, every time, it is a great adventure, a marvelous thing! It is always a great thing to begin a new work and to start with a little group: to begin and struggle and to build and to win a few and to build some more until you have a strong self-sustaining and self-perpetuating church established for the glory of the Lord, and the growth and progress of His Kingdom! There Is nothing greater --- And you who have never experienced it before, or those who have experienced it perhaps once in your lifetime, you will all see more and more as we go on forward what a thrill it is! You will see and feel what a great thing it is and how wonderful it is to build a new work for the Lord. There is nothing like it!
Let's turn over to Nehemiah 4 now and we'll read the whole chapter. It's only a short chapter so let's read it together and then we'll talk about it a little while. We need to be in prayer, all of us, for each other. The devil really was after us this week. He put me just about in bed with the flu. And he had all of Jack's family in bed with the flu except himself. So you can see the Devil was really after us. I don't know, there may have been some others in our number who were ill as well that I don't know about. But at least those were all in pretty bad shape during the week. And in fact, I was afraid Friday that I might not even be able to preach today. But I got some antibiotics and God has blessed and made it so I can talk a little bit now. So as we begin reading in chapter 4 of Nehemiah, you pray as we bring a teaching message today!
"But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? Will they fortify themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they make an end in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned? Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall. Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity."
Now, notice there is a sudden change in who is speaking here. Of course, you would know that by the context, wouldn't you? These first three verses are referring to enemies of the Lord's work and now in verse 4, we're starting to read the words of the leader of the Lord's work in this place. "Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity: And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders. So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work."
I want you to pay particular attention to every word in this reading today because every word is of vital importance --- but particularly this sentence here in verse 6, "So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work."
"But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth. And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it. Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them. "And Judah said," --- now we're beginning to speak about another one of the leaders. He was one of the prominent men among the Jews here, this Judah. "And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able the build the wall. And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease. And it came to pass, that when the Jews which dwelt by them came, they said unto us ten times, From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you. Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows. And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses. And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work. And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields and the bows, and the habergeons;" now that's a kind of a long word that tells us what it's referring to is a coat of mail which covered their neck and their chest or their breast. So it was the main protection actually, as far as this word "habergeons" that we don't commonly use today, it was a coat of mail from the waist up also protecting the neck.
"And the rulers were behind all the house of Judah. They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me. And I said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another. In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us. So we laboured in the work: and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morning till the stars appeared. Likewise at the same time said I unto the people, Let every one with his servant lodge within Jerusalem, that in the night they may be a guard to us, and labour on the day. So neither I, nor my brethren, nor my servants, nor the men of the guard which followed me, none of us put off our clothes, saving that every one put them off for washing."
Let us pray. Father, we thank You for Your Word that we have read together. We pray that You will bless us as we continue and study it together! Use it to be an inspiration to us in this beginning of this new work, that many souls may be saved, that many may be won to follow Thy Son in His church. For we ask it in Christ's name. Amen.
Now as we begin to think a little more about this passage we have just read you, we notice one thing almost immediately when we think of this passage at all. We see there are many obstacles to the building of the wall. Now this was an assignment that the Lord had given to Nehemiah and to those who followed Him to go back and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and rebuild the temple, and reestablish the worship there. As they began to do this we find that they immediately ran into all kinds of obstacles to the building of the wall and the rebuilding of the temple!
There were many different types of obstacles. There was confusion. There was conspiracy and there was also compromise. And we can see all these things around us today as we begin a new work for the Lord. Just look out anywhere you want and you see confusion! Look out anywhere you want to and you see conspiracy against the truth! Look out anywhere and you see compromise of the truth by people who should be defending it! So we can just see these very same things all around us here today!
There was also opposition by ridicule! People like to ridicule those of us who stand on the truth of God's Word. There are many so-called religious people today who ridicule us for standing on the infallibility of God's Word. And yet, unless we have an infallible Word, we don't have anything, do we? All we've got is just a mish-mash cooked up by men who were all liars. If we don't have an infallible Word of God on which to base things then we have nothing at all except a false religion cooked up by men. So here we see there was opposition by ridicule, just as we have today!
Sanballat and Tobiah were the leaders of the opposition as we noticed in the first few verses that we read. You might think, "Well, how in the world could anyone accept them as leaders?" And when we look around us today we can wonder how in the world could so many religious people, so many people who claim to be religious, so many people who claim to be saved, so many people who claim to be followers of Christ, how could they possibly follow the leaders they do today? That is a question that fits even today, isn't it?
