Nehemiah and the Jews had reached a half-way point of their wall building project, which made their enemies Sanballat and Tobiah warn of a coming attack. Nehemiah prepared for this attack by praying, and putting guards in place. However, he also had to protect the people by any means possible.
4:10 talks about “rubbish” which refers to very large stones that were either part of the original wall, or had been supplied. These rocks brought two problems. First the people were too tired to bring them in (4:10) and these large blocks were ideal hiding places for enemy soldiers (4:11). The danger of this situation was intensified because Sanballat and Tobiah sent ten messages threatening attacks on the Jews.
Though chapter four doesn’t tell us this directly, the context of the passage shows us a the response of Nehemiah.
He put a stop to the work
This is interesting because up until this time Nehemiah refused to stop the work on the wall for any reason (we will see this again in Chapter five). He knew that the goal of his enemies was either to delay the work, or distract him from the work, so Nehemiah displayed an amazing amount of dedication. Yet there came a time when the work needed to put put on hold for a short time.
There are two major reasons for this:
- The people were too tired to continue the work properly
- and the people were afraid
Because of this Nehemiah chose to take some time for physical rest and “regrouping” before they prepared themselves for warfare (4:13-15).
The application of this passage for us is clear…sometimes you need to rest
By this I don’t just mean sleep (though that can be part of it) instead I’m talking about taking a strategic step back from the work so that you can do it effectively in the near future.
Rest can involve many things
- Meditation on Scripture
- Silence (unplugging from everything electronic)
- Taking a walk (preferably in nature)
- Reading a good book
- or some basic planning
The goal of this rest isn’t to completely turn off our brains like we often do while watching TV or streaming services, but to refresh ourselves both physically and spiritually for the work ahead.
A big part of this rest principle is paying very close attention to your body, and spiritual level so that you know when rest is necessary.
I usually minister in the community from 3:00 to 5:30 but for some reason my body started getting extra tired yesterday at 4:30. I was tempted to push through physically till 5:30 but knew from experience ignoring the warning signs my body gives off will just bring greater physical weariness later. So I took a cat nap instead.
The important thing is knowing this time of rest and refocusing isn’t laziness. Laziness is doing absolutely nothing when God wants you to work. Rest is taking the time to recuperate because you know its difficult to accomplish the Lords Will when your exhausted or struggling spiritually.