Summary: Motivational sermon to move forward in the work of the church.


Nehemiah 2:17-20

By Cleavon Matthews

October 7, 2007


Nehemiah is motivated. Nehemiah is inspired. The urgency is because ‘the survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down and its gates are burned with fire.’

This news knocked him down. It caused weakness in his knees and weeping in his eyes. Nehemiah mourned with woeful heart for numerous days. But in his misery Nehemiah turned to the Lord God of heaven. Nehemiah sought the source of all blessings. In his anguish Nehemiah turned to the Great and Awesome God. He looked to the Lord Who keeps covenant and mercy with those who love and obey Him.

Nehemiah turns to the omnipotent difference maker with fasting and prayer. Don’t make the mistake of thinking Nehemiah is primarily interested in walls and gates. Nehemiah is concerned about ‘the survivors in great distress and reproach.’

This architectural endeavor is not about a building rather it is about rebuilding survivors! Are there any survivors in here? Are there survivors in great distress and reproach? A survivor is a person who has been through some catastrophic event or episode where others didn’t make it but somehow by the grace of God they survived! A survivor is a person who the beat the odds! The odds said you wouldn’t make it!

This project is about fortifying the fallen. It’s about reconstructing the crushed. It‘s about removing reproach. It’s about defeating distress. Rebuilding the walls and repairing the gates were aimed at renewing and restoring Israel’s relationship with God.

We are not building a monument. A monument is something to remind people of the past. Church monuments often become museums to be maintained rather than tools to be used. This program is an instrument to be used in ministry to ‘the survivors who happen to be in great distress.’ Their lives are in ruins. Their walls are torn down and gates are burned with fire.


Nehemiah 2:17a “Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire.”

Jerusalem lies in waste. The gates are burned with fire. Jerusalem is literal but also symbolic. Jerusalem is the place of God’s habitation. The Lord dwells in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is called the holy city and the city of God. The Lord placed His Name in Jerusalem . His name and dwelling were not in Babylon, not in Assyria, not in Damascus, not in Egypt, not in Persia, not in Philistia, but His Name and dwelling were in Jerusalem.

During the Babylonian captivity Jerusalem had been destroyed. The people of God were taken into exile. They were removed from their homeland. The Babylonians carried away both the treasures of God’s house and the king’s house. Babylonian carried all the captains, mighty men of valor, craftsmen, and smiths. They left none except the poor and weak.

The intense affection of Jerusalem in the heart of God’s people is expressed in Psalm 137. The sweet Psalmist captures the brokenness and sorrow of the captives. It is not a song for those unwilling to address the painful realities of living for God in a fallen world. Listen to the Psalmist. Listen to the lament. Here the heart. Watch the weeping.

Don’t miss the disgrace. Don’t overlook the distress.

1 By the rivers of Babylon,

There we sat down, yea, we wept

When we remembered Zion.

2 We hung our harps

Upon the willows in the midst of it.

3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song,

And those who aplundered us requested mirth,

Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

4 How shall we sing the LORD’s song

In a foreign land?

5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,

Let my right hand forget its skill!

6 If I do not remember you,

Let my btongue cling to the roof of my mouth—

If I do not exalt Jerusalem

Above my chief joy.

7 Remember, O LORD, against cthe sons of Edom

The day of Jerusalem,

Who said, 1“Raze it, raze it,

To its very foundation!”

8 O daughter of Babylon, dwho are to be destroyed,

Happy the one ewho repays you as you have served us!

9 Happy the one who takes and fdashes

Your little ones against the rock!

But now they have been released from Babylonian captivity! The Persians rule. They

are liberated. They can return to Jerusalem. Many returned with Ezra to rebuild the

Temple. But restoration is not complete.

The survivors are in great distress. Jerusalem is literal but it is also symbolic. It was the

dwelling place of God. But God no longer dwells in a temple made with hands. Paul

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Alex Amoah-Mensah

commented on Jan 11, 2020

The message is powerful, full of useful lessons to pick or choose and above all, highly inspirational and motivational. Stay blessed. Man of God.

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