But Sanballat, when we look at him for a minute to see about him as one of these leaders of the opposition, we see that he was from the city of Horem, which was a leading city of the Moabites and the Moabites are notorious enemies of God and notorious enemies of God's people, aren't they? And that's the way it is about a lot of so-called religious leaders today; they're notorious enemies of God, notorious enemies of God's people, notorious enemies of God's Word and yet they're still great "religious leaders," today all around, even right here in Africa now. There are many of them like that. But Sanballat was from a city of the Moabites making him a Moabite himself, of course, and they were infamous enemies of the Jews and of God.
Now Tobiah, another leader of the opposition here, the other principal opposition leader, was an Ammonite. And there is hardly a little child in Sunday School who doesn't realize and recognize and remember that the Ammonites were some of the most vicious enemies of God's people --- some of the most vicious enemies of the children of Israel and of God and His work! Right from the start the Ammonites and the Moabites were always enemies of the Jews. And these two men are the main leaders who are opposing Nehemiah and those who are following him in the building of the work!
As we continue thinking about the various kinds of opposition to God's work, we've mentioned already opposition by ridicule. Sanballat mocked the Jews here, didn't he? He called them, "these feeble Jews." And even the expression, the title he used in speaking about them would be mockery, wouldn't it? "These feeble Jews."
Another thing, he laughed at their efforts to restore the city, to restore the city walls and to restore the temple. He made all manner of fun of it! And his buddy, Tobiah, the Ammonite, he had a good remark that he made to ridicule them when he said, "If a fox goes up, even he shall break down their stone wall." In other words, if a little fox comes along and jumps on to their wall, it will fall down. That is what Tobiah said about it. And there will be people who will say that kind of thing about us in the beginning of this new work! They will say similar things about us!
What was Nehemiah's answer to the ridicule? Did he get discouraged or disgusted and quit? Or what did he do? His answer was a good answer and it was the same answer that we should have when they ridicule us as they will and as they already have in the beginning of the independent Baptist work here in South Africa. Nehemiah's answer to the ridicule was to pray for God to judge those who despised God. Notice that last part of what I said. He didn't pray to God to judge those who despised him and his followers who were beginning a new work. But he did pray to God to judge those who despised God. And that's what they are despising when they despise God's man and God's people who are building the work --- they're despising God, aren't they? And they will be judged for it. And there's nothing wrong at all with us praying to God that He will judge them for it, either.
There was opposition not only by ridicule but by anger and conspiracy! You find that well recorded in verses 7 and 8. It says: "They were very wroth," at end of verse 7. And then in verse 8 it says: "And conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it." And there will be people who will conspire against us in Pomona area in building this work. There will be people who will conspire against us, people who claim to be Christians who will conspire against us. There will be leaders who claim to be Christian leaders who will conspire against us, too!
But the enemies of God and the Jews as we see here in verses 7 and 8 became very angry when their ridicule didn't stop the work. Their next step was that Sanballat and Tobiah and their cohorts conspired to come and actively and openly fight to stop or hinder the work. But Nehemiah again answered by prayer to God and this time he not only answered by prayer but he answered by additional precautions as well. You find that in verse 9 where it says, "Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them." So he prayed again, but he also became cautious and careful in the sense of setting a watch against the enemies of God and their conspiracy to oppose God's work.
Another thing that became a problem in the building of the work Nehemiah and his followers were trying to build was opposition by discouraged brethren! Now I read to you a minute ago about Judah. Judah became discouraged. He was one of the great leaders of this group who were helping in the building of this new work. And yet, though he was one of the leaders, he became discouraged. And he said: "We are not able." "Oh, there's just too much opposition! Oh, it's just too hard! It's just too discouraging! They are laughing at us too much! They are fighting against us too hard!" He said, "We are not able. And when you get right down to it, WE ARE NOT ABLE. And yet, we have One Whom we serve who is able. And that's what we need to keep in our mind --- HE is able!
Nehemiah answered when Judah became discouraged and said "We are not able." Nehemiah answered and said this: "Be not afraid of them: remember the Lord, who is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses." That is what we should keep in our mind today also. We need to keep in our mind that God is able --- though we're not always able, HE IS ALWAYS ABLE! He has unlimited power and we need not be afraid of those who oppose us. We need to remember the Lord who is great and terrible!
