‘We returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work.’
But, from that time, the sword and the trowel must never be parted. Each builder worked with a sword hanging by his side; each porter held a hod in one hand, and a weapon in the other. They were always on the alert, ever ready for action.
Nehemiah had brought with him from Shushan a large following of faithful servants or slaves; on these he could thoroughly rely. He divided them into two parties, half worked at the building, filling up the gaps left by those who had returned home; the rest stood behind them, guarding the weapons, the shields, and the spears, and the bows, and the swords which were laid ready for immediate use. By Nehemiah’s side stood a trumpeter, ready to blow an alarm at the first sight or sound of the enemy.
For, says Nehemiah, ’I said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, The work is great and large, and we are separated upon the wall, one far from another. In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us: our God shall fight for us.’
So the work and the watching went on all day long, and when the sun set over the Mediterranean, and the stars came out in the quiet sky, and darkness made the work impossible, still the watching went on as before. Those who had laboured at the building all day lay down and slept, whilst others kept guard on the wall. The workmen who lived outside the walls were requested by Nehemiah to stay in the city all night, in order to increase the strength of their force. As for the governor himself and the little body of faithful servants, they gave themselves hardly any rest, either by night or by day. They were almost always on duty, not one of them even undressed all that long time of watching; if they laid down to sleep, they laid in their clothes, ready at any moment for the attack of the enemy (chap. iv. 28).
Thus, day by day, the work grew and the walls rose higher, strong lines of defence once more encircled the city, and the prayer of the captives in Babylon, offered so earnestly and amongst many tears, was already receiving an abundant answer.
’Do good in Thy good pleasure to Zion, build Thou the walls of Jerusalem.’
The scene changes. Nehemiah and his workmen fade away; the walls of Jerusalem become dim and obscure, and, in their place, we see coming out, as in a dissolving view, other figures and another landscape. We see the Master, Christ Jesus, standing in the midst of His countless labourers and workmen, the great company of His faithful servants. We notice that each one is working busily at the special work the Master has given him to do, we see that this work is very varied, no two labourers have exactly the same task. But in one respect we notice that all the Master’s servants are alike, they all carry a sword, for it is not possible for any one to be a worker for Christ without also being at the same time a soldier.