The Sword and the Trowel

The Sword and the Trowel

Nehemiah 4:13 – So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows.

There are two ways to get something – by building it or by stealing it. And if you build it, then you must protect it (i.e., protecting your house with a fence, front door, security system, dog, gun, or maybe a few from this list).

A hero outside of Scripture is the great preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-92). His magazine The Sword and Trowel started in 1865, taking its name from Nehemiah 4. Anything we build with God (e.g. spiritual life, marriage, children, business, ministry) requires work, as typified in the bricklayers’ trowel. Since enemies love to break what we build, we must also have a sword in our other hand to defend it.

Nehemiah 4 mentions words like “our enemies” (vs. 11,15) and says that “half…held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail” (vs. 16) as well as “each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built” (vs. 18), showing that those helping build were also helping protect.

While we must build and protect that which we’re building, God also fights for us and sets an example of how to fight in a Godly manner. The chapter says, “our enemies…God had frustrated their plan” (vs. 15) and “our God will fight for us” (vs. 20).

Though we’re called to fight, that includes against those who are enemies of God, not other Christians. Believers should not attack believers, especially publicly, because it sets an extremely poor example to the unbelievers who may be watching them.

Jesus was a worker during 90% of his life before starting His public ministry and He says, “…I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it…” (Matt. 16:18). We will join Him and, in the end, all the building, fighting, and defense will all be worth it because of the revival that is to come.

What has God burdened you to build (spiritual life, marriage, children, business, ministry)? How can you best defend what you are building?

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Mark Driscoll
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