There is something else (in verse 14) I want to especially call to your attention! And it has a present application as well. He said, "Fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses." You say, "Well, how can that be applied to us today?" There's nothing greater that you can give to your sons and your daughters, to your wives and your brethren, than to build a strong work for the Lord right here and now.
That is the greatest gift you can give them. It is far greater than any other inheritance you can give your children --- to build a strong church and raise them up in that church in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. There is nothing greater! You cannot give them a better inheritance. You can't give your children any other inheritance that will be remotely comparable to that! So, you see it is true; we too are fighting for our brethren, for our sons and our daughters, our wives and our houses. Yes, even today in this new work.
There was another kind of opposition that's clearly shown in these passages! It's really recorded primarily in chapter 5 which we did not read to you. But we will read a verse or two over there in a minute. We will see there that opposition by greed and a lack of love among themselves was one of the problems. Opposition by greed and lack of love among themselves.
Some of the Jews here had been greedy and taken advantage of others in money matters. And at Nehemiah's urging, they restored the things they had gained by sharp business practices. This sounds like a bunch of Jews, doesn't it? Sharp business practices, even preying on each other! They had done some of that as you will see if you read these following chapters. At Nehemiah's urging, they restored these things that they had gained from their brethren by unfair practices.
Chapter 5, verse 12, refers to that! "Then said they, We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do as thou sayest, Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise." That is after he had talked to them about this matter of their sharp business dealings, making it hard on their brethren. Then they agreed to cancel the payments, let's say. Cancel the mortgages and so forth. "And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the Lord. And the people did according to this promise."
As we move on a little further, we see another kind of opposition that they had. They had opposition by trickery and craft! Sanballat and Tobiah tried to trick Nehemiah into leaving the work. The reason they wanted to trick him into leaving was they wanted to get him off by himself and kill him. That would, they thought, stop the work.
Now not only did they try to get him off, to leave the work and go off to one side so they could get to him and kill him, but they also sent a lying letter about him to the king. They sent a lying letter to the king saying that this Nehemiah he had allowed to come here to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, was down here raising an army to rebel against the king. And, of course, there wasn't a word of truth in it. No truth at all. But Nehemiah didn't get too excited about it. He refused to be sidetracked. He stayed on the main track, which was building the walls.
But we need to determine right now in the very first service of this new work that we're going to do that ourselves. Don't let anybody sidetrack you, don't let anybody get you excited or disturbed about anything else --- just stay on the main track. The thing that counts is what? Winning souls and building a church here in this area. That's what counts, isn't it? That's the main track, the through line. And we want to get right in the middle of that track and get the train going just as fast as we can and just keep rolling. Anything gets on the track, just keep rolling, right over it. That's what we want to do! And that is what Nehemiah did in our text. He did not allow their trickery or their lying letters to the king or anything else to sidetrack him from the main job, which was the building of the walls.
The enemies of the work used false prophets as part of their trickery to advise Nehemiah that he should hole up in the temple for safety. (6:10) And if he had done that, of course, he would not have been able to work on the walls of the city. Therefore the work would have been hindered, delayed, or possibly even completely stopped! They sent a false prophet to him and told him, "Now look, God has told me that you should go to the temple and hole up there for safety. Lock yourself in the temple then you won't get killed. But if you don't you're going to get killed, because it's dangerous! In this business, all these enemies are around you here and they're just going to overpower you and wipe you out." But Nehemiah refused to listen to that, too.
Nehemiah prayed that God would judge the enemies of God according to their works. And the enemies of God, if they're judged according to their work (and they will be) they're going to get a pretty short end of the stick, aren't they? Yes, they are going to get a very short end of the stick.
The prayer is seen in 6:14, where Nehemiah prayed that God would judge the enemies of God and his work according to their works. "My God," (Nehemiah speaking) "think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah," that was the false prophetess they sent to him to try to advise him supposedly in the name of God, "and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear." Thus he prayed God would judge these according to their works.
With all this opposition we might ask the question, "How did they carry on with God's work in spite of the devil and his helpers?" They did, and they got the job done, didn't they? So let's look now for the next few minutes at how they did manage to carry on God's work in spite of the devil and all his helpers, even his religious helpers, that is religious helpers of the devil --- We still have some!
