Let me start this article by thanking everyone who worked so hard to make the block party a wonderful success. It was great to see so many Crescent Avenue shirts helping serve the community.
Thank all of you for the great birthday and baptism celebration after church last Sunday. The many cards and thoughtful comments were appreciated by not only myself but my daughter as well. It is great to be part of God’s family.
Over the next few weeks we are going to be spending time in the book of Nehemiah, with the title: Rebuilding your World in 52 days. Following is an introduction to the sermon series.
Nehemiah: Rebuilding the Walls
For a long, long time the only thing I knew about Nehemiah was that he was supposed to be the shortest man in the Bible — through a wretched pun on his name, “knee-high-miah.” I am glad to have discovered a great deal more about this man in the intervening years. He is one of the great characters of the Old Testament, but perhaps not as well known as some others.
Over the next few weeks we will be studying the book to see how we can rebuild the walls of our lives for the growth of the Kingdom.
Actually, Ezra and Nehemiah are one book in the Hebrew Bible, for they are part of the same story. In fact, the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther all come out of the same general period of Israel’s history. They appear in our Bible in reverse order of the chronological order in which they took place. In other words, Esther actually happened when God first began to move in the midst of Israel’s captivity to return this nation to the land. That was soon after the halfway mark of the seventy years that Jeremiah had predicted the captivity would last. God raised Esther, a young Jewish maiden, to the throne of Persia as queen. It was her husband, King Ahasuerus of Persia, who is the Artaxerxes of the opening chapters of Nehemiah. This heathen king gave the command for Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to build up the walls of the city. Perhaps that accounts for a very interesting parenthesis that appears in this book in chapter 2, verse 6, when Nehemiah went to the king: “And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him).” That queen, I believe, was Queen Esther, the Jewish maiden who had been raised to this prominent position by the grace of God.
In the history of God’s people, Esther — as an instrument of God’s grace — was sent to the throne of Persia and so moved the heart of her husband, the king, that he allowed Nehemiah, his cupbearer, to return to Jerusalem. Nehemiah began the work of rebuilding the city of Jerusalem. Some twenty-five years later, Zerubbabel returned with about fifty thousand of the captives from Babylon, as is recorded in the book of Ezra.
God has reversed this order in scripture. Instead of Esther, Nehemiah, and Ezra, these books are turned around and we have Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Scripture is never concerned simply with chronology. It is concerned with the teaching of each book. In these three books we have the story of the way out of captivity, back to God. The book of Ezra begins with the building of the temple. The restoration of the house of God is always the first thing in the way back to God. Then comes the building of the walls, as we will see in the book of Nehemiah. filling the need for security and strength. Finally, the book of Esther comes as the revelation of the purpose of all this in the life of any individual. That gives you a quick survey of these three books.
The book of Nehemiah falls into two divisions. The first six chapters cover the reconstruction of the wall, while chapters 7 through 13 deal with the reinstruction of the people. With those two you have the whole book. Now what does a wall symbolize? A wall symbolizes strength and protection. In ancient cities the only real means of defense were the walls. Sometimes these walls were tremendously thick and high. The walls of the city of Babylon, as recounted in the story of Daniel, were some 380 feet thick and over 100 feet high — massive, tremendous walls. Therefore, the city of Babylon considered itself very safe.
What does it mean, then, to rebuild the walls of your life? Nehemiah is the account of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. And Jerusalem is a symbol of the city of God, God’s dwelling place and the center of life for the world. In an individual life, then, the rebuilding of the walls would be a picture of re-establishing the strength of that life. We have all met people whose defenses have crumbled away. They have become human derelicts, drifting up and down the streets of our large cities, absolutely hopeless and helpless. But God in grace frequently reaches down and gets some of those people and brings them out to rebuild the walls. This is the picture of the way the walls of any life, of any local church, of any community, of any nation, can be rebuilt into strength and power and purpose again. As we study the ways the wall of Jerusalem were rebuild we will also discover the ways God wants to rebuild the walls of our lives so we can be effective in the Kingdom.