Summary: Launch sermon in a series through the book of Nehemiah exploring the pursuit of God’s vision for our lives. Sermon addresses the birthing of vision, and the connection of concern to vision.
(Visual Aids - Placed a large pile of rocks on the stage, simulating wall rubble. Picked up rocks, and dropped them during message illustration of the rocks of life.)
What a great time of year! This is by far my favorite time of year in Central Kentucky. I love the cooler temperatures. I love the anticipation of basketball in the Bluegrass. And you can not beat the beauty of the leaves turning and the trees exploding in color.
If you are new to Kentucky, you need to take some time over the next couple of days, and drive down Highway 68 towards Harrodsburg. Through the winding canopy of trees on a Sunday afternoon. Take in the beauty of fall. Or drive up 68 towards Paris. Through the incredible horse farms, and countryside. Do like our family did recently and pack up a tent, head east towards Natural Bridge and spend a night in the Red River Gorge. Or at least spend an afternoon hiking the trails, climb to the top of one of the rock cliffs, and look out over the foliage.
As you do any of the above, you will get to see another of my favorite things in the Bluegrass. The hand built, naturally aged, sometimes centuries old, stone walls. When we started working our website, being in central Kentucky with a name like Stonewall Wesleyan Church, I knew we had to have a picture of a beautiful, local stone wall right there on our home page.
Actually, in central Kentucky they are called rock fences. Fences built by Irish imigrants and freed slave fence-builders. Amazingly enough, according to a local expert on the rock fences, only 5 to 10 percent of what was once one of the most extensive networks of quarried rock fences on this continent remains. Once upon a time, almost all the roads through Bourbon, Fayette and Scott Counties were bordered on both sides with rock fences. But by rough estimate, 90 to 95 percent of former rock fencing in this region is now gone. At last count, in 1990, there were 38.7 miles of rock fences in Fayette County.
These fences were carefully fitted, rock by rock to hold themselves in place without mortar. The techniques for building them were brought over from the British Isles by immigrant stonemasons, mostly Irish, who passed them along to selected slaves who became master artisans and trained others in turn. Central Kentucky has one of the largest concentrations of 19th-century rock fences still standing anywhere in America
Well, over the next few weeks we are going to hear the story of a rock fence. Though actually, it was a much larger structure, and would be better labeled as a wall. We are going to be exploring a book that falls in the midst of the history of the nation of Israel, and requires some background to understand. A book that is in many ways, the story of a stone wall.
Take a trip back with me, way back to the beginning of God’s Word. In the book of Genesis, God calls Abram to leave his country and go to another land. He obeys and the nation begins to multiple, but eventually is enslaved in Egypt for more than 400 years until God calls Moses to lead His people out of captivity and to the promised land.
We know that the journey to the promised land was not a short one, nor a direct one. But eventually, they arrive in Canaan, and begin a period of hundreds of years during which the people experience significant struggles, faithlessness, and more or less wrestle with God. The highpoint of the nation of Israel’s history is when King David sits on the throne. For 40 years there is expansion and influence for the people of God. But then things head down hill.
After David’s son Solomon dies, the nation is split into two kingdoms. There is the northern kingdom which is composed of 10 of the original 12 tribes, and is known as Israel. Then there is the southern kingdom which is composed of two tribes, and is called Judah. The Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom, scattering the ten tribes, and resulting in their becoming known as the “ten lost tribes of Israel.”
Meanwhile, in the southern kingdom, the year is roughly 587 B.C. The evil Babylonians have invaded Judah, and destroyed the city of Jerusalem. Not only the city, but also the great temple which Solomon had built. In the larger historical context, this is actually the third military campaign into this region. As a part of each of these campaigns, the Babylonians have taken Israelites captive, and moved them to Babylon. For example, it was during the first invasion that we get the life stories of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.