Rebuild: Nehemiah 4:15-23 – When There’s Trouble in the Rubble . . . Remember That The Lord Is Great And Mighty

Grace For The Journey

Chapter 4 is about opposition and it is a study of prayer and perseverance when facing opposition.  We noted in our Friday study that when we are criticized or discouraged that we need to do three things: (1) Take it to the Lord; (2) Keep Your Eye on the Goal; and, (3) Find Your Security in the Lord.  Nehemiah rallied the people in verse 14—where we left off by saying, “Remember the Lord, great and awesome…”  Today we pick up in the next verse as we continue.  

In South America in the country of Paraguay, in the outskirts of the city of Asunción, there is a place of extreme poverty in Cateura.  In Cateura there is a slum built on a landfill where a number of people live.  They make their home there at the landfill and spend their days hunting through the rubbish looking for food and daily necessities.  This is one of those unfortunate realities of worldwide poverty.

Some years ago, a man in Cateura was especially concerned for the younger people of Cateura who had not hope, it seemed, for the future.  He wondered what he could do about it.  He began to envision a way to turn some of that trash into treasure – specifically, turning garbage that had been thrown away into musical instruments that could be used to teach the young people of Cateura how to play beautiful music.  Over the ensuing months, this man and others began to search through the trash, finding old pipes and transforming them into saxophones; finding forks, knives, and spoons and turning them into musical keys for flutes and clarinets.  

In time, enough junk was recycled into musical instruments to form an orchestra – an orchestra that would perform all over world – called, “The Recycled Orchestra of Cateura.”  And they are good!  You can Google, “The Recycled Orchestra of Cateura.  There is a video you can watch on YouTube about them.  A short film entitled, “Landfill Harmonic.” 

What is the point?  One man had a vision for how the rubble of the past could be reshaped and rebuilt into something beautiful in the present.  That is exactly what God does in our lives through the gospel.  God takes the rubble of our past and works through it to rebuild us in the present – redeeming, reshaping, rebuilding us into a masterpiece of mercy. 

Through Jesus Christ

The trash of our yesterdays

Is built into treasure for today,

Through the REBUILD

God does in our lives.

That is one of the greatest takeaways from the Book of Nehemiah. 

No piece of rubble from the past is wasted. 

God redeems, reshapes, rebuilds us

For our good and His glory.

Notice what happens when God’s people continued in prayer and perseverance.  Sanballat and Tobiah and the bad guys are threatening to kill God’s people and stop the work.  But Nehemiah rallies the people in verse 14 to “Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight…!” 

Verse 15 states, “And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work.”  God brought their efforts to nothing.  God’s people prevailed.  The Bible says in Galatians 6:9, “Do not grow weary in well-doing for in due season we will reap, if we faint not.”  Stay with God and His presence, promises, and power.  God’s people needed to keep building, keep working, and keep serving.  They were not defeated by discouragement and criticism. 

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”  The threat is forestalled, but the bad guys are still around.  It is important for us to remember that Nehemiah “set a watch” against the enemy day and night.  We saw that back in verse 9, “Nevertheless we made our prayer to God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.”  

Verse 16 says, “So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah.”  “My servants” may refer to specially trained men who worked under Nehemiah.  In any case, half their attention is given to building the wall and half to defending themselves.

Verse 17 states,“Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon.”  They are building with one hand and defending with the other.  Have you heard the phrase, “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition?”  It was a sentence in a song written by American Big Band Leader Kay Kyser in the 1940s in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor, marking the US involvement in World War II.  It reached number one in the charts in 1943.  It harkens back to an earlier battle cry attributed to Oliver Cromwell who, addressing his troops during the invasion of Ireland said, “Trust God and keep your powder dry.”  That is what Nehemiah and the people are doing.  They are building, trusting God, and also stand ready to defend against the enemy.  They have a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other.  A trowel is a small handheld tool used to apply mortar.  Some of you will know that Charles Spurgeon had a famous magazine by that name, The Sword & Trowel.  It was a magazine, still being published today.  It was a magazine dedicated to both teaching the truth and defending the truth from error.  

Verses 18 to 20 say, “Every one of the builders had his sword girded at his side as he built. And the one who sounded the trumpet was beside me.  Then I said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, ‘The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall.  Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.’”  Nehemiah knew the truth of Psalm 127 verse 1, “Unless the Lord builds the house they labor in vain who build it.”

The trumpet was sounded to call the people to arms.  In other words, Nehemiah does not run from the problem.  He is a good leader.  He positions himself front and center, right there in the midst of the battle and instructs the people to “rally to us there.”  But he also proclaims the wonderful truth at the end of verse 20: “Our God will fight for us!”  

  • This is Moses in Exodus 14, verses 13-14, with the Israelites gathered there at the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s Army fast approaching.  Moses declared, “Fear not, stand firm” … “the Lord will fight for you…” 
  • It is David as the young shepherd boy who stood before the Philistine Giant Goliath with nothing more than a sling and stones and said, “For the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hands” (1 Samuel 17:47).

Verses 21-22 tell us, “So we labored in the work, and half of the men held the spears from daybreak until the stars appeared.  At the same time I also said to the people, ‘Let each man and his servant stay at night in Jerusalem, that they may be our guard by night and a working party by day.’”  Nehemiah may have feared some of the people being swept away in the darkness so he had everyone stay inside the city as they worked.  There is strength in numbers.

