Summary: This sermon encourages believers that rebuilding our lives is not impossible when it is covered with believing prayer.
The setting is about 500 years before the time of Christ. God’s people had lived in Israel for centuries before. God had told them: “Obey Me and you’ll live in the land for a long time. Disobey Me and you’ll be carried off into captivity.” That’s what happened. The Babylonians came and conquered God’s people and took the leading citizens 1,000 miles away.
But the discipline was ending. Several years before Nehemiah’s day, some of God’s people were given permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild a broken down temple and a broken down city.
But the attempts to rebuild the protective wall around the city (destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC) had been frustrated by some ‘the enemies of Judah’ (Ezra 4:1, 7-16). As a result very few people lived in the capital city (Nehemiah 11:1). Jerusalem was a city of ruins.
Nehemiah lived in the royal city of Susa, the winter residence of Artaxerxes, the Persian king. Judah, the homeland of Nehemiah, was a thousand miles away.
Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king. He was more than a “butler”. A cupbearer held a position of great responsibility. At each meal, he tested the king’s wine and food to make sure it wasn’t poisoned. Of he died, then the king wouldn’t. Doesn’t sound like a great job. But think. A man who stood that close to the king in public had to be handsome, cultured, knowledgeable, and able to advise the king when asked. Because he had access to the king, the cupbearer was a man of great influence. The cupbearer was rather like a prime minister and master of ceremonies rolled into one.
Nehemiah was the right man in the right place for God to use. He had vision – vision to see a problem… and it’s solution. And because he had vision, he had hope.
Nehemiah’s routine was interrupted one day by a group of men who had come from Judah…The report was grim…
1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month Chislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capitol,
2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem.
3 They said to me, "The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire."
Bad news came from Jerusalem: walls flattened, gates burned, morale low. But Nehemiah cared about the glory of God and the good of the people in Jerusalem. Now he hears that the Jerusalem Jews were living in desperate days.
Ruin, and reproach…Instead of a magnificent city, Jerusalem was in shambles; and where there had once been great glory, there was now nothing but great reproach.
God was being dishonored as long as Jerusalem lay waste. This was the place where the reality of God’s presence would be experienced in love and mercy by those who sought Him. It wasn’t happening, so Nehemiah was concerned.
The introduction to this sermon although a brief explanation of the contextual setting is a foretelling of what we see today in world, country, homes, relationships, schools, jobs, health, finances, children, and the church, BROKENNESS and RUINS.