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The Scriptorium

Freedom at Work

Nehemiah as a type of Christ. Nehemiah 4

Return from Exile: Nehemiah 1-5 (5)

Pray Psalm 40.4, 5
Blessed is that man who makes the LORD his trust,
And does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.
Many, O LORD my God, are Your wonderful works
Which You have done;
And Your thoughts toward us
Cannot be recounted to You in order;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They are more than can be numbered.

Sing Psalm 40.4, 5.
(Dix: For the Beauty of the Earth)
Blessed are all who trust in You, turning both from lies and pride.
Countless wonders, Lord, You do, and Your thoughts with us abide.
Lord, Your worth who can declare? None with You can e’er compare.

Read Nehemiah 4.1-23; meditate on verses 4-14.


1. What were God’s enemies planning?

2. How did Nehemiah respond?

We sense the wave of panic that began sweeping through the people as they realized their enemies were offended and plotting war (cf. vv. 10, 12, 14). By this time the wall was connected all around the city and constructed to half its height (v. 6). But the Samaritans and Ammonites were mocking them (vv. 2, 3), and that mocking soon turned to anger and scheming (vv. 7, 8). They intended to stop the building of this wall if they had to kill everyone who dared to work on it (v. 11).

The people began caving in to fear. They would have backed down from building the wall had not the one truly free man among them rallied them to the Lord (vv. 4, 5, 9). Nehemiah had a calling from God, and he was not about to allow unbelieving thugs and bullies to keep him from his work.

Like a dog guarding its bone, Nehemiah led the people to show some teeth. He armed them, coordinated their working hours, made sure someone was on watch at all times, and kept the work going forward. He encouraged the people, provided weapons for them, established communications to reposition them as needed, and kept them always ready to work or fight (v. 23).

This is how one acts who is captive to God and His calling. You don’t back down. You don’t compromise. And you don’t allow your friends to give in to fear. Did Nehemiah’s actions offend Jerusalem’s neighbors? Yes, they did. Did they honor God and bless His people? Yes, they did.

Nehemiah is a type of Christ, Who overcomes all our enemies, arms us for spiritual warfare, keeps us together and communicates and guards us continuously so that we can fulfill our callings from the Lord. We will only be truly free when we are totally captive to Jesus.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
The lesson in these passages is so important for us to learn,
and yet hard to decipher exactly what we are always to do.

1. “Nevertheless we made our prayer to God,
2. and because of them we set a watch against them day and night” (Neh. 4.9).
3. “Do not be afraid of them.
4. Remember the LORD, great and awesome,
5. and fight for your brethren, your sons, your wives, and your houses” (Neh. 4.14).

Trust completely in God.
Set a watch against our enemies.
Fight for our families.

Pat Hunter, our dearly loved friend and teacher, used to say:
“Pray like it all depends upon God; and work like it all depends upon you.”

That about sums it up.

Still, the nuts and bolts of this dichotomy are tricky.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3.5, 6).
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God,
Who gives to all liberally and without reproach,
and it will be given to him” (Jms. 1.5).
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,
casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5.6, 7).

We must always trust fully in God to meet all our needs,
to redeem and save us, and to give us the Holy Spirit.
Knowing that we are loved well by Him.
And then we must always pray for wisdom to obediently do the things
we have been called to do, and not to behave stupidly (Prov. 12.1).

On top of that, we throw in the need for faith:
“Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God
must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11.6).

Nehemiah knew that behaving wisely and posting armed guards would encourage the diligent people who “had a mind to work” (Neh. 4.6) to feel cared for in their endeavors. They were not working with a madman, but one who was thoughtful and cared for the needs of his fellow-workers.

When love for God and others is the goal of our life and work; and we are daily in the Word of God seeking His wisdom on everything, He will guide us thoughtfully and carefully in the way we should go (1 Cor. 13; Ex. 20.1-17) with a nice blend of trust, wisdom, and awareness of our circumstances.

“Commit your works to the LORD, and your thoughts will be established” (Prov. 16.3).

For reflection
1. What do you most admire about Nehemiah?

2. What do we learn from Nehemiah about dealing with adversity?

3. Nehemiah encouraged the builders. Whom will you encourage today in their walk with and work for the Lord?

This is the sole refuge against all enemies of the church—namely, prayer to God and the zeal of teachers, who, meditating day and night on his law, fortify the hearts of the faithful against the attacks of the devil and his soldiers by preaching, consoling and exhorting. The Venerable Bede (672-735), On Ezra and Nehemiah 3.19

Pray Psalm 40.1-4, 6-10.
Commit your day to the Lord. Call on Him to strengthen and embolden you to do the work He has appointed for you this day and to resist the enemy of our souls at every turn.

Sing Psalm 40.1-4, 6-10.
(Dix: For the Beauty of the Earth)
I waited patiently for God; He inclined and heard my cry,
lifted me up above the sod, set me on a Rock on high!
New songs in my mouth He gave; may He through me many save.

Off’rings You do not require—open now my ears, O Lord.
What from me do You desire? Firm delight to do Your Word.
Take my life in ev’ry part; write Your Law upon my heart.

Lord, Your truth will I proclaim to Your people gathered ‘round,
nor will I my lips restrain—let Your precious ways resound!
Of Your saving grace and Word I would speak, most loving Lord.

T. M. and Susie Moore

Two books can help us understand our own captivity and lead us to seek revival and renewal in the Lord. The Church Captive asks us to consider the ways the Church today has become captive to the world. And Revived! can help us find the way to renewal. Learn more and order your free copies by clicking here and here.

Support for Scriptorium comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available free by clicking here.


T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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