A Great Work
By Rev. J. A. Harman
"I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?" Nehemiah 6 5.
WE do not know a great deal about Nehemiah, but we gather sufficient from the portion of Scripture that records his work to warrant us in saying that, he was a great and good man. It is quite true that he had his weaknesses, like all men, but no one can deny that he was obedient to the commands of God, and much used of the Lord.
Nehemiah was appointed cup bearer to King Nebuchadnezzar: an office which carried with it both trust and honour, and one which brought him into close and constant contact with the King with whom he appears to have been a great favourite. We find him, therefore, comfortably settled, and desiring nothing more, it would seem, than to enjoy the wealth and peace of his office. The Lord, however, had a great work for this man to do, and he was being trained for high and difficult duties.
News reached him from Jerusalem concerning the plight of his brethren and the condition of the wall of that city. This news was quite sufficient to make any patriotic and righteous man lament, but Nehemiah did much more than sorrow. There was a great work to be done, and this work must be done.
There is a tendency today for men and women to give way to what we might call useless lamentation over the spiritual life of our land. There is much room, it is true for lamentation, when we think of the godlessness and indifference around us, but the condition demands something more from us than sorrow. Perhaps it would be helpful to call to mind the words of a Chinese professor to a company of nurses who were greatly vexed at the cruel work of the Japanese soldiers. ''Ladies," said he, "it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness." We shall be "doing a great work" if we assist in lighting a candle".
Nehemiah commenced a great work when he undertook to rebuild the wall at Jerusalem. It is interesting to note how long he had to wait even for an opportunity to speak to the King about what was in his heart. "They also serve who only stand and wait." But this man commenced this great work and carried it on by prayer, and a work thus preceded and followed by prayer must be successful. This work was a most formidable undertaking, but Nehemiah was a courageous man. Martin Luther used to say, "That God needs strong men just as much as strong men need God".
Let us apply the words, "I am doing a great work" to those things which concern the souls of men. If we turn to the Old and New Testament Scriptures, we shall find that there were many, who, in their day, did a great work. History informs us of a great work being carried on throughout the years. But while it may be helpful to consider the labours of the Reformers and others of their day or even that which has been accomplished in more recent times, we would direct our thoughts to some facts which we must heed.
(I) It is a great work to strive to enter into the kingdom of God. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God". Matt. 6 33. We are well employed when we were attending to our spiritual needs. But when concerned about spiritual matters, we shall always find Sandballats and Tobiahs to hinder and discourage. We must say to these, however, "I am doing a great work".
(II) We are doing a great work when we obey the command, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate," saith the Lord 2 Cor. 6:17. We are the Lord's people, we must show that we are "a peculiar people". The Lord intended His people to be both separate and useful.
(III) We have a great work to do in searching the scriptures. "Search the scriptures . . ., and they are they which testify of me" John 5 39. We cannot afford to neglect the Word. If we are to grow we must "desire the sincere milk of the Word." I. Peter 2:2. There must be a constant and systematic searching of the scriptures. It is the food above all other for the hearts of men.
(IV) We have a great work to do in prayer. "That men ought always to pray and not to faint" Luke l8:1. We have a great and powerful weapon in prayer. It is both offensive and defensive. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much'' James 5:16.
(V) We have a great work to do in carrying the Gospel to others. "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature'' Mark 16 15. While sinners remain away from the Lord Jesus Christ there will be work for His people to do.
Let us make our contribution to the great work to be done. Let us say to all who would hinder or discourage, "I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down."
From "The Australian Free Presbyterian: September 1947"