The book of Nehemiah tells the story of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem destroyed by the Babylonian army in 586 BC. When Persia’s king decreed that all the exiles could return to their homelands and build their temples, it was approximately 539 BC. The rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem began soon after, but because of political obstacles, it wasn’t finished for almost 25 years. Ezra came to Jerusalem about 458 BC, about 57 years after the completion of the Temple to restore the pattern of worship and purity and morality of God’s people in Judah. Only 13 years later Nehemiah enters the picture, 445 BC, to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. So, what can we learn from a building project? A lot, as it turns out.
You promised — After having talked with Jews who had been in Jerusalem about the state of the returned exiles and Jerusalem, Nehemiah was moved to his core and offered a heart-felt prayer to the Lord. Part of that prayer was a reminder to God of what He had promised. Huh? Does God need a reminder? No, of course not; but He doesn’t mind it either; and it’s good for us, because it helps us know that we are, in fact, praying according to the will of God. There are at least three factors that are a part of a prayer that gets a yes from the Lord. Faith, of course, is one; proper motive for the prayer is another; and praying according to the will of God is another. Calling upon the faithful God to remember and fulfill His own will is benign enough, but it’s really helpful to us; so claim the promises of God in your prayer and be assured that you’re, at minimum, praying according to the will of God.
Prayer on the fly — This story also includes an example of a prayer on the fly: “Then the king said to me, “What would you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven.” Nehemiah 2:4, NAS95. Here’s an example of what it means to pray without ceasing. As things came up Nehemiah was praying about them. How much strength, courage, wisdom, intervention, and guidance do we take a pass on by failing to pray without ceasing (pray on the fly)?
Organize the work — The job was huge and it would take organization, and more than organization it would take motivation. Nehemiah accomplished them both by assigning people to just build the wall right in front of their own homes. Here’s something for ministers and evangelists to consider, because sharing the good news with the world is a pretty big job, too. How do you do it? Organize and motivate God’s people — maybe by getting the church to “build the wall in front of their own houses”.
You don’t need to be a specialist — Did you notice that among the guys who were building the wall none of them were listed as masons? Perfumers, goldsmiths, Levites, priests, officials — yes; masons — not so much. My point is simply that in the church we sometimes turn down opportunities for service or building the walls of the Kingdom, because we don’t feel qualified. We sometimes have a sort of idea that to do certain things in the service of the Lord we need to be highly trained and experienced — a specialist. Specialists are nice, but utility fielders are often better — people who are willing to see a need (sometimes we avert our eyes from opportunities) and willing to do something about them.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.