A recent trend has developed. No, not recent, but rather an old trend, that is taking a new form, of comparing the wall which President Trump is calling for and the wall which Nehemiah built in the Old Testament. Much of this has been in response to the claim that somehow the building of a wall on the southern border is inherently immoral. I do not hold with that opinion, though I do believe it to be unnecessary and and potentially immoral in the sense that it is not good stewardship of the resources that have been provided because there are better options. I wanted that clear from the start. Yes, I think it is immoral due to poor stewardship, but I do not find a wall to be inherently immoral. The problem is that there are certain religious leaders, and those who listen to them, who are making the claim that a wall along the southern border is inherently moral. Take, for example, the words of Robert Jeffress who says: ” “The Bible says even Heaven itself is going to have a wall around it. Not everybody is going to be allowed in. So if walls are immoral, then God is immoral.” The logic of this is so incredibly flawed that I do not feel the need to comment upon it. The problem though is that he does not stop there, but continues on into a political tirade. “There is nothing immoral about a wall but what is immoral is for Democrats for political reason to block the president from fulfilling his God-given responsibility to keep our country safe and it’s certainly immoral for Democrats to support sanctuary cities which are nothing but havens of lawlessness. Instead of vilifying and demonizing President Trump, we ought to thank God every day we have a president like Donald Trump who takes his oath of office seriously and is willing to do whatever it takes to keep this country safe.” In reality, the entirety of his inauguration day sermon, “When God Chooses a Leader”, is full of these comparisons. These are not Godly statements, but worldly ones cloaked in religious parlance. Never the less, a large number of people have begun comparing Trump’s wall to Nehemiah’s wall, based largely upon comments like this. Because of that, a brief examination should be made of the two for the sake of comparison.
Trump is not Nehemiah and we are Israel.
So, to start, Trump is not Nehemiah, or any other Old Testament figure. I really cannot stress that enough. There is always some comparison to leaders from the past, but with Trump, those willing to anoint him as the next Nehemiah, and thus a prophet, or the next Cyrus, the next conquering ancient king. If one looks hard enough, comparisons of any leader to ancient leaders can be found, and might even be useful, but there is a difference between a comparison and treating the ruler as one of the ancients. This is really the first problem. Trump is simply Trump. He is his own man, and he makes his own decisions. He is no more appointed and chosen by God than any other president. That gets into a very long conversation about free choice, free will, and predestination as well as how the sovereignty of God manifests itself, but suffice it to say, for my part anyway, that God does not hand pick our rulers. He has given us the reason necessary to choose our own however. If you believe that God divinely appointed Trump, then one also believe that God has divinely appointed Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Lenin, etc. If you want to justify that, I welcome your thoughts as it makes no sense to me.
The second problem, specific to Nehemiah, and his wall, is that not only is Trump not a prophet as stated above, the circumstances are completely different in numerous ways. First, Nehemiah sought the permission of the ruler to return to Jerusalem to build the entire city back up, including the wall. The Jews at this time are under the rule of the Persians, specifically, King Artaxerxes. Here is our first significant difference. We are not under the rule of any foreign power seeking to return to our homeland.The second significant difference is that Nehemiah makes a request of the King, the one who has the ability to let the wall be rebuilt, and asks permission to do so. There is a similarity here as Trump can not simply decree the wall be built, he must ask those tasked with the responsibility of allowing it to happen. He has asked several times, and the answer has been largely “no”. Nehemiah asked, and received a “yes”. This yes was not a result of manipulation, or shutting down parts of the Persian government. Again, the comparison falls very short.
Let us back up just a little bit to understand another large difference in the situation. We are not the descendants of a theocratic state. Religion does not govern our civil law, nor is it required of our citizens. Part of his mission in Jerusalem is to, with the help of Ezra, enforce the law of Moses, not allowing those not of the Jewish faith to do business in the city, force the divorce of Jewish men from their wives if they were not Jewish, etc. One would hope that such a purification is not in Trump’s plans after the wall. The necessity of these things being done in the Old Testament is another topic for another time. I mention them here simply because if we are comparing Trump to Nehemiah and Trump’s proposed wall to Nehemiah’s wall, then we must look at not only the men, but their missions, as well as the circumstances. The circumstances in a religiously pluralistic society and the circumstances in a Jewish society that is theocratic are completely different.
We must look to the reality of this time in Israel. Israel is surrounded by the Samaritans, the Philistines, Ammonites, and various Arab tribes, all of which actively sought the destruction of the Jews. Now, there is a similarity here between Nehemiah and Trump is that both have used the idea of being surrounded by enemies seeking our destruction in their justification of needed a wall, but that similarity ends quickly because Nehemiah was telling the truth and Trump has lied. We are not surrounded by enemies and armies on all sides that seek our destruction. We simply, despite some of the rhetoric, not. The issues that Jerusalem faced in the days of Nehemiah are simply so drastically different than the issues that we are facing today on the southern border that there can be no proper comparison between the circumstances, let alone the individuals involved.
If you support a wall, so be it. If you are a Trump supporter, I am not, but again, so be it. We are all privileged to live in a society that allows for disagreement. If you are a Christian and support both these things, then we have some differences, but I assume those differences are not about the salvation offered in Christ, so be it. What I am asking is, that for the sake of whatever witness the church has left, to stop claiming that this or that candidate belongs to God Stop calling any president a modern day prophet. Stop claiming that walls are inherently moral, or immoral for that matter. Let’s be honest, Nehemiah may have built a wall, but Joshua tore one down, so at best the Bible is ambiguous to their inherent morality or immorality. For the sake of the Bride, just stop.