All the people assembled with a unified purpose at the square just inside the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had given for Israel to obey.
Revival brings to mind a traumatic change of events – a transformation. When someone is revived they are brought back from death. They begin to breath again, their heart starts to be, they open their eyes, and they can go on living. These are amazing things to see and hear about. You’ve seen them, the pictures of transformation – the before and after of remodel projects. The old house that looks brand new, the old car that now looks shiny. Many of us what that for our own lives – life, newness, meaning, and identity.
We want it. We dream about it. We long for it. We talk with others about it. You know – one day when. So, what keeps us from experiencing it? What keeps us from that revival and transformation? Why aren’t more people walking in new life having discovered their God given identity and purpose?
Let’s consider Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem for just a second. Consider their before picture – dysfunctional, no wall, not even enough houses for people, oppression, selfishness, living in trouble and shame. Yet, now, they are one city, one people, gathered for one purpose. God did a miracle in them!
God did do an amazing work among the people in just under 2 months. It is an entirely new city and a new people. But, we need to recognize God wasn’t the only one that did some work – so did the people. They go to this point of revival because they were willing to put in the work. They built a wall, had difficult conversations, looked out for each other, and kept their eyes on God. Getting to this point wasn’t easy.
Transformation isn’t easy for anyone – not even the home remodeler or decorator. Someone has to do the work. I think many of us are not living the life God has for us and are missing out on some amazing transformations because we are refusing to do the work. We have to put ourselves in position for transformation. God wasn’t going to build this wall for them. They had to do that themselves. There is a work we need to do before we can experience this revival. The thing is, we probably already know what it is. It’s just a matter of whether or not we want to do it? Do the work and watch God do the rest.
So on October 2 the wall was finished—just fifty-two days after we had begun. When our enemies and the surrounding nations heard about it, they were frightened and humiliated. They realized this work had been done with the help of our God.
Finishing the job gives you such a great feeling! Just 52 days after Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem started the good work of rebuilding the wall, they were finished. What a job! Then, to top it all off, it deflated their enemies and brought glory to God. That’s what finished work does – it gives testimony to the one behind it, of their ability and their strength. In this case, and in ours, the One behind the good work is God and we get to enjoy His finished work!
Nehemiah and the people got to enjoy this tremendous accomplishment because they stayed focused. With every distraction and attack that came their way, they stayed focused. They knew what they wanted to do and they knew what they needed to do to get it done – they didn’t let anyone deter them from that. If we are going to be about the good work of the Lord, we have to stay focused on Him.
They enjoyed a job well done because they were also able to say no when they needed to. When they were close to completing the work Nehemiah was invited by some other leaders to leave town and meet with them. It sounded like it was a concession speech, but it wasn’t. Even though it sounded good, Nehemiah was able to see through it and still say no. To finish the good work God has for us and the work He wants to do in us we will have to learn to say no. We will even have to say no to the things that look and sound good, because in the end, they will only hinder us from the real work.
One of the most important things the people did, which led to this moment for them, is they constantly leaned on God for their strength to keep going. As they neared that finish line the attacks kept coming, only know they were a little harder to discern. At one point Nehemiah simple said, God, strengthen our hands. Often, that is what it will take for us to get to the finish line. A simply prayer and a simple step of faith and trust in the strength of God at work in us and through us. God will always get it done, even when we can’t. Trust Him.
About this time some of the men and their wives raised a cry of protest against their fellow Jews.
Nehemiah and the people have been hard at work building the wall around Jerusalem. But, it didn’t take long for their dysfunction and brokenness to show itself. It wasn’t just the wall that had been beaten down and destroyed, the people were just as broken and just as messed up. Nehemiah had more to do that just a construction project. He had to lead the rebuilding of a people and part of that was not ignoring them and their mess.
It is approaching that time of year where families and friends will be getting together to celebrate various holidays. These groups will gather and there will inevitably be someone in that group you don’t want to see or that “gets on your nerves.” But, at the end of the day that’s you, that’s us. We exist, all of us, in messiness and brokenness. There is no need trying to ignore it. In fact if we want things to be better, to be different, we can’t. We are a fallen humanity with plenty of imperfections. As God sent Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem, He has sent Jesus to rebuild us.
Nehemiah took time to listen to the cry of the oppressed people in Jerusalem. He then took time to think about, which I think means he took time to pray about. It also seems he reflected on his role in the problem. The main thing is he didn’t try to excuse it away or shift the blame. He took an honest look at what the people were saying and came to the conclusion, this just isn’t right.
Next, he took some steps to make it right. He admitted their mistakes and said it has to stop. Let's stop beating the people up economically and let’s start working together. He recognized their need for each other, the rich needed the poor just as much as the poor needed the rich. This wasn’t about one group or the other, this was about them. This is us.
In the end there were two groups of people. Those who needed to repent and those who needed to forgive. It was going to take both groups to rebuild the wall and to rebuild the people. The people responded to this challenge with an “Amen” and sang praises to God. It seems they did what was required of them. Today, there are two groups. Those who need to repent and those who need to forgive. Which are you? Are you willing to take that step for us? Jesus did.
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.