A Good Beginning
This is a synopsis, or quick review, of the sermon for February 5, 2023. I am hitting most of the highlights of the message, not reproducing the entire sermon.
The Scripture Reading today is Nehemiah 2:11-10.
Last time we met, we left Nehemiah in Susa, Persia, with permission to travel to Jerusalem and rebuild the city wall, and that with money from the Royal Treasury. A city’s or village’s status was based on size and importance. Villages were regarded as living space for workers in the Persian society. A city with a wall, was regarded as important. If you came from such a city you were respected a great deal more, and allowed “favored city” status. Walls built by the king got even more status. But a city with a burned wall was considered what we would call a ghetto. There is no glory there. The people would not be offered credit. Opportunities were quite limited.
Jerusalem was such a city. Yes, Cyrus had authorized the return of the Jews to their ancient land, and the rebuilding of their Temple. Darius had lifted a stop-work order to allow its completion. But the Temple had no wall, and the city wall was still in disrepair from Babylon’s destruction. Only the Temple priests lived in Jerusalem. Not even the Jewish leader was living there when Nehemiah arrived.
Now, in verse 11, Nehemiah has arrived in Jerusalem with a burden from God to rebuild the wall. Notice his words, “. . . what God had put in my heart to do.” His first task was to look the city over. He did that at night, examining the walls and measuring the gates. He was building them on the foundations of the old walls.
If you go to Jerusalem today, you can visit the “Wall Visitor’s Center” and see which walls were built by whom. The present Ottoman walls are built on foundations dating back to the walls of David, 1,000 yrs BC. Notice that Jackals (wild dogs about the size of our coyotes, with teeth like a hyena) lived among the ruins of the wall, thus the “Jackal Wall” (1:13) To the south, there was so much debris that he could not ride his horse through it (1:14).
Nehemiah’s vision was honed into a plan, and he presented it to the leaders in verse 17. It is often said the difference between a dreamer and a visionary is a plan. Nehemiah had devised a plan to use wood from the King’s Forest and the existing stones of the “old city wall” along with voluntary labor of God’s people to accomplish the work God had laid on his heart.
Next, he asked for help accomplishing the task God had given him. We see that the reply was a resounding “let us start rebuilding” (1:18) from the people of God.
This does not mean there was no opposition from the leaders of the non-Jewish world. Look at verse 19. We will pick up the opposition next time.
Chapter 3 tells the story of who built what around the city. We will not be looking at detail at this chapter. But note how God records the accomplishments of a lot of people, never mentioned elsewhere in the Bible or history. God tells us He is recording our deeds to reward us for our endeavors for Him (1 Cor 3:10-15). And the work was accomplished.
Like Nehemiah, God may have laid a burden to accomplish something on your heart to do at the Chapel, or at home or in the community. Like Nehemiah, pray over it, and watch how God may lead and supply you. Next look and see what needs to be done, and how to do it. Finally recruit God’s people to help you do what you cannot do on your own.
Maybe, you are a “Judean” living around Jerusalem, not a Nehemiah, with a burden on his heart. God needs both leaders and followers to accomplish his work of earth. Do not be afraid to pick up a brick or two and join in the labor of love for our Master in 2023.