So the temple is up and running and Ezra is back in his homeland teaching the people the Word of God. Yet something is still not right. Jerusalem has no defenses and is surrounded by political enemies who are waiting for their opportunity to undo the progress that has been made. They want to keep the people weak and vulnerable. Enter Nehemiah. God gives him a burden to put the rebuilt work into a stronger position. The city needs defenses, and so the walls must be rebuilt. When we are called to rebuild what has been lost there is always the threat of "enemies", both old and new, coming in and threatening to undo our progress. That makes it important for us to see where Nehemiah begins in his work of strengthening the defenses of his people: confession and repentance.
No new work of God's grace and restoration will ever prosper while we are ignoring the ways in which our own sins and failures have contributed to our current position of weakness. Our purpose is to achieve honesty about our position not to earn our position before God. Nehemiah knows that he and his people are responsible for the failures that have put them in their current condition, but he still trusts in the gracious character of God. He knows that God is, "the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him." (v. 5) Here is the truth that Nehemiah is teaching us: when a child of God looks into his or her past honestly we will be able to see our own failures, but we will also be able to see our God's faithfulness. And God's faithfulness is never in vain.