Nehemiah 2:11-20, Nehemiah 6:1-16, John 2:12-25
The worst destruction I’ve ever witnessed: Katrina
The saddest destruction I’ve ever watched: Thailand, Haiti, when what little people had is destroyed.
Out of the ashes, hope rises.
Out of the broken wood and crushed concrete, new buildings and villages and new life will emerge.
Powerful stories occur when community is formed for the task of rebuilding. For example, the Amish and barn-raising.
The Story of Scripture:
Exile & Return are part of the Story of Scripture:
Genesis: Humanity’s destiny is found in Promise, Permission, Prohibition
We see God choosing a people, who will birth the Messiah. Very human figures, with seasons of great faith are part of the story: Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, Elijah. We have God’s saving event: the exodus. Called out of slavery, through the waters, through the wilderness, to embrace promised land. But once the people enter the promised land, they must remember the Lord their God. And if they don’t, God will not keep them in the land. Hence, exile. God’s second chance is found in return.
Today, we read from Nehemiah, which is a story about a man who had a vision from God planted in his heart. He loved Jerusalem, the city of God. And when he heard it was in ruins, he planned to rebuild the gates, the walls and the city itself. He was a re-former. What had been formed was broken. Now it was time for re-forming.
The passages today remind us that Nehemiah did not have smooth sailing. The vision was from God and therefore, justified. But the path toward completion had resistance. This resistance reminds us of God’s faithfulness.
When God Puts Something In Your Heart…
When God puts something in your heart, it is not unlike a basic model of building something: you need a blue print, the power to stay the course when problems arise, and tools.
The Blue Print: Nehemiah 2
Nehemiah 1: He hears the news that Jerusalem was broken. He weeps for many days. There should be some staying power when it comes to what God puts in our heart. Jesus said it was a fool who started a project before calculating the cost. Nehemiah’s focus is kept on his goal: rebuilding the city of God.
Nehemiah 2: Nehemiah goes before his ‘boss’, or ‘employer’, the King. With trepidation, he asks what he wants, because he had earned trust. He has a specific plan in place, which the King and Queen can visualize.
And as soon as the man with the plan arrives, there are antagonists; Sanballat, Tobiah, “very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites”.
11—At first, He kept plans close to his heart.
13--He explored with his own eyes the situation.
17—He announces the plan to those around him.
18—He gives the theology and background
18—His plan is affirmed by those ready to work
19—ridicule arise from the antagonists, with a serious charge (are you rebelling against the king?)
20—He answers with theological reality (God will give us success), stated certainty (we will start rebuilding) and historical rational (you have no claim or historic right to this city)
Resistance and the Games It Plays:
Demolition threats: Nehemiah 6
1. Game: Meetings for distraction Sake (2)
“come let us meet in one of the villages, in the plain of Ono”
Strategy for overcome: Consistent answer for staying on focus (3-4)
‘I have work to do. Why should it be interrupted?’
4 times they sent the message, “and each time I gave them the same answer”
2. Game: The Unsealed Letter and its contents (5-7)
Unsealed: disrespectful at the time
“and Geshem says its true”, so it must be?
Lies and fabrications
Strategy: State the truth (8) “Nothing like what you have said is true”
3. Game: Intimidation: (9)
Strategy: But I prayed, Now strengthen my hands (9)
4. Game: The last ditch effort: We are concerned for you (10)
Sounds caring and supportive
Could sound intimidating manipulative
Either way, it was forced, as the man was hired.
Strategy: Stand up and own your work (11)
The attempt to discredit had no weight.
The end result:
The job gets done (in 52 days)
The resistance were afraid and lost their self-confidence
Why? This work had been done with the help of God.
Tools for building or tearing down walls: Jesus Clears the Temple
1. Passion (vs 13-16)
The idea of righteous anger.
2. Purity (vs 17)
Zeal consumed him.
3. Purpose (vs 18-25)
Jesus told the people his ultimate purpose of resurrection.
Jesus kept doing what God had sent him to do.
Jesus’ self-understanding “he did not need man’s testimony”
Rebuilding? Have a plan.
Stay the Course.
Use Your Tools and work together.