"And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in" (Isaiah 58:12).
Thinking about walls, one thing that comes to mind is protection. Walls of our homes protect us from the elements and ill-intentioned people. Gardens are walled to protect our crops from critters. When these walls are breached, we find ourselves vulnerable to destructive elements.
So with our churches, families, and individual hearts. Spiritual walls around these aren't visible, but they are vital. They can also be breached, leaving us open to attack from an enemy far worse than a hungry rabbit.
All truth found in God’s Word, studied and taken into the heart, mind, and life, protects us, as a wall, from being deceived by the enemy. Speaking of the Ten Commandments, Ellen White writes:
"To the obedient it is a wall of protection. We behold in it the goodness of God, who by revealing to men the immutable principles of righteousness, seeks to shield them from the evils that result from transgression” (OHC 137.6).
Always, enemies are seeking to break through God's protective barriers around His people. It's important we remember who our primary adversary is – that "old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan..." (Revelation 12:9). But we are also warned about “the agencies whom he instigates to misrepresent, to tempt, and to destroy the people of God. Those who have decided to obey the commandments of God will understand by experience that they have adversaries who are controlled by a power from beneath" (COL 170).
Individuals being used by Satan need their eyes opened so they can escape his clutches. Jesus loves them as He loves us, and we can certainly afford to have godly compassion for them. It is fatal, however, to equate that compassion with silence regarding deceptions they knowingly or unknowingly bring into the church. We must not betray truth from fear of giving offense. We may not be deceived ourselves, but we don’t know who else might be listening and vulnerable. While it isn't our work to judge motives, we are required to weigh every message to ensure it lines up with Bible truth.
Breaches may be made when practices come into the church from non–Christian systems or filtered through philosophies and practices of other nominally Christian organizations. Liberal elements of our own denomination have begun to openly embrace mysticism, spiritual formation, teaching Bible students to empty their minds or to disdain doctrine altogether in favor of “Jesus. All.” The talk of Jesus and love sounds good on the surface. Further investigation, however, often reveals it is sentimentalism that is being promoted, a deadly "love the sinner and validate the sin" philosophy not akin to God's love that seeks to lift up and purify its object. Left out is the fact that exalting Jesus includes diligently studying the truth He gave us in the Scriptures. Unmentioned is the truth that love for Jesus is shown by choosing to obey everything He asks of us, as He indicated when He said, “if ye love Me, keep my Commandments.”
Working from the “conservative” angle, Satan may turn our thoughts to our own good works, new or "rediscovered" doctrines that only “finer minds” can comprehend, including feast days, the lunar Sabbath, questionable reapplications of prophecy, speculation on the Godhead, anything that will appeal to our desire for something unique.
“Some zealous ones who are aiming and straining every energy for originality have made a grave mistake in trying to get something startling, wonderful, entrancing, before the people, something that they think others do not comprehend; but often they do not themselves know what they are talking about. They speculate upon God’s word, advancing ideas that are not a whit of help to themselves or to the churches…Clear discernment is needed that things new and strange shall not be laid alongside of truth as part of the burden of the message to be given at this time” (2SM 13,14).
These are some things that can constitute a breach in our wall. Let’s turn our attention to the story of Nehemiah. Here's a man who understood walls and how to repair them. Consider his story as it relates to dealing with breaches in our walls today. What can we do?
We can care
We are busy people. We have jobs, families, and a hundred things on our to-do lists at any given time. It can seem overwhelming to consider taking on one more thing. It takes time to study and pray, speak and write.
Nehemiah was a busy man. He had an influential position in the Persian court. Yet Nehemiah cared about the condition of God’s people. Shouldn't we care about the state of God’s church today? We have busy lives, but what about the life to come? Do we trust God to take care of our temporal needs when we put His kingdom first? He says He will.
Getting involved can be uncomfortable and inconvenient. It’s time consuming to become solidly grounded in spiritual matters and educate ourselves about the issues that concern our church. Nehemiah could have let the people already in Jerusalem deal with their issues, but he didn’t. He cared.
We can pray
“And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept and mourned certain days, and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4).
When we pray in sincerity we are enlisting assistance from heaven’s armies in very real warfare. We are told there is a divine science in prayer, there are principles we need to follow and when this happens, prayer is one of the most powerful weapons we can wield. We need the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit in these treacherous times. We need direction on how God wants us to move specifically in every situation. For these things we MUST ask in prayer.