In the first place, we find they kept an eye on the enemy! And we've already called that to your attention in verse 9 where it says: "And set a watch against them day and night, because of them." That is, they kept their eye on the enemy. They prayed to God and set a watch against the enemy day and night. They watched against several things. We can tell from the context that they watched against confusion because it was one of the tactics of the enemy, to try and confuse the people, wasn't it?
They watched against conspiracy. Because we saw already they did conspire against them! They watched against compromise. They tried to fool them, saying: "Well, now you don't have to leave the work, just hide out in the temple and you'll be safe there." That's compromise, isn't it? Not doing all the way what God told us to do. Not going all the way for God is compromise.
They watched against discouragement as well. Oh, I know we can't be on top of the mountain of transfiguration that Brother Lind taught about this morning in Sunday School. We can't be on the top of that mountain every service. There's no way we can. In fact, you've got to have the valleys in between to make the mountains worthwhile, haven't you? And yet, they watched against discouragement.
Another thing they watched against all the time was overconfidence in self! That was mentioned also in the Sunday School lesson this morning. They watched against overconfidence in self. We must have unlimited confidence in God and His leadership and power. But not much confidence in ourselves but rather confident in God working through us and in us!
Ephesians 6:12 is a good verse to think about now. It says: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." And we have more to say from Ephesians 6 in a few minutes. We see from that passage we've just read to you, we're not wrestling against just ordinary men but we're wrestling against the powers of evil! We're wrestling against the powers of Satan who tries to hinder God's work in any and every way he can. That is what we need to keep in mind. As long as we keep that in mind, then we'll depend on God for the power to overcome these evil forces against us, and that power from God will never be lacking.
We find there was rubbish in the midst of the work. Remember now, we're thinking at this time about how they carried on God's work in spite of the devil and his helpers. We've already talked about the fact that they watched against the enemy! And then we called your attention to Ephesians 6:12, showing us how we're not wrestling against human power but against devilish power.
Notice again in this context, there was rubbish in the midst of the work. You can't build a strong foundation on a pile of rubbish! If you started out to build --- let's say you were going to build a five story office building out here somewhere in Africa. And you went out to the plot that you had bought for that purpose, the piece of ground on which you were going to build. Just suppose you found that it was covered with rubbish. There were all kinds of old broken stones and bricks and trash of various kinds, plastic sacks and everything else about six feet deep all over the land where you planned to build.
If you were going out there to build a proper building, what would you do? Would you go out there and say: "Well, now let us get bulldozers in here and we'll level all this out and then we'll put our foundation on top of it --- And then we'll go up with our building"? Is that what you would do? No! It is not, is it? Because if you did that, the building would not stand, would it? You wouldn't even get up to the second floor level with your walls before they'd start cracking. Because you wouldn't have a proper foundation. You can't build on a pile of rubbish, can you? But here, there was rubbish in the midst of the work.
In verse 10 and 11 and also in verse 2 it speaks of this. Let's read that again. In verse 2, this is their enemy speaking, one of their enemies, Sanballat. "He spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? Will they fortify themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they make an end in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?" Okay, then verse 10 and 11: "And Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burden is decayed, and there is much rubbish," now this is one of the leaders on God's side, isn't it? "There is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall. And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease."
This rubbish in the midst of the work just can't be tolerated, can it? It's impossible! Their enemies saw that it was something that made it impossible as Sanballat said in verse 2. And even their friends, the leaders, on God's side, saw that it was also an impossible situation with all this rubbish in the way. They realized this rubbish was a great hindrance to them. And we see from this something we need today --- clean members in the church. We need members who are willing to live the kind of life that Christians should live. We need members who are willing to serve the Lord like His children should. We need members who are willing to love the Lord like His children should love Him and worship Him as His children should worship!
Rubbish is not a sound foundation, is it? It won't work! We find in verse 11 the enemy is what he's referring to. The enemy could slip around among the piles of rubbish! The piles of rubbish were so high that the enemy could come in between these piles of rubbish and be on them before they could see them. That is the way it is in a lot of churches today. There is so much rubbish around that the enemy is right in the midst of the church and you can't even see him! You can't see him or what he's doing because there's so much rubbish in the way you can't even locate him. And so the enemy could slip in among the rubbish in Nehemiah's case. They could hide among the piles of rubbish to slay the workers, as it told us in verse 11.
