Summary: For God, his passion was for the city of David. That’s why he called Esther, Nehemiah, Ezra and Zerubbabel, to have a heart and passion for the city and to rebuild it in the image of God. Reformers are always seeking new ways to re-structure systems which
How many years did you drive by and not notice? How many times did you cross paths with that which was broken and just look past it? How often did you pass by something which used to be a crown jewel of the city but now was a victim of neglect and your heart wasn’t even moved? The fact is we weren’t a city that care forgot before the storm, we were a city that forgot to care, about its past, its history, its architecture, its culture, its people, its school system and its government. That’s the way it is when you live in the midst of deterioration, destruction and ruin. Before long, you don’t even notice its there. It’s as if that’s the way it’s always been and you forgot about the way it was, which prevents you from even thinking about what it could be. And so the city laid in ruins and we just began to accept it as the norm, almost oblivious to it.
For almost 150 years, the people of Israel just passed by all the rubble of Jerusalem as if it wasn’t there, as if it didn’t exist. But when Nehemiah heard about the situation of Jerusalem, his heart wept for the holy city of God and His heart was broken for the things which broke God’s heart.
For God, his passion was for the city of David. That’s why he called Esther, Nehemiah, Ezra and Zerubbabel, to have a heart and passion for the city and to rebuild it in the image of God. And that’s what God is calling us to do right now, to have a heart and a passion for the city of New Orleans and to rebuild it not just to its former glory but to the glory of God. Reformers are always seeking new ways to re-structure systems which are antiquated and no longer relevant, to rebuild that which was broken and to heal that which is hurting. Nehemiah was challenged to fix that which was broken and put back in order the things which were in disarray. And all throughout history God has used revolutionary servants, men and women, to set things back in order and to repair that which was broken.
In the 1500’s God used a young man when the church was in trouble and had gotten off track. His name was Martin Luther and his 95 Theses mailed to the door of the Wittenberg Church attacked papal abuses and the sale of indulgences by church officials. But even more important was Luther’s emphasis on what he considered the heart of the gospel: the doctrine of justification by faith—the teaching that Christ’s own righteousness is given to those who believe, and on that ground alone, they are forgiven and accepted by God. In the 1600’s, the writings and writings of John Calvin gave rise to Protestantism and the Puritans who grew discontented in the Church of England and worked towards religious, moral and societal reforms. They contended that The Church of England had become a product of political struggles and man-made doctrines and needed to repent of its ways and ended up starting a whole new nation dedicated to God.
In the 1700’s England, God used Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, the Moravians, and William Wilberforce, who fought against slavery and the slave trade. God also used a young man in England named John Wesley who created a movement of a people called Methodists who sought to live holy lives and to do justice on behalf of the poor.
In the 1800’s God used people like Charles Finney, Lyman Beecher, D.L. Moody, John Henry Newman, B.B.Warfield, and C.H. Spurgeon to lead the Second Great Awakening which brought about renewed personal salvation experienced in revival meetings and led to prison reform, temperance, women’s suffrage, and the crusade to abolish slavery in America. And God has given us the responsibility by virtue of being in this time and this place to be the next reformers, to rebuild this city and bring healing to it and to reform it. The same way God called Nehemiah, God has called us to rebuild the city of New Orleans. Charles Spurgeon says, “Every generation needs a reformation.” And more than any other time in the life of our city, we need a reformation. We need a revival. We need to rewrite the pages of New Orleans’ history from this forward. But God is saying, Who will go? May we like Isaiah say, “Here we are, send us!”
There are four things Nehemiah did. First, he set boundaries. Verse 19. Reformers know what is in God’s will and against God’s will and draw clear, distinct lines regarding both, seeking to eradicate everything opposed to God’s ways. How did he do that? He reinforced the gates stationing his own men at the gates so that no goods could be brought in on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was holy and set apart, meant for nothing other than the things of God. Nehemiah realized that the effectiveness of the walls were only as strong as the protection of the gate. When the gates weren’t supported, it hindered the strength of the people. Even though the walls had been built up, it was the gates which protected them so that nothing could come in. Even though the gates had been installed, Nehemiah realized that they had to be reinforced so God would retain His proper place in the lives of the Israelites and no evil would enter and defile the Sabbath. The very gates which were used for protection had the very same ability to compromise the people’s faith walk because of greed.