What an honour, what a wonderful joy, what a glorious reward it will be to each faithful worker, as he hears his own name read from the list! Surely it will well repay him for all he has undergone in the working days of earth.
The Sword and the Trowel.
The sea is calm and quiet, blue as the sky above it, not a wave, not a ripple is to be seen; it is smooth as polished silver, shining like a mirror, and peaceful as the still lake amongst the mountains. On the sea is a boat, floating along as quietly and as gently as on a river. The man in the boat is having an easy time, as he rows out to sea, almost without an effort.
But what is that in the far distance? It is a black cloud, rising from the sea. In a little time the wind begins to moan and sigh, white lines are seen on the distant water, a storm is coming, and coming both swiftly and surely. The man in the boat at once rouses himself and prepares for action; it was an easy thing to go forward when all was still, he will find it a very different matter to meet the rising storm.
So found Nehemiah the governor. Up to this time all had gone smoothly and easily, the king had granted his request fully and freely, Asaph had given him the wood from the royal paradise, the committee, composed of the leading men in Jerusalem, had at once fallen in with his scheme, the people, great and small, men and women, old and young, had responded to his appeal, the walls were being rebuilt, the trowels were busy, the rubbish was being cleared away, and all was bright, cheerful, and encouraging. As Nehemiah walks round the city directing the builders, dressed, as a Persian governor, in a flowing robe, a soft cap, and with a gold chain round his neck, he feels his work both easy and pleasant. It is always a light task to direct and superintend those who have a mind to work, and Nehemiah for some time went peacefully on his way, as the man in his boat rowed easily along in the still, untroubled water.
But what is that dark cloud rising north of Jerusalem? What is that moaning, muttering sound in the far distance? Can it be a storm coming, a terrible storm of opposition and difficulty? Surely it is, for we see Nehemiah rousing himself, and preparing to row his frail boat through troubled waters.
Signs of the approaching storm had indeed been seen by him, before the first stone had been placed on the city wall. No sooner had he revealed his plans to the people of Jerusalem, no sooner had they responded, ’We will arise and build,’ than something had occurred which might well make Nehemiah feel uncomfortable. A messenger had appeared at the northern gate, bearing in his hand a letter, written on parchment, and addressed to the Tirshatha, or governor. Nehemiah opened the roll, and found it contained an insulting message from Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, a message which was evidently expressed in very scornful and unpleasant words. The upshot of the letter was this (ii. 19):