Summary: God is in the reconstruction business.
Nehemiah 1:1 – 2:4
The Jewish people had been taken into the Babylonian captivity and had been captive to Babylon for 70 years. Then, in 530 BC the armies of Persia broke the Babylonian supremacy and the King of Persia released the Jewish remnant and encouraged them to return to Jerusalem.
At that time 50,000 Israelites did return and began immediately to reconstruct the demolished Temple. Opposition from the people who had settled there during the captivity soon discouraged them. They abandoned their task with only the foundation having been rebuilt. A few years later, Haggai and Zechariah appeared on the scene, pointed out the people’s neglect, and challenged them to finish the job. This they did twenty years after their return.
Sixty more years passed and under Ezra’s leadership more of the remnant returned to Jerusalem. Although the Temple had been rebuilt, the walls of the city were in shambles and the gates burned. So for ninety years after the first Jews returned, the people of God lived in affliction and shame in a city with broken walls and burned gates.
We can safely say that an entire generation had grown up with Jerusalem in this condition. It was normal for them. That’s the way it had always been.
The condition of Israel at this point speaks volumes about the human condition. How many times have we in our own lives or in the church accepted the way things are as normal? We see fighting, gossip and division in the church and we just accept it. We see continual sinful patterns, bad habits, and wrong thinking in our lives and we excuse it with “Nobody’s perfect”.
It’s time we get honest with ourselves and recognize the places in our lives where the walls have been broken down. Those areas where it seems like we no longer have any defenses. Habitual sin, negative thinking, bad attitudes and other things that we find difficult if not impossible to change. That’s the kind of ruin that Nehemiah sees in Jerusalem.
It’s quite possible that if each of us stopped and got really honest with ourselves we would see those areas where the walls of our lives are broken down.
If we got really honest, we would see areas like:
Wrong sexual practices. Areas where you just go along with what the world says. Practices that the Bible says are wrong. You know they are wrong but it seems impossible to stop. Maybe you’ve been drawn into Internet pornography, an addiction of epidemic proportions AMONG CHRISTIANS!
Maybe you’re addicted to drugs or tobacco or alcohol.
Perhaps you have a negative, bitter spirit. You can be an addict of a negative, critical attitude the same way you can be hooked on drugs. It can become so habitual that it’s impossible to stop.
Most likely your drift began innocently enough. You probably didn’t even realize you were forming a habit, an addiction. Now it seems like there is no way out. You can’t stop. It’s as if you have chains around your neck, wrists and ankles that keep you in bondage.
Your walls of defense are broken down and your gates are burned.