Summary: In the process of rebuilding the wall Nehemiah also makes sure the city of Jerusalem is repopulated. God is not going to have in impact in this world unless we keep making the connection between the temple and the city. We cannot just be Sunday morning Christians.
You can listen to the full message here:-
Jexit: Judah Comes Home
Temple and City Hand In Hand
We have been looking at the lives of the returned exiles.
The tribes of Judah and Benjamin who went into the Babylonian exile. And who now have returned to the land of Judah.
Just as a quick reminder of some of the key dates involved in this process … so we can keep the chronology of events in focus.
The first significant impact that the Babylonians had on Judah was in 605BC. This is when the first group of people was taken into exile. Daniel was one of those people – the book of Daniel tells us about events which took place after this time.
A very large group went to Babylon in 587BC … when the temple and the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.
Many of the exiles came back in 537BC … when Cyrus defeats the Babylonians became king and Persia was the new world empire. Cyrus issued a decree allowing the exiles to return.
Another group came back with Ezra in 457BC. By this time the temple had been completed, that took place in 515BC.
Nehemiah came to build the wall in 445BC.
Finally after 140 years of being in ruins the city has a wall around it.
So, when you picture this time-line your mind does tend to fill in some of the blank spaces and imagine what life would be like.
I’d always thought that the building of the wall marked the end of the building process in Jerusalem. That is how I pictured it. Maybe you did as well.
There are good reasons for thinking like this.
1 In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest:
2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘These people say, “The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.”’
3 Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 4 ‘Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your panelled houses, while this house remains a ruin?’
The second year of Darius is 519BC.
If you are living in panelled houses it means you have a good sturdy structure built, and now you are well and truly working on decorating the inside and making it look really nice.
My thought about what was happening here is that the people are rebuilding their homes in Jerusalem, not too far from the temple, and even though the temple needed work they were neglecting their duty. But as I was reading through Nehemiah this week I discovered these thoughts about the extent of the buildings in Jerusalem isn’t really an accurate scenario.
4 Now the city (of Jerusalem) was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt.
Which is a little surprising, given what we read in Haggai.
But the picture which is emerging is … yes … there are panelled homes. But there are very few residents who are actually living in Jerusalem.
So when the exiles returned they first looked at Jerusalem and realized that the efforts to build a house there would be huge. We have identified the reason for this in other sermons.
9 He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. 10 The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem.
Historically Nebuchadnezzar has completely destroyed the whole city. Not just the temple and the wall. Rather than rebuild the city it seems that most people decided to rebuild in the surrounding area instead. The temple eventually gets rebuilt, but the city seems to remain in a shambles. These panelled homes then, are actually country estates.
You might remember last week we spoke about the re-building of the wall and how it was done it groups. I went back and read the chapter 3 again. When you do so, in light of the information we have from chapter 7, you see it in a new light.
When you look at a map of Judah after the exile and see where the people come from you realise many people don’t live in Jerusalem.
Beth Hakkerem (3:14)
Beth Zur (3:16)
Priest from surrounding districts (3:22)
Some people lived in Jerusalem
Rephaiah ruler of a half district of Jerusalem (3:8)
Jedaiah repaired opposite his home (3:10)