Nehemiah calls his people to fight for their families. The Hebrew word (pronounced Iaw-kham) means to wage war. This brings to mind the third commandment of chivalry, which calls us to become selfless defenders, especially for those weaker. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a better expression of this commandment in Scripture.
Scripture calls us to be the warriors our family needs. It calls us to stand as a wall for their protection; it calls us to fight as a soldier for their wellbeing. Other Scripture, and chivalry, broaden this idea by teaching us to stand and fight for anyone who can’t defend themselves. We should protect those under our care, whoever they are, with lion-like ferocity and bulldog tenacity.
But this must apply first to those closest to us. We must protect the ones God’s made us responsible for, above our labors for anyone else. Scripture makes it plain that we are to provide for and protect our families first (1 Timothy 5:8). And that’s Nehemiah’s passionate call to arms. As Matthew Henry wrote of this passage, “you cannot have a better cause…”[i]
Who to protect against? Anyone who threatens those under our care. These people may be outside the faith, or within the church itself. They may be people you love, people you respect. There may also even be times we need to defend those under our protection from ourselves. Self-control is an important part of chivalric love because it protects us and others from our own tempers and lusts.
What to protect from? Anything that would do them harm. There are spiteful people in the world who want to hurt others physically. There are foolish people in the world who’ll put others in danger with dumb actions. There are wicked people in the world who will endanger the souls of those under your care. Some mean-hearted people will endanger their emotions. There are many ways our family can be hurt, and we need to be aware and able to protect and help them.
Your loved ones are depending on you to fight for them. Whatever situation confronts, whatever they need, you show your love by being their protector.
It’s hard. This all sounds heroic, but it is not usually glamorous. It may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. You may have to deny yourself happiness. You may get pushback, gossip, and more. A fight is never pretty. But true heroism is defending your family.
Take heart. Nehemiah reminds his people that God is fighting beside them. “Remember the Lord who is great and awesome…” You are human, and you will fail, despite your very best effort. This is a terrifying thought when you consider the tremendous value of those you’re fighting for. But be encouraged, soldier of God! Your Liege-lord has your back. You can never love your family as much as God himself loves them. He will care for them in ways you never could. This does not lessen the urgency or imperative of our call to fight for them. But it blunts some of the teeth of the terror in this great work. It gives us hope. And it sets the work of fighting for our sons and daughters and wives on an infinitely greater plane.
Fight for your family, for the stakes are eternal. This is a heavenly war on earth. This is good work! As Matthew Henry wrote, “Good work is God’s work, and it shall prosper.”[ii]
[i] Henry, Matthew. Commentary on Nehemiah 4:14
[ii] Henry, Matthew. Commentary on Nehemiah 4. https://biblehub.com/commentaries/nehemiah/4-14.htm