God’s Work and Ours
Then I replied to them,“The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:20).”
Ezra and Nehemiah were originally written (about 430-400 BC) and read as one book that drew from many sources available at the time, particularly the memoirs of Ezra and Nehemiah, the central characters of the narratives. If we could assign one overall purpose for its writing, it would have to be to encourage reestablishment in the land after the exile.
One of the passages that brings together the entire work and that encourages all the right virtues would have to be Nehemiah 2:20. We see three dynamics at work, not only at that time in history, but in our own day as well.
First, we see the work of God being established in Ezra-Nehemiah’s day. God’s kingdom work exists in every age and unfolds in and through the lives of His people. This work is first and foremost His work. We see this in Nehemiah’s prayer: “The God of heaven will make us prosper…”. What a comfort to know that, when all is said and done, the work depends on Christ, not His people. In our day, the work continues, the work we know of as the Great Commission.
But a second observation we must note is that the work God gives His people is also their work. Nehemiah makes this clear: “…we his servants will arise and build.” He reminds us that we actually engage in this work. There is no place in Christ’s kingdom for passivity, for retreating and casting off the responsibility to do what God has commanded. In Nehemiah’s day, it was to build a wall around the city to protect it so the worship and service of God could be reestablished. In our day, we continue to worship God and build His Church through missions, evangelism, and the equipping ministries of the Church.
But finally, we observe a reality in the Old Testament that is every bit as present with us today: opposition to the work of the kingdom. Nehemiah’s prayer notes this as well: “…you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.” Of course, he was referring to the enemies of God who had mocked them as they sought to rebuild the city. What Nehemiah and Ezra discovered was that these enemies were all to happy, if they couldn’t conquer God’s people through political means, to infiltrate them and destroy their message and integrity. While to some extent they succeeded, they ultimately failed. Why? Because of what Nehemiah says at the beginning of his prayer: “The God of heaven will make us prosper…”
Remember these words of hope as you engage in the work God has given you today. There is opposition to your work, but the work is primarily the Lord’s, and the Lord will ensure that it succeeds. May God do so in our lives today!