Whether it is designed as a type or not, Nehemiah’s task is ours, history for ever repeating itself.  The walls of Jerusalem - the Holy City’s fortifications against the enemy - had crashed, exactly as the massive truths of Scripture, the Church’s fortifications against the world and hell, have crumbled in millions of Christian minds; and our task is Nehemiah’s - the rebuilding of the walls.  And the setting is exact.  The rebuilding led to the Feast of Tabernacles, the divine type of the gathering of the saints on high, a feast which Israel had neglected for a thousand years - a wonderful forecast of an imminent Advent, the truth of which the Church has lost for some fifteen centuries, while we labour to rebuild the crumbling walls.  The history of the ancient people of God closes with this book, as the history of the Church closes immediately before the Advent.




Nehemiah embodies for ever one practical truth of critical importance, namely, that all holy activity which is not inspired by constant prayer dwindles and peters out at last.  Prayer is more vital than we dream.  Only unfailing prayer can keep our spiritual wealth un-destroyed.  In one of the Continental palaces the royal jewellery was not kept behind iron bars, as in the Tower of London, but lay open on a table, exposed to any thief yet it was perfectly safe: why?  Because it was charged with electricity: it was death to touch it.  Unceasing prayer so charges our life and service as to keep our treasures untouchable, and safe from the robbery of Satan.




Nehemiah opens his campaign with one of the fullest prayers recorded in the Bible, in which he reveals a soul deeply disturbed for the People of God, and passionately devoted to their redemption.  Passionate prayer - “I wept, and fasted and prayed”; worshipping prayer - “0 Lord, the great and terrible God”; adoring prayer - “that keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him”; incessant prayer - “the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee day and night”; confessing prayer - “I and my father’s house have sinned”; confident prayer - “these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power”; and prayer committing all to God - “prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day.”  As one writer paraphrases Nehemiah’s prayer: - “It is a prayer addressed to Him who is mightier than our mightiest foes, who has a perfect knowledge of them, and of our weaknesses, whose eye is ever upon them and us; who loves us and desires our safety; who has promised help and victory to those who call upon HimM S. Lewis, M.M.


An Open Door


Nehemiah’s first specific prayer is for our own first vital necessity as servants of Christ - liberty for the work of God, an open door granted by the Government.  So Nehemiah, when questioned by the Persian Emperor, Artaxerxes, “For what dost thou make request?,” between the King’s question and his own answer sends a telegram to heaven:- “So I prayed unto the God of heaven; and I said unto the king, That I may build Jerusalem” (2: 4).  Instantly Artaxerxes granted an abundant answer. “And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me” (verse 8).  Such is our Lord’s word to all of us today throughout the world who have State authority for Christian activity: - “Behold, I have set before thee a door opened, which none can shut” (Rev. 3: 8).


The World


At once Nehemiah finds himself, as we shall, face to face with an angry world.  Sanballat brought down a horde of Samaritans and Arabians, in scorn and contempt, and with military power to crush the workers on the walls.  Nehemiah responds with an immediate cry to Heaven: - “Hear, 0 our God, for we are despised, and turn back their reproach upon their own head” (4: 4). Once again there is the immediate intervention of God.  When our enemies heard that it [their plot] was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned every one unto his work” (verse 15).  Taught by the thundercloud, Nehemiah sets up a permanent guard.  We made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night” (verse 9).*  George Muller gives a confirming testimony.  Asked how much time he spent in prayer, he replied:-Hours every day.  But I live in the spirit of prayer.  I pray as I walk, and when I lie down, and when I rise.  And the answers are always coming.  Tens of thousands of times have my prayers been answered.  When once I am persuaded a thing is right, I go on praying for it until it comes.  The great point is never to give up until the answer comes.  The great fault of the children of God is that they do not continue in prayer.”


[* Un-pausing, un-resting toil and vigilance till the work is done.  Night and day: none of us put off our clothes. Too much of the Church's work is committed to the few willing labourers.  All should be doing, and always doing, and doing their all” (W. S. Lewis, M.A.). It has been said with much truth:-The shirking of the man who prays, and the praying of the man who shirks, is equally an abomination unto the Lord.”]