They could not see the enemy in time because of the rubbish. The enemy could approach from all directions, as it told us there also in verse 11 and 12. They could approach from all directions without being seen and identified because there was so much rubbish in the work area. "From all places whence ye shall return unto us they will be upon you," it says in verse 12.
Rubbish has to be removed from the work area, the church. The church is the work area. Did you know that? It is the principal work area God has --- the church. God does not have in His plan a place for individual hotshot Christians to go out alone and do His work. You say, "Oh, that's terrible. What do you mean by that?" Well, I just mean that God doesn't have any provision for that in His work. God's plan for men is that men should work and bring glory to Him in and through the church as the Scriptures plainly teach. And these hotshots that just go off as "lone wolfs" --- they are like the fellow that jumped on his horse and "rode off in all directions". There are people like that today. They jump on their horse and ride off in all directions - alone!
That is not God's plan at all. God's plan is that men should serve Him according to His plan in the New Testament church. It is not a matter for individual Christians to go off as follows: "Well, I feel like I should go off this weekend over yonder to some place, to that Christian camp, and I'll just spend the weekend over there and that'll be my work for the Lord this week." Why you lying hypocrite, that's not any work for the Lord! That's just a little holiday for yourself! But there are a lot of people that take that attitude! And maybe next week they'll go off to that other Christian camp or retreat, and "That's my work for the Lord this week."
We had some members already in one of the other mission churches who left the church partly because of that. They wanted to have a license from the church and from me as mission pastor of the church and as leader of the Sunday School, they wanted to have a license from me that they'd take off just anytime they wanted, at least two Sundays per month, and go off to a Christian camp. And then they'd be there about every other Sunday at the church service. And the man would retain his position of leadership in the church, they thought! And the woman would retain her position in the Sunday School! Although this wasn't the only reason, this was the main reason why this family left the church. Because I told them, "Well, now I can't keep you from doing that. But I can tell you to start with it is not God's will for you to do it. Because it's never God's will for His children to constantly miss the church where He's put them to work. It's never His will for that." And I said, "Another thing, though I can't keep you from doing it, I can tell you this --- there's no way that you could remain as a leader in the church and your wife could remain as a leader and teacher in the Sunday School when she's going to be gone and you're going to be gone at least half the time." And so, they left! !
Well, we got a little bit off the track there but it still fits in with the rubbish, doesn't it? The rubbish has to be removed from the work area. It fits in with this idea of the work area which is the church, the only work area that God has now is His church. "To Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end." That's what the Bible says word for word. And that's the only work area that He has now --- He does His work today in and through the church. And anything that's not a part of and sponsored by and directed by and led by and worked in completely with the church is not part of His work.
No matter how good it may be, no matter how "worthwhile" any work may be from the human viewpoint, these lone wolf operations are not a proper part of His work and are not bringing glory to Him in His church!
Rubbish has to be removed from the work area of the church, the only work area that God has today for His work! We must be able to see the approach of the enemy so that we can build a sure foundation on the solid rock. And what is the solid rock? Well, we could say the solid rock is the Word. And that would also include Jesus the Living Word and the Bible as well, wouldn't it?
Jesus is referred to as the Word and the Bible also is the Word. So the foundation, the solid foundation on which we have to build is the Word of God. Nothing else will do the job but the Living Word and the written word.
Yes, we could get a big crowd by having an entertaining program every Sunday. And that's the way a lot of churches get a big crowd. They get in there and they have this hoopety, hoopety, hoop, hoop music, like a place I visited in Durban when I was down there! I'm almost ashamed to tell about it. I told you about it once. But I visited a place in Durban one time and I thought, "Well, I'll go to this place now while I'm down here and nobody will see me that I know and it won't embarrass me, you know." So I went to see one of these wild "church" places down there, yes, a so-called church! Durban Christian Center, they called it. I went in there and they started right off with this hoopety, hoopety, hoop music and wild rock and roll style, you know --- Supposedly religious music!
And then pretty soon there was a woman up there doing a go-go dance right in the middle of the aisle just in front of Georgia and I. She looked like her slacks and blouse had been painted on her! And pretty soon there were hundreds of them doing that! And before long, the only reason there weren't twelve hundred of them doing it is because there wasn't enough room in the aisles. They were dancing between the seats. But there were some of those women that were out in the aisles there right near us who could have easily been employed as go-go dancers in any night club in the country. And that's all in the world it was. It was just a fleshly, lustful display of dancing, and wild dancing at that! But the rubbish has to be cleared out of the way so we can build on the solid rock which is the Word and Jesus also is the Word.
