Read Nehemiah 6:15-16 (ESV)
So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.
How have you seen God work to rebuild Your life?
If I asked you to think of a story in the Old Testament involving walls, which one would come to mind? I’m guessing most people would think of Joshua and the Battle of Jericho when God miraculously knocked the walls down after the Israelites marched around it and shouted. But there is another lesser-known story involving walls in the Old Testament. This time, God didn’t knock walls down, instead He empowered and strengthened His people to build them up. And in record time.
This narrative is told in the book of Nehemiah. Originally combined as one account with Ezra, the book of Nehemiah tells of the third and final return of exiles to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity. This third return, led by Nehemiah, occurred in 444 B.C., 13 years after Ezra’s return, and 94 years after the first return led by Zerubbabel.
The book opens with Nehemiah in Persia where he was working for Artaxerxes, the king, as cupbearer. That meant that he was given the responsibility to taste the wine before the king drank it to ensure that the king wasn't poisoned. He heard a report from some Jews who had been in Jerusalem that the walls of the city were broken down and the remnant who had previously returned after exile were now vulnerable to attack and shamed. Remember the splendor of Jerusalem during King Solomon’s reign? The once great kingdom and the once great capital city was now reduced to rubble and defenseless.
Hearing this bad news of his homeland brought him to tears, but I love Nehemiah’s response. He prayed and fasted. In chapter 1, verses 4-11, we read that he confessed Israel’s sins and their failure to keep their end of the covenant with the Lord. He acknowledged that the people were unfaithful to God and that is why the people of Judah were in the predicament they were in. But he also knew these were the people God had redeemed, so he humbly asked God for success, then he approached the king. In chapter 2, we read that Artaxerxes grants Nehemiah permission to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls. Afterward, Nehemiah was quick to credit “the good hand of God” being upon him (Nehemiah 2:8).
But when work on the wall began, Nehemiah and his men were met with opposition. They were mocked, intimidated, and threatened during the project. But every time they faced trouble, Nehemiah prayed and directed the workers’ attention to the Lord. He told his mockers, “The God of heaven will make us prosper.” (Nehemiah 2:20). When their enemies threatened to fight against them, He said, “we prayed to our God and set a guard as protection against them day and night” (Nehemiah 4:9). He encouraged the Israelites, “’Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes’” (Nehemiah 4:14). Nehemiah was a man of prayer but also a man of action.
God answered Nehemiah’s prayers. He honored the courage and hard work of the people by giving them success. Even though they faced resistance and had to put half of his work force on security watch, Nehemiah and his people were able to rebuild the wall in just 52 days! In fact, as we read in today’s verse, even their enemies were forced to concede that God must have been the reason for their success, and it terrified them.
After the wall was reconstructed, the focus turned to the spiritual revival of the people. Ezra the priest, read the Law aloud to the people and renewed their covenant with God. They committed to obeying the commands of the Lord and staying separate by not intermarrying with the Gentiles around them. Rebuilding the walls had only taken 52 days but reforming the people to faithfully obey the covenant would take many years.
We see the Scarlet Thread of redemption in the spirit of restoration all throughout Nehemiah’s story. The temple, the walls, the covenant, and the people’s moral and spiritual practices were all rebuilt, reconstructed, restored, and reformed. Yes, David’s throne was gone but his line had been preserved. And through the line of David, we have what God’s people were still waiting for in Nehemiah’s time—the Messiah. In Him, our relationship with God has been restored and His Word is reforming us into His image.
Friend, no matter what it is that you have done, you can turn back to God in repentance. You can accept Christ’s work on the cross on your behalf. When you do, you can trust that God will help you rebuild your life.
Lord, thank You for being a God of restoration and reformation. I confess that I have not been completely faithful to You. I have sinned against You. But I repent and turn my heart back to You. Please forgive me, restore me, and reform my life. Make me more like You. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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