The next attack is studied misrepresentation, the invented calumnies that always accompany persecution.  Sanballatt and Tobiah charge Nehemiah with a plot to rebel against Artaxerxes, and to establish himself as king.  He retorts:-There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart”; and then he once more cries to heaven: “But now, 0 God, strengthen my hands (6: 8, 9).  In the words of David:-In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul” (Ps. 138: 3). So Paul:-For this cause I bow my knees, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man” (Eph. 3: 16).  Like Nehemiah, we shall also need strength behind us.  Judah said (4: 10):- “Our strength faileth, there is so much rubbish, it is impossible to build.”  There will always be those among the people of God who daunt and discourage.  Do not look anxiously about you for man’s smile, but do look earnestly above you for Christ’s approval, and beyond you for His reward.”




Next we have the supernatural, sent to tempt Nehemiah.  Shemiah, a false prophet, is hired to work on Nehemiah’s fear; warning him of the peril to his life - that even the next night he would be murdered - he suggests that together they take refuge in the Temple.  For Nehemiah, neither a priest nor a Levite, to enter the Temple was open sin against God and the ruin of his influence with Israel.  Nehemiah instantly refuses, and as instantly commits himself and his enemies to God.  Remember, 0 my God, Tobiah and Sanballat, also the prophetess Nodiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear” (6: 14).  At any moment we may have a new spirit movement sweeping the world.




The final battle of Nehemiah is precisely the battle we are to expect.  After the walls had been rebuilt, and the people of God revived and restored, the High Priest Eliashib establishes Tobias the Ammonite - spiritually, the world, the unregenerate who are enemies of God - inside the Temple itself, making a palatial residence in God’s Temple for God’s enemy.  It is exactly ‘the fornication with kings’ of the Church of Rome.  In the Temple of God - the Church - the State is enthroned, and this is done by the official leaders of the People of God.  So the last battle of Nehemiah (as it will be ours, when the Woman on the Seven Hills is “drunk with the blood of the martyrs”) is to cast Tobias out of the Temple; and in this final conflict Nehemiah prays three times oftener than before (13: 22, 29, 31). “Spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy!” Thrice he prays. As Mr. Spurgeon puts it: - “Prayer pulls the rope below and the great bell rings above in the ears of God.  Some scarcely stir the bell for they pray so languidly; others give an occasional pluck at the rope; but he who wins with heaven is the man who grabs the rope boldly and pulls continually with all his might.”




So it is the ceaseless prayer which brings the complete victory.  Pray without ceasing(1 Thess. 5: 17).  Nor must we allow ourselves to be discouraged by ‘dryness’ in prayer.  Hear what two effectual prayers have to say.  When Hudson Taylor was once asked if he ever prayed without conscious joy, he replied: “Often.  Sometimes I pray on with my heart feeling like wood.” And then he added:-Often, too, the most wonderful answers have come when prayer has been a real effort of faith, without any joy whatever.”  Evan Roberts says:-Some ask about dryness in prayer. It matters not whether it is ‘dry’ or ‘dewy.’ The ‘dry prayer may be more effective than the 'flow.’  The thoroughness with which you ask is the thoroughness with which God will work."  Nor let us be discouraged by exhaustion.  Charles G. Finney so gave himself to prayer that sometimes he would pray all night.  In his latter days a friend said:-Mr. Finney, do you pray the way you used to?” He said, “I pray a great deal, but I cannot pray the way I used to, I am not strong enough.  My nerves have been shattered, I am an old man now.  I would like to pray the way I used to but I cannot.  Sometimes I would pray in an agony all night, but I cannot do it now.”  But he said, “When people send a request for prayer I just quietly look up to God and I say, ‘Oh God, I am not strong enough to pray the way I used to pray.  Let the Holy Spirit be my prayer and give me the words of prayer,’ and as I just look up to God and pray what I believe God’s Spirit gives me, my friend, I want to tell you, God answers these prayers just as much as He did those old prayers of agony I had in the olden time."




Thus the whole book, completing the history of Israel, closes with a prayer- “Remember me, 0 my God, for good”; even as we too, when our task is completed, will close with another last prayer - “Lord, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom.”  Dr. Bachus, a former president of Hamilton College in America, was told, on his death-bed, that he had but half an hour to live.  Is that so?” he replied; “then take me out of my bed, and put me on my knees, and let me spend it calling on God for the salvation of the world.”  And so they did.  He died upon his knees.