Nehemiah and his followers kept their weapons in their hand, ready to use at all times. We saw that already in what we read. A lot of people today claim to believe in pacifism. Well, the Bible doesn't teach pacifism. The Bible absolutely does not teach pacifism! You can take one or two verses alone and ignore thousands of verses and teach pacifism, yes, from the Bible. But you can take one or two verses alone and teach anything you want to from the Bible. But if you take the Bible in context and study it as a whole, there is no way that anyone who studies the Bible can claim that the Bible teaches pacifism. And yet, this idea is being promoted all over the world today by the communists and by a lot of so-called religious people. But the Bible certainly does not teach it! These people here, they kept their weapons in their hand. They weren't pacifists, were they? And yet, they were great workers here for the Lord and doing a great job that God had told them to do!
Verse 18 says, "For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side," they didn't go anywhere without that sword, "and so builded." Now listen to this, "And he that sounded the trumpet was by me." Now who's this speaking? This is Nehemiah. The man that gave the signals was there by Nehemiah so that Nehemiah could tell him when to give the signal and then he'd give the signal and the other workers then would be ready for the enemy when they came. And that's applicable to us today, isn't it? Not that I'm like Nehemiah but in this particular aspect I am. As your pastor in this new work, I'm in the place of Nehemiah in this case. And standing by the one ready to give the signal so that when the signal is given, everybody can pitch in there and get the enemy. And that's what counts, isn't it? "He that sounded the trumpet was by me."
They all had their sword girded by their side. Right here is our sword today, isn't it? (Holds up Bible). This is the sword we have with us. And we need to have this with us not only in printed form but we need to have it right up here, (taps head and heart) too, don't we? We need to study it a lot so that when somebody gives us some foolishness, we can just give them some truth back. And when they give us some more foolishness, we can give them some more truth, just like that. That's what we need. We need to study the Word, have our sword girded by our side, and build that way!
Look at Ephesians 6:13. We read earlier verse 12 of that same chapter. Reading now through verse 17. "Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth." Now you know, these verses here before I even go on a little further I've got to stop and make a few comments there on "Stand therefore."
There are an awful lot of Christians today (or at least people who claim to be Christians, and I'm sure some of them really are Christians) who are so wishy-washy. I suppose and I hope that you know what that expression means. Wishy-washy means unstable. You know, the least little opposition, they just collapse. They back off, they pull back. And that's not the way it should be. We shouldn't go around looking for a fight, but when the fight is with the devil, pour it on! Just let him have it! First, be sure the fight is with the devil, but when the devil attacks, fight him. Don't be wishy-washy! Don't be unstable! Don't have a lack of steadfastness, but be steadfast in the Lord's work.
"Stand therefore," as he said here in verse 14. "Having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness." It's not enough just to stand, but stand in the truth. That is part of standing, isn't it? Unless we stand in the truth, there is no point in standing! Stand in the truth, stand on the truth and stand for the truth! Be steadfast in the truth!
"And your feet shod." This tells us something about going out and spreading the news, doesn't it? "Your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace." He's talking about warfare and yet here he's speaking of the gospel of peace! And the only thing that really brings peace to a man's heart is the gospel, isn't it? The gospel of peace.
"Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation." This is the first thing we've got to have, isn't it? "And the sword of the Spirit," and what is the sword of the Spirit? "Which is the word of God." It says it right there! In verse 17 of Ephesians chapter 6: "The sword of the Spirit which is the word of God."
One weapon always works against our enemies. Some of our weapons don't work too well against them. But there's one weapon that always works against our enemies and that's the Bible. The Word of God. They don't like it at all. When you stand up there on the truth, you find some knothead opposes it, and there's plenty of them around, don't you worry. You find some knothead that starts out to try to tell you this and that and something else, a bunch of foolishness, you know, as if it's religious truth! And then you just stand firm and start reading or quoting to him some verses from the Bible, and that knocks it in the head just like that. Just click, click, click. Boy, he doesn't like that a bit. He will usually do one of two things: he'll either get angry or he will just pack up his kit bag and quietly steal away. Usually he does the latter. But sometimes he does the former and the latter, both. But he will always do one or the other and sometimes both of those things. When you start quoting the Bible to them or reading the Bible to them, that is one weapon they just can't stand up against, the Word of God. They don't know much Bible, but they don't like it a bit.
