It's Friday, so that means it's time for a Friday Favorite....a favorite Bible story that many know, but some may have never heard.
Tonight's story is about a guy named Nehemiah. (I love Nehemiah!) Nehemiah was just a regular guy working away at his regular job when one of his friends arrived from Judah so he asked about how everyone was doing "back at home" as it were. The reply was that things were in bad shape....I'm sure that wasn't what Nehemiah expected to hear. The walls of Jerusalem were in rubble and the city gates were cinders. How could that be?
After 70 years of captivity, thousands of Jews returned to Jerusalem. Zerrubabel led the return and rebuilt the temple. About 57 years after the dedication of the temple, Ezra led a second group of Jews back to the city and found that those there had fallen into a state of spiritual and moral degradation. Through Ezra's teaching, the people repented and turned once again to God. That had been 14 years earlier, so I can guess that Nehemiah expected that things would finally be better by now. That obviously wasn't the case.
Nehemiah immediately started to pray. He asked for forgiveness for all the people (that whole, "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." from 2 Chronicles 7:14) Then he decided to go and ask his boss for time off so he could go and help rebuild the city. Oh...in his words, Nehemiah simply states, "I was the cup bearer to the king."
The king grants Nehemiah a "leave of absence" (how wild is that!) and even gives him letters to help him out in the process because, while you may find it hard to believe, there were those who didn't want Nehemiah to succeed! (Sound like real life?)
When he got there, Nehemiah went to check things out and then... "Then I gave them my report: "Face it: we're in a bad way here. Jerusalem is a wreck; its gates are burned up. Come—let's build the wall of Jerusalem and not live with this disgrace any longer." I told them how God was supporting me and how the king was backing me up.
They said, "We're with you. Let's get started." They rolled up their sleeves, ready for the good work.
But remember, there were those who didn't want the city to be restored! There were even those who fought against him so much that Nehemiah had those rebuilding the wall to carry a sword strapped to their side as they worked. Many had to hold a tool in one hand and a spear in the other! Still, they kept praying and they kept working.
In only 52 days, despite the intimidation of his enemies, Nehemiah led the people and they rebuilt the wall. If you read the entire book, you'll find they did some major "house-cleaning" spiritually in the process!
My favorite part of this story lies in this; the temple had already been rebuilt and people were worshipping...but if you looked at the city, things were still a mess. That's like a lot of people I know...shoot, that's a lot like me! I have been saved and the Spirit of God lives in me, but let's be honest - parts of my life are still a mess! Some of it is my own fault, some of it is residue from years of living in a fallen world, some of it is because of attacks from the enemy....but just because I don't always "look" saved, doesn't mean that the temple hasn't been rebuilt or that I don't love God. It simply means some of the walls are still down and rebuilding takes WORK!
I was reminded of that fact today when I thought of how I had spoken to someone recently. I meant it in love, but I'm sure (thanks to someone else telling me) that my words sounded harsh. I never meant them that way - but evidently that is a part of my "wall" that still has a hole in it. I could sit and beat myself up over this or succumb to the enemies taunts that I'll never get it right...or I can pick up my tools and my spear and keep on working on the wall.
I'd love to think that my "walls" would be rebuilt in only 52 days, but I know it will be a battle and sometimes I don't give it my all so it's probably is going to take a whole lot longer. Thankfully, God doesn't give up on us in the rebuilding process.
So there you have it....a semi-condensed version of Nehemiah rebuilding the wall. To get the "whole story", you probably want to check out the book of Nehemiah in the Bible. It's the 16th book and you can find it 3 books before Psalms.