Three Essential Things to a Fullness of the Christian Life
The State of the Wall
Now from Nehemiah's concern we move on to his action - for, as we have said, Nehemiah was no detached, negative critic of the situation. He was not just one who was pointing out all that was wrong, without knowing what ought to be done for the glory of God, and doing something about it. So he took action, and if there is one book in the Bible, or at any rate in the Old Testament, which is characterized by action more than another, I think this book is such.
When Nehemiah took action, he first of all fully and accurately acquainted himself with the situation. We have such words as these:
Hanani, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men out of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, that were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:2).
And them when he came to Jerusalem, we see him moving, in these descriptive words:
And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God put into my heart to do for Jerusalem; neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon. And I went out by night ... and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down, and the gates thereof were consumed with fire (Nehemiah 2:12, 13).
So Nehemiah took pains to get to know exactly what the situation was. It is true that he had information. Report came to him, or he made it his business to get to know from those who had first-hand knowledge, as to what the situation was, but as soon as it was possible for him to do so on the spot, he verified the report and accurately informed himself at first-hand exactly how matters stood. And I would suggest that, in like manner, when the Lord is speaking concerning the recovery of His testimony, which is the matter before us, those who are going to cooperate with Him must be accurately and fully informed. While their information may come indirectly, they must not be content with the best second-hand report, they must know at first-hand exactly how things are. You and I will never be of much use to the Lord until we know exactly what the spiritual state of things is and what needs to be done. We must really see and know this for ourselves, not just get it from the many people there are who tell us about it.
It is a fact that we can hardly go anywhere today in any part of the world, without finding people deploring the spiritual state of things among the Lord's people. Their sense of things is in the main a right one - although, as we said earlier, many of them just complain and murmur and grumble and criticize without having anything to offer in the way of remedy and improvement. Nevertheless, their registration of the spiritual state of the Church is very largely true. It is very widely true, today, that everything is not right with the Church; things are not as they should be, as the Lord would have them. But we cannot go on a general - even though it be a very general - feeling that things are not right. This must come into our own being; we must know it for ourselves. I am not suggesting that we should go and try to find out all that is wrong and make a long list of all that is so defective and deplorable today; but I am saying this - that if we are to cooperate with God in getting things as He would have them, the matter must be a first-hand one in our own hearts. We must know it for ourselves. We must not just be professional grumblers, but those who have real travail of heart because of what we know to be the case, because of what we see, what is clear to our own eyes and what troubles our own hearts.
So Nehemiah did, in the first place, inform himself directly as to the situation. And it was a situation calculated to take the heart out of anyone. It really could have been so disconcerting that Nehemiah would not have gone on any further with it, but returned to Babylon and said: 'We must make the best of a bad job. Things are not as they ought to be, they are quite hopeless. It is no use trying to do anything about it.' But he did not give it up as a hopeless situation, bad as it was. I am quite sure that if you had been one of the men going around with Nehemiah that night, you might well have said 'This is something altogether beyond our handling; we will never be able to make anything of this. This is hopeless.' Nehemiah was not like that. I think Nehemiah was one of the most courageous men of the Old Testament - a true hero: faced with a terrible situation, but facing it with confidence in God, because he knew, not only that this was a bad situation, but that God was on the move to put it right, to make something different of it. It was God's will that it should be otherwise; and if God wills a thing, then we have a ground of confidence, however impossible it may seem to us. So he did not give it up, but faced it - faced it squarely.
(continued with # 5