Climbing to a height of nearly 40 feet, we would have to crane our necks at the foot of Jerusalem’s wall to glimpse the sky. Thousands upon thousands of bricks run miles around the Holy City. It’s hard to imagine the emotions of Nehemiah, a Jewish cupbearer to the king (Neh. 1), as he first laid eyes on the ruins of the wall in the fifth century B.C. The task he had pled to take up was now strewn before him in the form of innumerable bricks.
It would take these stones and more to physically rebuild Jerusalem’s wall. But for Nehemiah, and for us as Christians, four critical bricks are necessary to successfully complete the tasks and walls the Lord sets before us.
Brick 1: Faith in God
Nehemiah’s faith didn’t crumble with the wall of Jerusalem. It grew. Brick upon spiritual brick, the cupbearer’s devotion and trust in the Lord drove him to face a task that must have seemed impossible. Much like King Hezekiah in Isaiah 37, Nehemiah’s reflex to tragic news (the destruction of the wall) was prayer… and not just petition, but praise.
O Lord God of Heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments… (Neh. 1:5)
Just as the wall of Jerusalem began to expand, Nehemiah’s faith grew as he entrusted each ensuing request to the Lord’s plan and provision.
Brick 2: Willingness
A solidified trust in what God can do through us will drive our hearts and hands to an opened position of readiness. Without God-given motivation and willingness to work, Nehemiah’s wall would have remained as ruins.
So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work (Neh. 4:6).
Nehemiah understood what the Lord expected of him. His foundation of faith supported the subsequent bricks of willing work.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Col. 3:17).
Brick 3: Dependence
Warning: A will to work and succeed can become a snare. When our hands busy themselves and our willful mind nurtures an ambition, our foundation of faith in God can quickly shift to faith in me.
It’s hard to imagine the outcome of the wall of Jerusalem if Nehemiah had adhered to Rocky or Oprah’s mantras to “believe in yourself” as an independent conqueror. The task before the cupbearer was enormous and his dependence on God had to be the same size. In the face of opposition raised by Sanballat and Tobiah, he pleaded:
Hear, O our God, for we are despised (Neh. 4:4a).
But now, O God, strengthen my hands (Neh. 6:9b).
Nehemiah oozed confidence, but it wasn’t an American, ego-centric, “I can do this” type of assurance in himself. It was an utter dependence upon the Lord. Like Jesus, Nehemiah could do nothing apart from the Father (Jn. 5:30).
“The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build…” (Neh. 2:20a)
Brick 4: Completion
So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God (Neh. 6:15-16).
The sight of Jerusalem’s completed wall rattled the surrounding nations because it was more than a solid structure. It was a sign that God was present with them. By completing the wall, Nehemiah and the Israelites had become what Peter calls “living stones,” pointing to the coming Messiah who would himself be God with us.
You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (1 Pt. 2:5).
Unlike Nehemiah, who risked his life to protect God’s people, Jesus would give his life to save God’s people from the sin that had corrupted Jerusalem in the first place. God helped Nehemiah to complete his work. But Jesus completed the true, finished work of salvation at the cross.
He is the Cornerstone—the most crucial brick—completing the structure of the Christian’s life.