Can Your Wall Withstand a Fox?
After 70 years of exile, a remnant of the people of Judah return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of Yahweh. Some 100-odd years after the first group resettles, however, the wall of the city still lies in ruins (Nehemiah 1:1-3). Enter Nehemiah, a zealous servant of the Lord with an aptitude for leadership and organization. With a firm confidence in his God, he inspires his countrymen to reconstruct the once-proud wall of the city. (See Nehemiah 3 for the division of labor as this project began).
City walls played a prominent part in the ancient world. Not only would the city wall create a very literal barrier of protection from outside threats, but it created a perception of safety and stability for those inside. In addition to protecting the city itself, the walls would create a clear division along the city boundaries. There was no question of what was "in" and what was "out of" Jerusalem; one only had to see what side of the walls they were on. The gates in the wall acted as the controlled exchange of people, goods and ideas entering and exiting Jerusalem. Finally, the walls offered a vantage point from which watchmen could foresee and prepare for visitors, friendly or otherwise. Because of all of this, walls very well could be seen as a status symbol, a sign of strength and even national and city pride.
With these things at stake, God guides and blesses the people in their reconstruction efforts (Nehemiah 2:8, 18, 20). Chapters 4-6 of Nehemiah recount a series of challenges and the subsequent solutions that Nehemiah and the people face and respond to. Chapter 4 opens with the two main adversaries of the Jews, Sanballat and Tobiah, mocking and harassing the efforts of God's people. So pitiful was this project in the adversaries' eyes that Tobiah claimed the mere weight of a fox on the wall would be enough to topple the structure (Nehemiah 4:3). Things escalate from mocking, to threats of direct armed attack, to acts of conspiracy and subtle trickery--all in an effort to derail this work which God had ordained through Nehemiah. Nevertheless, the Jews finish the wall in 52 days and their enemies are silenced (Nehemiah 6:15-16).
What's the application for these things in the life of a Christian today? At first blush, "building walls" seems counterintuitive to the Christ-follower's calling. Ought we not build bridges rather that structures of division? With no doubt, God desires unity in His truth (John 17:20-26). But just as the walls of Jerusalem offer protection from threats, distinct boundaries and a vantage point to see oncoming opportunities and challenges, we can build spiritual walls to do the same.
When I open the Bible and learn more about God and His will and the life He wishes me to live, I am hewing the stones of my spiritual wall. As I pray to God in every season of life, I'm lathering the mortar and stacking those bricks into place. When I apply God's word in my life, embracing what He calls good and separating myself from those things that would hinder my relationship with Him, I can resolutely establish and abide by my spiritual boundaries. By assembling with the saints in Christ and worshiping God according to the pattern revealed in the New Testament, my wall becomes higher and I can detect false doctrines and identify those who need to be shown the love of God from a mile away.
We cannot overlook a fundamental principle of this wall-building lifestyle: it is something that stands or falls by **my** efforts and desire to build. No one can force you to read your Bible, pray, assemble or obey the other commandments of the New Covenant. It is your choice alone. Your spiritual wall is in front of your spiritual house (Nehemiah 3:10, 23, 28-29). The first casualty of that wall not being properly built will be you!
Some will take the road of the nobles of Tekoa who refused to put forth the effort (Nehemiah 3:5); others will join the ranks of the rest of the Tekoites and build in abundance (Nehemiah 3:27). One thing is for certain: the time and energy invested into your wall will show as you go through this life. If the mortar is weak, if the bricks are frail, if the wall is short, any little fox could come along and knock over the whole structure. Let it not be said of you or me! May we build with all diligence, in the zeal and understanding of God through Jesus Christ.