A couple weeks back during our study of Ezra, I noted that drawing parallels with ancient Israel must be done carefully. Ancient Israel’s history is one of God isolating his chosen people from the idolatries of the surrounding nations. But the commands of Jesus go the other way, launching his children into the whole world to practice his unconditional never-ending love that smashes modern idolatry in the heart.
This contrast between Old Testament commands and New Testament commands blazed even stronger as we viewed Ezra’s repentance, because of God’s prohibition of intermarrying with other races. Today some would call God a racist! But serious believers know that while societal needs change through history, God’s hatred of idolatry in any form does not.
In Nehemiah 2 to 4, God charges Nehemiah with rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem to isolate his people and forbid intermarriage. In searching for parallels to the Cycle in our times as I always do in this series, I asked, “What walls should we be building as Christians today?”
It should be obvious that Jesus commands us exactly the opposite. I believe that God has been shouting at me, “Mr. Beaumont, tear down those walls that divide Christianity!”
If so, how did Nehemiah achieve obedience to God’s instruction to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and how might his approach guide us in our search for the perfect unity among us that Jesus prayed for?
In Chapters 2 to 4, Nehemiah:
- Acknowledges honestly that what God has asked him to do is scary and potentially fatal.
- Humbly earns the trust of influential leaders whose hearts God can change in an instant.
- Prays quickly and faithfully before communicating with those who could as easily kill him as help him; in this case the all-powerful King Artaxerxes.
- Shows great courage in requesting resources to accomplish the task he has been given.
- Surveys the condition of his people quietly before telling them his mission.
- Rallies his people to the cause by relating the power of God’s instructions to him and the favor he has received from the king.
- Proceeds to build the wall despite the threats of the local idolaters who put political spin on Nehemiah to discredit him and to scare his people.
- But at the same time prepares a defense plan against possible attack by his stronger enemies – building the wall with one hand and a sword in the other.
- Responds to his antagonists with powerful words that inspire his people to work harder than ever to rebuild the wall:
Again, I emphasize the difference in how God deals with idolatry. In Nehemiah’s time it was necessary to build walls to keep out his enemies. Today, Jesus charges us to tear down the walls of disunity.
So I pray that one day our Nehemiah-like response to those inside and outside the church of Jesus who oppose the perfect unity Jesus prayed for or who believe that this is impossible, will be:
“God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and tear down the walls of disunity, until every person has an equal portion in perfect unity by: (1) declaring that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior and that the Word of God in the Bible is true; and (2) joining the idolatry demolition team.”
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ne 2:20). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.