In Nehemiah 6:3 we read: “And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?”
Nehemiah was doing a great work. The walls of Jerusalem were broken down and the gates were burnt down. This good man could not consider such a sad scene with anything other than a fervent desire to rebuild. In the Lord’s gracious and overruling providence, an opportunity was afforded Nehemiah to lead the rebuilding efforts and he received authority to do so.
The work was great from many points of view. It was pleasing to God, being in accordance with His mind and will. It was a work that was grounded in sympathy with the low state of God’s cause on earth, visibly manifest in the broken walls of the holy city. It was a work that was preceded by prayer, and carried on with prayer. It was a work that was fiercely opposed by the enemies of God. Thus, in various ways it was indeed a great work.
The opposition of men like Sanballat served only to highlight how great and important this work was. As steadily as Nehemiah rebuilt, so steadily the threats grew. First there was mockery, then threats, and in the context to the above text, from chapter six, subtle calls to get Nehemiah off the site, seemingly, with murderous intent.
We see, from the way in which the Lord’s servant refused to comply with the invitation of Sanballat and Geshem, that Nehemiah never lost sight of the greatness of the work in which he was engaged. Indeed, it was this very high view of the work that the Lord had put into his heart to do, that ultimately kept him from falling into the murderous hand of these enemies of God and His cause on earth. So we see that the Lord can and does keep his saints from falling at times, by having them taken up with that which is good. Nehemiah said, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down…” They repeated their calls, but he did not move from his reason for not complying – it was a great work, and a great work must go on.
So too, the great work of advancing Christ’s cause on earth must go on. The gospel must be preached, God must be worshipped in public and in private, and His church built and maintained in this world. The people of God are duty-bound to go on “building the wall” in God’s strength. In so doing, they find peace in staying their minds on God. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee” (Isa. 26:3).
The greatest comfort that the people of God can take is that the work is Christ’s. It is His cause and kingdom. As He assured Peter, one who was to be so useful in the work of the gospel, “I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18) .
A great work must go on.
Rev George B Macdonald