Rebuilding Walls, Learning From Nehemiah

by Kevin Burton

   There is work to be done on the city of Kev. How is your city doing?

   I am asking in the context of the Old Testament book of Nehemiah.

   Nehemiah tells the story of the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem. In his day cities were protected by tall, thick walls. The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar and his armies had destroyed the wall. Rebuilding it was an important part of re-establishing Israel as a nation.      

    I am trying to use Nehemiah’s example, to rebuild certain structures, or metaphorical walls, in my life.  That could include spiritual, physical, marital, extended family, financial, church, relational (network of friends) or other walls.

   There are probably other categories I haven’t thought of. This is a journey and it is near the beginning.  Our family Bible study has been in the book of Nehemiah recently. We’re close to finishing that. But I am nowhere near finished with the journey of re-building all those walls.

   You have walls like that too. No doubt some of the walls are in pretty good shape. They don’t need more than a coat of paint. There may be some walls that are completely dismantled, the way the walls of Jerusalem were.  The rest are in various states of disrepair. 

    Has the Covid 19 crisis done some damage to one or more of your walls?  Do you have to admit that some of those walls were in bad shape even before the crisis?

   You’re invited on the journey with me. Jeremiah contains 13 chapters, not a terribly long book as Old Testament books go.  

   The first thing I noticed was the condition of the heart of Jeremiah. He was still living in Babylon, working as the cupbearer for the new Babylonian king, Artaxerxes. He receives some visitors at the palace who bring him bad news about the state of the city of Jerusalem and the people there. 

     “And they said unto me, ‘The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire.’”

    “And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven, And said, I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments:”

   “Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned (Nehemiah 1: 3-6 KJV).

   Nehemiah is broken-hearted over the condition of his people and their city. He wept, mourned and fasted before God. He prayed “day and night” and confessed his own sins and the sins of Israel. 

   What Nehemiah wanted, he was granted in the next chapter: a chance to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall. King Artaxerxes allowed this trip by the grace of God.

   Also in chapter two, Nehemiah travels secretly by night to view the remains of the city wall, to make an accurate assessment of what needs to be done to restore it. 

   So there am I, and there are you if you’re journeying with me.  Those metaphorical walls I mentioned earlier, exactly how broken-hearted am I over their sorry condition? How broken-hearted are you?

   Is there weeping, mourning, fasting? Praying “day and night,” confession of sins?

   How about an unblinking assessment of just where things stand? 

   Nehemiah was a layman. He was an administrator, not a clergyman. But he had a heart for God and he told the truth, even when it did not make himself look good.

   And he took action. 

   What was at stake?  Dave Brannon explains in “Bible Source Book,” a great reference book he wrote for Our Daily Bread ministries.

   “Nehemiah is doing God’s work by taking more people back home and building a security barrier (the wall) and helping to reboot the needed worship among the people. “

   “Now that this has been accomplished, the Old Testament era closes and the wait for the Messiah begins.” Brannon writes.

   What is at stake for you?  How is your city looking?

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