The enemies of God's work don't truly accept this Word. Even those who claim they do. They don't really accept God's Word. They only accept a few little pieces here and there that have been twisted around to make it say what they want it to say. And that is the only part of the Word they really accept. But as far as accepting this from kiver to kiver as the fellow said, from cover to cover or from Genesis to Revolution, as another fellow said, as God's holy Word the way we do, THEY DON'T! Otherwise they could not be an enemy of God's work --- if they really accepted it and read it and believed it, then they could never be an enemy of God's work.
Another requirement for building the wall in spite of the devil both then and now is cooperating together! We find this is well taught in this passage we read to you in Nehemiah --- Cooperating together! If we read verses 19 and 20 again, we'll see an illustration of this. "And I said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another. In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us."
Now what this amounts to is he's setting up a plan so that, "when you hear the signal from a certain section of the wall, all of you rush over there to help us defend it." That's basically what he's saying! It is cooperation together in the work. The work is great and large. It was in the time of Nehemiah and it is that way today. Look at them. There's millions around us that need the Lord. The work is great and large, then and today. "Gather together at the sound of the trumpet." That is, come together at the signal. "Come together at the signal, at the proper time to work together for God's cause." That's what we do when we come together and work together in the church, isn't it? The same type of thing that Nehemiah was teaching here!
When we do this, what happens? When we do come together, and work together on the signal, in the proper order, under God's leadership, and with God's man, what happens? It tells us right there in verse 20, the last part of the verse, "Our God shall fight for us." And He will! He'll still do that today! When we do things according to His plan and according to His will and we work together as we're beginning this new work here our God shall fight for us, as it says in verse 20. He's on our side --- and I'm glad, aren't you?
They had a proper leader, Nehemiah, who gave the signals for working together and for the defending of the work as we've just read to you. In verse 18, in the latter part of the verse, it says, "He that sounded the trumpet was by me." We called that to your attention a little earlier.
Now the last thing we want to notice in this lesson today is this --- dedication and determination are required to build the wall in spite of opposition. Dedication and determination are required to build God's work in spite of the devil. They were so dedicated to the building of the wall, as God had willed for them to do, that they slept in their clothes. They only took their clothes off to bathe and to wash the clothes. Now that's real dedication, isn't it? They were determined. They slept in their clothes. They didn't even take their clothes off except to wash the clothes and to bathe. It tells us that in verse 23. These people were really dedicated to doing God's work!
Verse 6 tells us another thing about their dedication. It says, "For the people had a mind to work." It doesn't say that just Nehemiah had a mind to work. It didn't say that just Dr. Dearmore had a mind to work or just Tom Kitching had a mind to work or just Jack Lind or just Charles Jordan, but it said what? The people! Everybody, all of them together had a desire to serve the Lord and to do the Lord's work! And that is what it takes to build a work for the Lord here or anywhere in the world!
Another thing we find about this dedication and determination, they were constantly on guard and in prayer. It tells us that in verse 9. And then, in verse 22, we notice something else. "Let every one lodge within Jerusalem." But what does that mean for us today? It means everyone in his proper place. And it went ahead and said not only that everyone would lodge within Jerusalem, that is, everyone within his proper place but it went ahead and said, "Labour on the day." Labor. Everybody be in their place, and everybody work, and the Lord's work will go forward. Putting God's work first is what it takes. Each one, we notice also was properly dressed to serve. It tells us that also in verse 23. Everyone was properly dressed to serve God.
I want to challenge you today, all of you, each of you, and all of us together in this, the very first day of our new beginning here together! Let us accept this lesson from Nehemiah as a real challenge to us to do just exactly the way they did. Let's fight the enemy tooth and nail. Let's fight the enemy from start to finish. Let us never back up an inch. Let us never give an inch. Let us build on the solid foundation by removing the rubbish first, and build on the solid foundation of the Word of God and the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Living Word. Let us here and now dedicate ourselves to the purpose of building a real work here for the Lord! He will bless us --- He will give us victory on victory! When we're discouraged, He will encourage us. And when we're happy, He'll bless us some more. Let us resolve in our hearts today that we're ready, willing and able to do this in the power of the Lord, and to live up to this lesson that is taught in the book of Nehemiah.