Not only did Nehemiah pray, he fasted. He was in deadly earnest about his requests to God. Our prayers should be fervent. Fasting, done appropriately, is a way to humble ourselves before God. It clears our minds so we can understand spiritual things better. It's not a battle of wills with our heavenly Father until we get what we want, but there is something powerful about fasting and prayer done in the right spirit.
I've seen results from fasting and prayer in my life, and I encourage anyone to talk to God and move with regard to your individual situation and health. Fasting is NOT about harming your body, so be wise about it. Some people do a media fast or fast from only certain foods. Fasting removes some of our other sources of comfort so we are turning to God for that comfort and focusing on Him.
In prayer Nehemiah confessed his sins as well as the sins of his people. Individual sins must be put away. Those “little” breaches in the walls around our own hearts need to be repaired too. We blame the devil for holes in our wall when often we've been helping him destroy it by our own actions, words, and attitudes.
We’re asking great things of our heavenly Father, and we don’t want any obstacles between us and Him. Putting heart walls and family walls in good order will give us strength as we begin the work of dealing with breaches in church walls. Have you noticed how cherishing sin weakens your prayer life? Get rid of it!
"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Psalm 66:18).
As we pray, we can claim the promises of God. Nehemiah claimed God’s promise on behalf of His people, and we can do the same. The Bible is packed with promises for us to claim in faith. Find them, memorize them, sing them, write them down, read them aloud. Every one is intended for us. Let’s get our hearts right with God and claim His promises. His word will not return to Him void.
Form a Purpose and Seize Opportunities
When asked, Nehemiah seized the opportunity he was given to tell the king what was on his mind. It is vital for us to be living so closely to God every day that when opportunities to speak or act for the building up of His kingdom are presented to us, we recognize and are ready to take hold of them. We must be prepared to act with decision. Nehemiah wasted no opportunities, he was ready.
Encourage each other
"Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work" (Nehemiah 2:18).
Nehemiah gave his testimony, and the people were inspired by it. Nehemiah knew how to stir people up, encouraging them to take up the work that needed to be done. We can encourage each other in the same way, sharing our testimony, coming together to do God's work with enthusiasm. Speak faith!
We’ve considered some things we can do to prepare for the work, now what can we expect to happen as we go forward to repair the breach?
Resistance. Opposition. Counterattack
“Every manifestation of God's power for His people arouses the enmity of Satan. Every time God works in their behalf, Satan with his angels works with renewed vigor to compass their ruin" (COL 168).
Our enemy is the highly intelligent general of dedicated army, and we must expect him to act as such.
We can expect to be mocked, misrepresented, and accused. It seems common for those working to repair the breaches to be accused of lacking love or being "divisive." The excellent counsel of Matthew 18:15-17 is often misapplied in an attempt to silence those who speak up against public apostasy. When error is publicly disseminated in speech or writing, consider the counsel found in 1 Timothy 5:19,20:
"Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear."
When those working at preaching, teaching, or writing use their platform to spread deception, we must be willing to protest and face the firestorm of reproach that will surely come. Lovingly, humbly, and firmly hold to the course God has laid out.
"When men endanger the work and cause of God by their own wrong course of action, shall they hear no voice of reproof? If the wrongdoer only were concerned, and the work reached no farther than him, he alone should have the words of warning; but when his course of action is doing positive harm to the cause of truth, and souls are imperiled, God requires that the warning be as broad as the injury done" (2SM 152).
There will be times when those in leadership won't cooperate in the work. The Tekoite nobles in Nehemiah 3:5 "put not their necks to the work of their LORD." Notice that although the nobles didn't work the Tekoites did! They faithfully repaired their assigned piece of the wall, and in Nehemiah 3:27 we even find them repairing a second section
Yes, we can expect opposition, but we can also expect God's help! He has promised that as we do His work, He will never leave us.
“Amidst great discouragement, Nehemiah made God his trust, his sure defense. And He who was the support of His servant then has been the dependence of His people in every age. In every crisis His people may confidently declare, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Rom 8:31. However craftily the plots of Satan and his agents may be laid, God can detect them, and bring to nought all their counsels. The response of faith today will be the response made by Nehemiah. “Our God shall fight for us” for God is in the work and no man can prevent its ultimate success” (PK 645).
Victory in Jesus
As someone who was washed out beyond the walls with my family when the enemy came in like a flood and as yet am the only one who has found their way back, may I encourage us all to take hold and repair the breach, working like the Jews on the Jerusalem walls.
“Be not ye afraid of them; remember the Lord which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives and your houses” (Nehemiah 4:14).