Summary: Personal time with Jesus protects that which is most important in our lives--and keeps us on task
One hundred forty vertical stone slabs that stretch 494 feet long and stand 10 feet tall at the highest point. Engraved on this coal-black wall are 58,132 names of American soldiers dead or missing. If you’ve been to the Vietnam Memorial, you have witnessed the somber silence that sets on the hearts of all who gaze at the names. This collection of granite has achieved its purpose. It reminds us of the currency that is used to purchase freedom. Thanks to the architects of The Wall, we will always have a place to grieve as we remember a war we wish we could forget. Walls have the ability to remind us of eras in our lives.
For Jerusalem, like every other city of any size, walls were the major form of protection. A cities wall kept invaders at bay and controlled access to the city and the people within. Walls or “boundaries” today have a similar purpose. When a person has a good sense of boundaries they can live safe and secure. Without such boundaries our lives can become muddled and chaotic.
Likewise walls have the ability to divide. Negative examples of this division are all around us from Portland’s history of racial disharmony to the artificial separation between denominations and the like. Positively walls have the ability to call attention to the differences between people such as the difference between believers in Jesus Christ and the rest of the world.
Walls are at the heart of our story. Nehemiah is called by God to rebuild the cities walls. Today I want us to consider what it will take to restore the walls in our lives that will set us apart as God’s people; protect us from the attacks of the world and which will be a constant reminder of God’s presence and power in our lives.
Perceive the Problem:
Our first step is to own up to the fact that our walls are in disarray at best, non-existent at worse. In 1984 The God’s Must be Crazy came out and it painted quite a contrast between Junt-wasi Tribesman of the Kalahari Desert and modern man. It draws a pointed picture when it talks about how the bushmen don’t control their environment but take whatever the god’s give them. By contrast, the narrator drones on about all the modern conveniences in Johannesburg, "real labor saving devices," and we are treated to a fast-paced montage of modern city life, crowded, unhealthy and impersonal. If the numbers 8:00 are seen you have to look busy. When it says, 10:30 you can stop looking busy. And when it reads 10:45 you must look busy again.” Our lives are not that different in many ways. If you don’t believe me here’s a question to ask your neighbors and those who you deal with each day, “when do you find time for yourself?”
Karen Mains in this years book Soul Alert has a describes many of us when she writes, “though we attend church (for too many of us, only when we fell like it), though we grab at daily devotions (maybe five minutes before we race off to work), though we register for Bible conferences and listen to Christian radio in the car and buy stacks of religious literature (but can’t find time to do the things we learn), our souls are languishing. We feel spiritually dry, bereft. The joy of salvation is a distant memory.” (p. 57)
Nehemiah faces a city and a people in the same sort of situation. The temple had been restored years before. There was worship going on and I would imagine the mandatory sacrifices but something wasn’t right. The external walls that demonstrated the power of the people and protected them had to be fixed but so did the spiritual, internal walls that preserved the people for God.
What walls in your life have become so broken down that they no longer protect or preserve you? Maybe it’s the wall of intimacy for your family, or the wall or responsible stewardship. Perhaps you’ve let the desires of others control you so that your wall has crumbled away little-by-little.
Purpose to Pursue God’s Promise
This is the second step in our rebuilding program. God wants to bless His people. By that I mean God wants us to have all we need and to be joyful. I’m not saying we’ll never have a friend die, get sick, have our kids make bad decisions and the like. But God desires us to be whole persons and to do that He demands we become holy persons.
Here is where we get to make the decision, the choice, to seek these promises in our own lives. The idea of “Keeping the Sabbath” comes from Exodus 20 and is the forth commandment. “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” (NLT) Nehemiah reminds the people that their failure to observe the Sabbath day was responsible for the walls and the temple being destroyed. By the time Jesus walks on earth the Sabbath as a principle had all sorts of things grafted onto it in order that no one might accidentally break the Sabbath.