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The Scriptorium

Finished and Unfinished

There is always more work to do. Nehemiah 6.15-7.3

Return from Exile: Nehemiah 6-9.3 (2)

Pray Psalm 56.10-13.
In God (I will praise His word),
In the LORD (I will praise His word),
In God I have put my trust;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God;
I will render praises to You,
For You have delivered my soul from death.
Have You not kept my feet from falling,
That I may walk before God
In the light of the living?

Sing Psalm 56.10-13.
(Morecambe: Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart)
I will not fear what foes might do to me.
I give You thanks, my vows will I renew.
You have redeemed me, set my spirit free,
and ever in Your light I’ll walk with You.

Read Nehemiah 6.15-7.3; meditate on 6.15, 16.

1. How did the nations respond to the building of Jerusalem’s wall?

2. What instructions did Nehemiah give his brother?

The story of Israel’s return from exile is a series of “finished/unfinished” story lines. We recall from Haggai that they laid the foundation of the temple, but then they turned to work on their homes. Then they finished the temple, but they had to put away their pagan wives. Now the wall is finished, but the business with Israel’s enemies is not. And even when all this is done—when even, with Malachi, the Old Testament is finished—still, there will be unfinished business that only Jesus can complete.

So here the wall is finished in less than two months. That’s testimony to Nehemiah’s leadership and the fact that God had given the people a mind to work (Neh. 4.6). News of this glorious feat reached the surrounding nations, and they became “very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God” (v. 16). That’s the thing about the good works God does in and through us: People notice (Matt. 5.13-16; 1 Pet. 3.15). They may not like the works they see, but they will know why we do them.

We learn now how deeply entangled certain of the “nobles of Judah” had become with Tobiah, who continued harassing Nehemiah (v. 19). Intermarriages between God’s people and those who are not God’s people always end up with God’s people becoming compromised. The wall was finished; the situation with Israel’s enemies was not. And self-interest was as alive as ever in certain quarters.

So Nehemiah gave explicit instructions about the gates of the city. He knew that Tobiah would try to get at him and the people of Jerusalem, and so he put up an effective defense which, in some ways, took advantage of the people’s self-interest (7.3). A good shepherd defends his flock by every available means.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
The enemies of Nehemiah were very disheartened because they perceived correctly that “this work was done by our God” (Neh. 6.16).

The Church today has many enemies.
But do you think they are disheartened by our truly godly behavior?
Or is there another reason for their hatred?

In April of 1971 Brant Parker and Johnny Hart posted the day’s Wizard of Id comic strip which showed the king standing at his castle window. Outside there is mayhem and the shout rising to his ears,
“The peasants are revolting!”
To which the king replies, “You can say that again.”

Is it possible the world has a similar distaste for us?
Because maybe we are captive to the world and not to Jesus?
Maybe we are observed as not keeping our own laws?
Perhaps trying to do good works without the power of the Holy Spirit?
If we think it might be so, we should take Jesus’ and Peter’s and David’s words to heart:

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?
It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand,
and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men,
that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5.13-16).

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” (1 Pet. 3.15, 16).

“The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether…moreover by them
Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward” (Ps. 19.7-9, 11; Ex. 20.1-17).

“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (Jn. 13.17).
Our work may still be revolting to our enemies; but for all the right reasons:
For “This work was done by our God” (Neh. 6.16). In His righteousness, love, and power.

For reflection
1. Why were the nations disheartened by Nehemiah’s success? What should you learn from this for working your Personal Mission Field?

2. What does it mean for you to be salt and light in your Personal Mission Field?

3. When will our work as believer finally be finished?

Those who previously were seeking to frighten the builders of the holy city in order to hinder them from working now are themselves frightened when the construction of this same city is completed, and they are disheartened when they realize that its construction was begun and completed through God’s authority.
The Venerable Bede (672-735), On Ezra and Nehemiah 3.24

Pray Psalm 56.1-9.
Pray that God will give you wisdom and courage to resist the devil and all his wiles. Call on Him to direct all your steps today for His glory as you work your Personal Mission Field.

Sing Psalm 56.1-9.
(Morecambe: Spirit of God, Descend Upon My Heart)
Savior, be gracious, gracious unto me!
Weary, I seek the shelter of Your wings.
‘Til trouble passes, ‘til my sighings flee;
I seek the LORD Who for me does all things.

When I’m afraid I’ll put my trust in You,
You, LORD, Whose everlasting Word I praise.
I will not fear what foes to me might do,
but will in faith to You my crying raise.

Wickedly how my foes distort my words.
Constant attacks and snares await my way.
Pour out Your wrath, consume them, mighty LORD!
Bring evil to its end, O LORD, I pray!

LORD, see my wand’rings, see my anxious tears!
Help me to trust and praise Your holy Word.
Gladly I know that when I call You hear;
I will not fear but trust in You, O 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.

And please prayerfully consider supporting The Fellowship of Ailbe with your prayers and gifts. You can contribute online, via PayPal or Anedot, or by sending a gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 103 Reynolds Lane, West Grove, PA 19390.

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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