A Christian ought to put up a wall. When there is war, the first thing the enemy attacks is the wall of defence. Once they manage that, the battle is already tipped to their favour. This is because a wall protects, shields, and sets boundaries. Once destroyed, a wall lays bare, it exposes what lies beyond. This is the situation that Nehemiah came to and receives a report that ‘The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire’ (Nehemiah 1:3).
Before we come to know God, our wall is broken down, lying in ruins. We are susceptible to everything and anything. We have no limits and no boundaries. Anyone can stray in as they please and the god of this world takes full advantage of that. He sends his demons to plant all sorts of weeds which chokes out the life of any good seed that attempts to grow within us. Paul recalls, ‘As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts’ (Ephesians 2: 1-3).
When we come to God, He directs and then helps us to build our wall. A wall that was taken down when the first man fell and ‘the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden’ (Genesis 3:23). Like Israel of old who were taken captive by Babylon due to unfaithfulness to God, mankind was also taken captive by the god of this world who trails along sin and death. Although man now knew good and evil, we are only bent for evil and don’t have it in us to do any good, nor ability to show restraint because our wall was broken down. And so like Nehemiah the governor, we rebuild our walls because we ought to ‘possess ye your souls’ (Luke 21:19).
Once we start this eternity-changing project, we face opposition. Nehemiah records, ‘When Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs and the Ammonites and the men of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it’ (Nehemiah 4:7-8). When we give our lives to God and rebuild our walls, the enemy of our souls is not happy. Neither does he retreat back in defeat, but plots to fight us all the more. He causes distractions and distress to make us lose our focus in God. When the devil sees that gaps to our walls are closing, he becomes angry because he can no longer have access to us- no access to shape our desires and thoughts. And when he tries, he hits a wall!
When facing such attacks and opposition, Nehemiah writes, ‘But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat’ (v9). Similarly, Jesus also urges, ‘Watch and pray that you will not fall into temptation’ (Matthew 26:41). Cognizant of the threat that lurked, Nehemiah says, ‘Therefore, I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posted them with families, with their swords, spears and bows. . . So we continued our work with half of the men holding spears. . . each had his weapon even when we went for water’ (v13, 21, 23).
Nehemiah was armed and ready to fight the enemies in opposition. Likewise, as we constantly face battle in our Christian life, we must ‘Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. . . Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled round your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests’ (Ephesians 6:11, 14-18).
Unfortunately, some Christians retreat when opposition arises from the Evil One. They leave out their walls halfway done and with gaps, giving the enemy access. Unlike Nehemiah who urged, ‘Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome’ (Nehemiah 4:14), some do the opposite and lose faith in God. At the first sight of threat, some abandon rebuilding their walls, giving access to the devil. Paul writes, ‘That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep’ (1 Corinthians 11:30). Solomon writes, ‘If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!’ (Proverbs 24:10). Or like Jesus would have put it, ‘O ye of little faith!’ (Matthew 8:26). When we lose our faith, the repercussions multiply. Jesus says, ‘When an evil spirt comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first’ (Luke 11:24-26).
For those who complete rebuilding their walls, they stand firm in the faith. They are those who have ‘received Christ Jesus, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him’ (Colossians 2:6). Like Nehemiah, they can exclaim, ‘When all our enemies heard about this (completion of the wall), all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their confidence, because they realised that this work had been done with the help of our God’ (Nehemiah 6:16). Similarly, Jesus paints a picture of how the devil tucks his tail once we are rooted in Him, with our wall up. He says, ‘When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armour in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils’ (Luke 11:21-22). The devil, the strongman, is no match for Jesus who is much stronger, and helps us put up our wall!