Story, Wk. 21 03/05/17—Highland—Meute
“Rebuilding Walls, Rebuilding Lives”
The Story, Chapter 21
Nehemiah 4: 1-9; Luke 6: 46-49
Pearl: Secure walls for living.
Function: To move worshippers to pick up the best materials to build sound walls into their lives that the church might be what Christ intends.
Today the message is about walls. It’s about sound spiritual walls. Today in our journey through the Bible, we end the Old Testament. Next week we will begin the New Testament by celebrating the Birth of our Lord Jesus: Christmas in Lent! Throughout the entire Old Testament we note that the Lord tried to secure a people for his own who would live in harmony with God and with each other as a picture of beauty for all to see. God wanted this so that all of the other nations would see what the ideal relationship between God and humankind could be.
God’s plan for his people included establishing a physical fortress where God and his people would be secure against all enemies and where they would flourish and thrive in their relationship with God and each other. That did not pan out. As we’ve seen God’s people were overrun and taken into exile. Their temple and their city was destroyed and left in ruins. Eventually God’s people were allowed to begin returning to their land. As we leave the Old Testament we see God’s people, once again, seeking to restore their fortress against all others.
The walls of Jerusalem were very important. Walls are important around cities and towns. In the ancient world walls were vital to protect the inhabitants of the town or city.
1. In the first wave of the return of God’s people to Jerusalem under Zerubabel the people took up the task of rebuilding the temple.
2. In the second wave under Ezra the people became reacquainted with the “word of God” (the Law) and it was interpreted to them. In humility they bowed their heads to the ground and worshipped the Lord and were eager to obey the Law.
3. In the third and final major wave of the return of God’s people to Jerusalem, Nehemiah led the people in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
a. Nehemiah scouted out all of the walls of Jerusalem and found that they were in ruins. The temple was restored but it lay open to invasion and attack. So there was great need to rebuild the fortress walls around the city.
b. Nehemiah is a biblical book that I often use when leading a group on a work camp mission trip. There are many excellent encouragements within the pages of Nehemiah:
i. Let us start building! So they committed themselves to the common good (2:18).
ii. …for the people had a mind to work (4:6).
Today as we recall this wall-building project of God’s ancient people we think of the church, and the security and soundness of our structure!
In building projects there are always challenges and hindrances which impede the success of the project.
1. In Nehemiah’s case there were foreign agents dedicated to the failure of the building project. They attacked the builders such that the builders had to hold a sword in one hand as they built with the other hand. There was constant agitation and attempts to derail the Jews from rebuilding the walls.
2. Enemies opposed this project out of fear of what a force the Jews might be once they had their defenses restored.
Walls of defense are still important to us today. The most important wall of defense for us today may well be the firewalls installed in our computers. As we know there are many out there seeking to commit cybercrime. Perhaps you have had to deal with this nuisance already.
1. It is God’s intent to, as we see through The Story, the Bible, to build sound walls out of our lives so that the relationship between us and God might be restored. That is the overall plan of God—to restore our lives—the entire creation in relation to God. God wants to rebuild our lives just as Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem.
2. Just as Nehemiah and God’s people endured enemies who sought to foil the reconstruction we have enemies which seek to keep our walls in ruins.
a. Behind all of these enemies is God’s enemy, the Devil. This enemy does not want us to have sound walls of defense. Enemies of pride—selfishness—lack of concern for the poor and the lonely and the sick and those who are in prison one by one break down our walls of life whose foundation is Jesus Christ.
b. But like Nehemiah and the Israelites we should be encouraged. Indeed, we are far better off than they were. We have the Holy Spirit with us. God is with us more directly and powerfully than in the 5th century before the time of Christ.
It is imperative that our lives are built up soundly in Christ. How do we build solid church walls?
1. Psalm 1 affirms how important the word of God is. Happy are those…who delight in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.
2. The infant church as reported in the second chapter of Acts devoted themselves to three basic things: to the apostle’s teaching (the word), to the breaking of bread (community), and to prayers. These are the vital elements for the security of the church. They are vital for individuals and for the community of believers.
3. Our Lord Jesus himself talked about building lives upon solid foundations. He said: I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, immediately it fell, and great was the ruin of that house (Luke 6: 47-49).
4. Building a strong foundation is building upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, the Word of God in the flesh. He is our final authority. We are his church. We love the written word of God but we weigh it against everything we know of the mind and heart of Jesus Christ. In so doing we build solid walls on a solid foundation.
Together as the followers of Christ we are the wall. We are individual stones. The Church is so important to every individual stone. You cannot be a wall alone. You must be joined together with others.
1. …like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood… (I Peter 2:5).
2. This strong wall of life for us has for its foundation, Jesus Christ, who is the Chief Cornerstone. It says in I Peter: See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame (I Peter 2:6).
Nehemiah and the people rebuilt the walls around the holy city. Now God’s people build the walls of our lives solidly upon the living Word of God, Jesus Christ, and we dedicate ourselves to obeying Christ as guided by scripture, practicing kingdom priorities and all the while by being joined to the community of believers.
We, the Church, are the wall, built solidly upon the foundation of the Word made flesh in Jesus Christ.