It has been a while since I continued with this theme of biblical manhood and having now done a few bible plans from youversion, I feel I can come with fresh insight and ideas, things I have never considered before.
This imagery of the hammer and the sword is an idea I found in the book of Nehemiah and in what follows will be drawing on his life and his example for us. While I will be applying this mostly to men in the scope of biblical manhood, it is worth noting that it is a concept that can and does apply to all of us.
This passage I want to draw on can be found in Nehemiah 4. But first, a bit of context.
Nehemiah was the cupbearer of the King of Persia. Quite a role for a Jewish exile in a Gentile land. What this means of course is that Nehemiah was the one to first drink from the cup of the king and if it was poisoned would die. His position in the kingdom of Persia was one of great importance. It was also a position that leveraged him great respect.
Jerusalem is in ruins and it’s walls toppled. The Jewish people are scattered throughout the lands. The walls of Jerusalem bring great shame on the Jews and this troubles Nehemiah greatly, weeping, fasting and praying before God for his people. He prays that the king would grant his request, knowing that God is the one who leads and sovereignly directs.
His request is successful so Nehemiah goes to Jerusalem, the ruined city of his people. He inspects the walls and rallies the people to work with him and the people go to work on repairing the walls of Jerusalem.
6 So we built the wall. And all the wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.
~ Nehemiah 4:6
Nehemiah, under concern for his people and for their shame, under his remembrance of the promises and the commands of God and under his concern for the glory and the name of God put his hand to the hammer. Nehemiah knew it was going to take the collective effort of the people with their hands on the hammer to get the work done.
Men, are we prepared to put our hands to the hammer and work? Are we prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure the name of God is glorified? Are we remembering the promises and the commands of God and acting in light of them? Are we prepared to do whatever it takes for the sake of others?
Nehemiah put his hand to the hammer out of his concern for people. Are we prepared to do the hard work when it comes to building our families (or future families), to seeing the lost come to know Christ, to see the brokenness become whole in our communities? To see our youth and kids come to know who God is, the orphan be adopted, the slave become free? Are we prepared to pay the cost with our blood, sweat and tears?
The walls of Jerusalem being rebuilt did more then just bring the Jews out of their shame. It brought many back to the city of Jerusalem and out of exile but also brought opportunity for a renewed relationship with God. The book of the law was brought out and read and the people renewed their covenant with God.
38 “Because of all this we make a firm covenant in writing; on the sealed document are the names of our princes, our Levites, and our priests.”
~ Nehemiah 9:38
We need to be prepared to do what it takes, knowing that as we put our hand to the hammer inside of the will of God, He is at work through us, working to make us more like Christ, working His will inside us for our good and for His glory.
Nehemiah’s venture wasn’t without opposition from enemies. The text tells us that the Samaritan people were not too impressed by his attempts to rebuild the walls of the city.
7 But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry.
~ Nehemiah 4:7
So angry that they planned to attack and destroy the walls and kill the people. When we put our hand to the hammer inside of the will of God, there is going to be opposition. There are going to be people who disagree. Satan himself is going to kick up a fuss and try to destroy everything because the last thing he wants is men of God moving in the will of God under the power of God. A man with his hand on the hammer is dangerous to the kingdom of darkness.
“16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, 17 who were building on the wall…”
~ Nehemiah 4:16-17a
The people were prepared to fight. Men, are we prepared to fight?
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
~ 1 Peter 5:8
Are we prepared to war against indwelling sin that holds us back and stops us in our tracks? Are we prepared to fight against Satan and evil when it seeks to destroy our work? Are we prepared to do what it takes, with our hand on the sword, to ensure that the work of God in the will of God gets done, for the good of others and the glory of God?
When it comes to marriages and family, when it comes to reaching the lost and setting free the slave, it will not do to just have a hand on the hammer, building and working. As men we must have the other hand on the sword, ready to fight and defend when the occasion demands.
17 “…Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built.
~ Nehemiah 4:17b-18a
The people of Israel had one hand on the hammer ready to do the work set out before them by God, but they also had one hand on the sword ready to defend against their enemies. They were ready for whatever circumstance was to come their way.
We must be prepared to fight against Satan, against sin, against evil in this world, all things which are going to inhibit the work of God. We must be both prepared to work for the glory of God and defend against the attack of the enemy.
I’ll finish this post with some final thoughts from Nehemiah 4:19-20.
19 And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. 20 In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”
Walls are a large and widespread effort and Nehemiah recognised this, knowing that all those working are separated from one another. But Nehemiah also knew there was strength in numbers and when the trumpet sounded, called for all the people to be gathered.
The work of God in this world is a large and widespread effort but isn’t it so great to have a community of believers who can come together with the express purpose of glorifying the name of Christ? Men, in community we have strength in numbers and the ability to spur one another on in the work of God, with one hand on the hammer and encouragement in defeating sin and Satan in our lives, with one hand on the sword.
The people rallied together to fight at the sound of the trumpet as should we, but even better still to see these 6 small words in verse 20: “Our God will fight for us”.
We are not working alone and not fighting alone. Our God is with us and He fights for us. With this truth in our hearts and the Holy Spirit working in us, let’s be prepared always to have one hand on the hammer prepared to do the work of God and one hand on the sword prepared to defend against the enemy.