Nehemiah is our man of focus today. When the book opens, Nehemiah is serving under the Persian King. He is a cupbearer to the King. This allows his access to, at the time, one of the most powerful men in the world.
Things are going well for him until one day he gets a knock on his door. It’s one of his brothers who has made a 1287km trip to see him from Jerusalem. That's from Cape Reinga to Christchurch or Sydney to Adelaide.
Nehamiah asked, “How is our city? How is God's city?” See this was a Holy place for the People of God. The precious Persian King had let the people go back to their home land. This was 100 years ago.
A temple without walls
Nehamiah’s brother told him how the Temple has been rebuilt but there is no wall to protect the city. Nehamiah was distraught by the news. But why?
In that time, not having a wall around a city was like having a city without any police, or a house without any doors or windows in a bad neighborhood.
So what does Nehamiah do after hearing this news? He weeps and then he prays for God to do something. Long story short, Nehemiah’s prayers were answered. One day when he was serving the King and the King asked him why he was so sad.
So he explained to the King what was troubling him back home.
Nehemiah asked the King to let him go and rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. The King granted his request and even provided resources and safe passage for Nehemiah. This alone is fascinating as this was a King that didn’t follow God.
Rebuilding the city
I encourage you to read Nehemiah chapters 1-2. I would explain in more detail but I really want to talk through chapter 3. WhenWhen you first read chapter 3, it’s one of those books you want to just want to skip over and get onto the next chapter. This is because it’s full of names that are hard to pronounce.
Nehemiah starts by describing the rebuilding of the city. He starts at the most northern part of the city and makes his way around in an anti-clockwise direction.
The sheep gate was built first because it was the closest gate to the temple and the temple was of extreme importance. WhenWhen it came to Jewish celebrations, when they offered sheep and lambs and sacrifices as a way of making themselves clean, hundreds and hundreds of sheep would be herded through the sheep gates.
Eliashib was the High Priest he was one of the first people to start working on the wall. He was one of the most powerful and respected men in Jerusalem. It was God and then him. He was like The Pope to the Cathelic Church. He rolls up his sleeves and says ‘right we know what God wants us to do. Let's do this.’
This is not something a High Priest would normally do. He gets stuck in because he knows that no one is exempt from doing the hard work to build God’s Kingdom.
Then next to them were people from the town of Jericho. If you know your Bible stories, you would remember that these people had plenty of wall building to do elsewhere but they came to be part of what God was doing.
As you continue reading you see that there is a dude named Shallum whose daughters helped prepare the wall. This is cool to see because at the time women were hardly mentioned in the Bible.
Who is the most important person in this story? It’s a trick question.
There are men and women, young and old locals, foreigners, nobles and peasants. They were employees of the Temple. They were merchants and jewellers, Goldsmiths and perfume makers. None of them were skilled wall builders or carpenters. They were just a bunch of people that were unqualified to build a wall. They were willing.
It isn’t about your skill but it’s about your obedience and your willingness to partner with God to see his plan fulfilled on this earth. TheThe Old Testament is full of people like Abraham and Moses who God spoke to and used them to build the nation.
Nehemiah is such a fascinating book because it's the first time we get a glimpse of the body of Christ.Nehamiah gives us this picture of people standing shoulder to shoulder, side by side with each other working together for God's Kingdom.
This is what Jesus came to establish on Earth. That his people would stand shoulder to shoulder.
Let me ask you this? How are you doing with this?
Do you have anyone asking you the harder questions such as - What is God doing in your life? What are the breakdowns and breakthroughs? What are your highs and lows? And what's God saying about your school, work, family, hopes and dreams?
God designed us to walk together in community. I encourage you this week to find one person that you can have these conversations with. We weren’t designed to walk through life alone.
Barry Kirby is a disciple of Jesus Christ, living in relationship with Father God, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Barry works and worships with the Salvation Army based in Wellington, New Zealand.