Verse 23 states, “So neither I, my brethren, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me took off our clothes, except that everyone took them off for washing.”  An exact translation is difficult because the Hebrew is literally, “each his weapon the water.”  The point is, the workers stuck together, the people stuck with one another, continually.

God is doing a work of rebuilding in your life; using the rubble of your past to shape you into something wonderful in the present, and continuing that rebuild into the future; through it all you must trust God to do the work.  Every day is a day of God’s working in your life, building and rebuilding through the grace of the Gospel.  So . . .

What do you do when it seems

The rebuilding is taking a long time

And all you see is

The rubbish and the rubble

And it seems that the Master Builder

Has left you to the enemies of

Doubt, discouragement, and defeat?

What do you do when there’s “trouble” in the “rubble?” 

These verses teach us to . . .

1) Know the True Enemy.

The Bible says in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  Just before verse 12, in verse 11, Paul says, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”  The Bible also says in John 10:10, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” 

God’s children were mocked as they built the wall.  God’s children are mocked today as they build the kingdom.  The Bible says in John 15:18-19, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” 

To fight intelligently, effectively, and successfully it is necessary that we know the true enemy.

These verses also teach us to . . .

2) Expect Daily Battles.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be [d]vigilant; [e]because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”  Verse 9 tells us that Nehemiah “set a watch” against the enemy.  You and I need to set a watch as well; expecting daily battles.  Always building, always defending, sword in one hand, trowel in the other.  Expecting the enemy and ready to defend.  How?

The Bible tells us in Ephesians 6:13-18, “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.  Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.  And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit . . .”

Expect daily battles . . .

  • Battling doubts and discouragements by remembering the Gospel.
  • Battling the enemy’s lies by prayer, rebuking the devil in the name of Jesus Christ.
  • Battling temptation by quoting the word, studying it, memorizing it.
  • Battling bitterness in your marriage, in your family, by praying and applying God’s word.

These verses also teach us . . .

3) Never Leave Your “Battle Buddies.”

I learned this one from my younger son a church member friend who is in the US Army National Guard.  He taught me about the Army’s teaching of battle buddies.  You never go anywhere alone and you never leave a battle buddy alone.  There is strength in numbers.  Just like Nehemiah positioning people all around the wall and in the gaps of the wall, people gathered together to defend together.  

This is the importance of the community of faith – the church.  The church is a belief family of battle buddies working together to fight the enemy.  You cannot battle alone!  Do not fight alone!  We need one another.  The Bible says in Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” 

People who talk about worshiping God

Alone miss the point of the church. 

Of course we can worship alone. 

But we must also come together.

Two are better than one at fighting off the enemy.  

We gather together to learn

The enemy’s secret battle plan

And then we battle together.

We gather together with our spiritual battle buddies and get help and give help.  The church is about battling together.  The Bible teaches that Christianity is a “one another’ faith and you cannot do “one another” alone.  

When you mess up royally that is when you need the church!  Do not leave!  Too many people are like, “Oh I’ve ruined it!  I’m so ashamed, so embarrassed, I can’t go back to the church!”  That is what the church is for!!  We are a hospital for those who know they are sick.  We battle together!!  We need one another.  Serving together, encouraging together, rallying and fighting together, gathering together for edification and strengthening of our faith.  It is also multiplying.  Focusing on others.  Our Bible Study classes should never be like, “Us four and no more!”  Who isn’t in your class that needs to be?  Who will visit them this week?

These verses teach us . . .

4) Trust God to Bring the Victory.

Verse 14 says, “Remember the Lord!”  Verse 20 says, “Our God will fight for us.”  The Bible also says in Isaiah 40:31, “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength,” in 1 John 4:4, “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” and in Romans 8:31, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”  We constantly need to be reminded that

The Lord is great and awesome,


He is working for us and in us!

There’s power in the name of Jesus.  Stand upon and fight in the name of Jesus.  A stanza in one of the songs we often sing says, “The enemy has to leave at the sound of Your great name!”  There’s power in His name! 

Listen to this from the Gospel Transformation Bible: “Our God has fought for us, in Christ, and has won the victory.  As we battle on as His people to the end, often despised and rejected, we must always remember our great and awesome Lord and make every effort to guard and strengthen the household of God.”  Amen!

Remember the Lord who fights for you and through you!  Remember the Lord, great and awesome!  When there’s trouble in the rubble, never forget that God is working in your life, taking the rubble from your past to reshape you in the present for something wonderful for the future.  

This truth applies to every single Christian . . .

God makes music

Out of our messes,

Trophies out of our trash.

He takes the rubble

From yesterday and shapes it

Into beauty for today,

And bright hope for tomorrow. 

There is strength and victory

At the sound of His great name!

Confess you sin, turn from our sin, and turn to the gracious and great God.  He will give you grace to build this week.  Live as though holding a trowel in one hand and a spear in the other, building and defending, moving forward and ever vigilant in the daily battles with the enemy.  Remember that we fight together with the household of God – the church – our battle buddies, calling one another up, praying for one another; never leaving a buddy alone.  Call regularly upon Your great name . . . Knowing . . .

Every fear, has no place, at the sound of Your great name

The enemy, he has to leave, at the sound of Your great name

And all God’s people said, “Hallelujah” and “Amen!”

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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