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Building Correctly With God’s Instructions
Do you enjoy building IKEA furniture?
Our family just moved into a new house and we (or more like I) have been building a lot of IKEA furniture – from tables and chairs to bedframes and cabinets. I quite enjoy the process of unboxing parts and following the step-by-step pictured instructions on how to put all the components together. Of course, you need the right tools to do the job and I have found that there are two that I used the most often – the box cutter and hex wrench. Each of this tool has a unique purpose and using one to do the other’s job would not be very effective or could cause damage when used improperly.
When Nehemiah was tasked with leading the Israelites to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls, he gave instructions for the people to use different tools for their assignments as well:
“And we went back to the wall and went to work. From then on half of my young men worked while the other half stood guard with lances, shields, bows, and mail armor. Military officers served as backup for everyone in Judah who was at work rebuilding the wall. The common laborers held a tool in one hand and a spear in the other. Each of the builders had a sword strapped to his side as he worked. I kept the trumpeter at my side to sound the alert.” (Nehemiah 4:15-18 MSG)
We observe that the labourers had to use a tool (most likely a trowel) to build the walls, while keeping a sword strapped to their sides to fend off attackers – talk about a hostile work environment! The sword, akin to the box cutter, is used to cut or separate. On the other hand, the trowel, akin to the hex wrench, is used to assemble or join.
I believe that there is a leadership principle from Nehemiah on how to apply God’s instructions when we lead our teams in the building of the church, our companies, or our organizations, as well as our marriages and families.
Tool #1 – The Sword
The sword of the Word of God is used to cut through the attacks of the world and the Enemy. These attacks come in the form of ridicule, intimidation, and threats – much like what Nehemiah faced from Sanballat. Any time we take a stand for God to build with foundations of holiness and integrity, we are likely to face some opposition or criticism because we operate in an environment that is hostile to Biblical values.
“Why would you tithe your hard-earned cash to the church?” “Saving yourself for marriage is old-fashioned thinking.” “Forgiving someone lets them get away with it so you should stick up for yourself – you have the right.” These are mindsets or attitudes that we need to refute or cut out with the Word of God.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV)
Tool #2 – The Trowel
The trowel is a brick-layer’s tool used to carry the mud and smoothing out the mortar between each brick evenly. In contrast to the sword, the trowel is used to encourage, to affirm, and to give peace and hope through the Word of God. A sword is not a good tool for laying bricks, whereas a trowel is not a good weapon for defending against assailants.
“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32 NIV)
In building the walls of the church and in families using God’s Word, it is important that we do not confuse these two. We must remember that there are weaknesses among the people of God, each having areas in their life that still need to grow in maturity and understanding. In dealing with those who are new to faith especially, the careful and patient use of the Word, placing each truth brick by brick is essential. Too often, stronger Christians can be quick to start hacking fellow believers with the truth, often taking a staunch position to antagonize instead of preferring one another.
There is also danger when the trowel used in place of the sword. When questions arise in the church over whether the Bible is inspired, whether Creation is true, whether justification is by faith or by faith and works, whether homosexuality is just another lifestyle. We need to defend the enemy of heresy not with popular opinions or extended deliberation but coming out against falsehood with sound doctrine and sharp unwavering convictions.
God has already placed a sword and a trowel in your hand, and may He raise up in you the kind of knowledge and wisdom of God that Nehemiah had to build His Kingdom. Who knows? Some of you may start to enjoy building IKEA furniture as well.