Summary: Sermon #1 of the series deals with passing the torch from Ezra to Nehemiah, giving advice to those passing the torch and those taking it up.
#1 in the Nehemiah series: Nehemiah Chapters 1-2
"Passing the Torch"
Castle Hills Christian Church: May 4, 2008
The picture on the screen shows the Olympic Torch being carried in Europe on its way to China. (The Olympic Flame or Olympic Torch is a symbol of the Olympic Games. Commemorating the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by Prometheus, its origins lie in ancient Greece, when a fire was kept burning throughout the celebration of the ancient Olympics. The fire was reintroduced at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, and it has been part of the modern Olympic Games ever since. The torch relay of modern times which transports the flame from Greece to the various designated sites of the games had no ancient precedent… (Source, Wikipedia))
This next picture shows the torch being passed from one athlete to another.
Today we’re looking at a part of the Bible that makes me think of the passing of a torch. In fact, it occurs to me that the Old Testament is one long account of torch passing. From Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to Joseph and on to Moses to Joshua and so on through the Kings of united Israel: from Saul to David to Solomon and so on to the time of Jewish exile in Babylon. What we’re looking at today is passing of the torch from Ezra to Nehemiah.
You may remember that before Christmas we had a series on the short book of Ezra. The timeline for the events of Ezra and Nehemiah is as follows:
• The Fall of Babylon and beginning of the Reign of King Cyrus of the Medo-Persian empire over the area of Babylon was 539 b.c.
• The next year (538 b.c.) Cyrus allowed Sheshbazzar, prince of Judah, to take nearly 50,000 Jewish captives back to the Holy Land to repopulate it with God-fearing Jews wanting to recreate a nation dedicated to God’s law.
• The altar of sacrifice was completed in 537 b.c. (1 year after arrival)
• The temple was completed in 515 b.c. (23 years after the Jews re-established a homeland in Palestine)
• Ezra and about 3000 Jews arrived in Jerusalem to restore proper temple worship and adherence to the Law of God in 458 b.c. (about 80 years after the first group had arrived, and 57 years after completion of the temple.
• Nehemiah arrived in 445 b.c. to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem (13 years after Ezra’s arrival there, and 92 years after the arrival of the first group under Shesbazzar.
92 years is enough lapse of time for a lot of torch passing to take place. This amounts to at least 4 or 5 generations in the lives of the Jews we are studying. All of us know what it means to pass the torch in life. Parents pass the torch to their children. When someone retires from a job, they pass the torch to the person that takes on their job. In the church, we pass the torch from one generation to the next. (At least, any congregation that survives and thrives must pass the torch on from one generation to another.)
Today I want to look at some lessons we can learn from Ezra and Nehemiah about the right way to pass the torch.
1. When you pass the torch
The time lapse between Ezra’s arrival in Jerusalem and Nehemiah’s arrival is about 13 years. Ezra didn’t complain about this young upstart coming to take over plans in Jerusalem. When you pass the torch you have to be willing to LET GO!
• Let go of YOUR plan
When it’s time to pass the torch, it’s a common mistake to try to somehow pass the torch but still hold on to it and run along side (micro-manage) the new leader who is going to take your place. That’s something like the parent who fails to launch their child into adulthood by attempting to make all their decisions for them, and trying to protect them from the results of actions they take and decisions they make. In the end, the child becomes a cripple of a well intentioned parent.
This brings up the reason it is so necessary to be willing to pass the torch. Anyone who’s been around a while in the same place doing the same things is going to naturally run in to a problem. You get used to things the way they are. And eventually, you stop really SEEING the way things are.
In Jerusalem, they had lived without a WALL for 92 years. Some had decided that they could just make do without a wall and gates for protection. Never mind the fact that in that day fortified walls and strong gates were the main defense cities had against foreign aggression or marauding thieves.