Summary: The Super Bowl and Nehemiah. How Nehemiah gained yards after contact.
1 When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews,
7 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the men of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. 8They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.
The Super Bowl, between the Seahawks and Steelers this year, is the single most watched TV/Internet event of the year. Over 1 billion people will tune in. America’s armed forces will watch the game at 2:30 AM in Iraq. This single sports event brings even the casual observer to the sports dinner table. Sitting alongside the rabid fan is the fair-weathered sports observer who jumps on the bandwagon for a variety of reasons. Johnny-come-lately needs a Super Bowl place setting. Many who tune in will be introduced to a glossary of football terms unknown in their daily language: offsides, instant replay, nickel defense.
Super Bowl 40 analyst John Madden, former professional football coach and Hall of Fame inductee, years ago coined the phrase, “Yards after Contact.” YAC is an acrostic that represents the number of yards a running back makes after an opponent hits him. 1
Today as you watch Seahawk Shawn Alexander shred the Steelers defense much of his success will be determined by this stat: YAC. Some runners go down after initial contact. Others fumble the ball to the opposing team causing a change in game momentum. Great runners who pile up Yards after Contact keep their legs churning, turn their shoulders toward the goal, and make first downs and touch downs in this critical statistical zone. Simply put, if they are to be stopped, they keep moving and require many hits and multiple players to bring them down.
On this Super Bowl Sunday in Seattle (Marysville), Washington, some of you sitting here need to add this term to your Christian vocabulary. In fact, you need to go a step further and make this term a regular part of your daily Christian life. Let’s be honest, when hit by the opposition, it is tempting to quit. When tackled by the opposition, some would prefer to throw the ball down and say, “I quit. I am taking my ball and going home!”
Sitting here today is a friend striving to save a marriage when they get blindsided by the enemy and think of quitting. Someone has chosen to believe by faith for a healing when suddenly the opposition has shaken your confidence with a bad report and you simply exclaim, “What’s the use?”
In our text we are introduced to a Hall of Fame runner named Nehemiah. He piled up more Yards after Contact than any other Old Testament leader, starting in chapter 4 after a successful first half of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
6So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.
Nehemiah discovers that advancing the football has suddenly become an almost impossible task. After the second half kick-off, Nehemiah’s team goes - three downs and a punt.
Nehemiah’s offense is unable to move the ball. Through the miracle of instant replay you can see these downs in the following verses:
Opposition by Mockery (4:1-6)
Opposition by Conspiracy (4:7-9)
Opposition by Quitting (4:10-11)
The Seahawks, like Nehemiah’s team, had been proving the skeptics wrong all year. When the Seahawks came to Cheney Practice field outside of Spokane, Washington last July, there were few signs that the “Hawks” were Super Bowl bound. When Nehemiah rolled into town in Chapter 2 and walked around the city that lay destroyed by the Babylonians for over 40 years, few that slept that night gave Nehemiah a nod or notice.
12 I set out during the night with a few men. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 2:12a)
Only four states in the country, all in the west, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and Idaho, gave Seattle a fighting chance. All other 46 states gave the win to the Steelers.
In Seattle, Christians root for the Hawks over the Steelers because it’s biblical. John 10:10 says, “The devil comes to Steelers, Kill, and Destroy.” Ha! Ha! Well, it got a laugh in my church.
As the season wore on and the Hawks piled up win after win, it looked like Sporting News had miscalculated by placing the Hawks 3rd in their division and at 7-9 missing the play-offs. It was Dan Pompei in a pre-season issue who said, “The Seahawks need more heart, and it might take a while to develop it.”2
Over 2000 years ago another franchise team did the unexpected - they shocked the country.