There is an old joke of a man challenged to swim from the California coast to Hawaii. Half way there he decided he could not make it, turned around and swam back. Perhaps it was the high waves or the sharks' teeth or the foul weather, or maybe sheer exhaustion, but he was half way there. "So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. But... (Nehemiah 4:6-7a).
Discouragement had set in. "The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall" (Nehemiah 4:10). There is enthusiasm at the beginning and anticipation toward the end, but in the middle a weariness sets in. Enemies of the wall were plotting against its completion. "They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work" (Nehemiah 4:11). The workers were being called back home, "You must return to us" (Nehemiah 4:12). The temptation was to drop their tools and return to their families and get back to the routine of life. The wall could wait.
At a time like this, a leader is needed to remind the people of their purpose and renew their strength. Nehemiah stood up and called "to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, 'Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes'" (Nehemiah 4:14). We are building a fortress for our families and a kingdom for our God. Get back to work. The leader kept his trumpeter close at hand, rallying the people with the cry, "Our God will fight for us" (Nehemiah 4:20).
God's work may be thwarted in the middle by discouragement, by danger, by drudgery, and by despair. The leader, undaunted, must rise above and recall God's vision to the people. Nehemiah stood tall, the people responded, and "the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days" (Nehemiah 6:15).
Almighty God, You are my strength and the desire of my life. You are my rock, the foundation of my life, and the fortress that protects me. You have called me to follow You and I am eager to do so. Keep me focused and renew my strength when I tire of the task. May I not grow weary of doing good, of living well, of pursuing justice, of loving others. May I stand tall and firm, keeping my eyes on You, that others may find encouragement and join in the work of Your Kingdom.
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.