It was on this day, in 444 B.C., that Nehemiah began to rebuild the city walls of Jerusalem. Previously, Nehemiah had been in Persia serving the king as his cupbearer. When he heard that the city of Jerusalem lay in ruins, he lamented and he cried out to the Lord to restore His people and His nation. God honored his prayer and orchestrated events whereby Nehemiah was allowed to go back to Jerusalem with the intent of rebuilding the city walls and the gates. Speaking to his countrymen, Nehemiah said:
“You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies in waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. So they said, “Let us rise up and build.” Then they set their hands to this good work. (Nehemiah 2:17-19)
Like so many stories in the Scripture, this is one where, before God could restore His people, He first had to break them so that they might see the error of their ways. Solomon had written, there is a time to break down and there is a time to build up (Ecclesiastes 3:3). When it comes to breaking down the stubbornness of God’s people, the breaking, unfortunately, will often come by the very thing that we should abhor the most. In other words, the thing that we know we should resist and avoid, is often the very thing God uses as His rod of correction. Nehemiah found himself in Persia because, years before, Jerusalem had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar and the people of Judah had been carried off into Babylonian captivity. Jerusalem is the polar opposite of Babylon and represents everything the people of Judah should have abhorred. However, they began to behave like people of the nations, so God delivered them into the hands of the most powerful of those nations. He said:
“I will send and take all the families of the north,” says the Lord, “and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants.” (Jeremiah 25:9)
The king of Babylon – that which Israel should stand against and avoid – is called, “My servant” because Nebuchadnezzar became God’s rod of chastening for His people. Israel was called to be a set apart people, a holy nation, which meant they were not to behave as other nations. They were not to participate in certain lifestyles and were to resist mingling with corruptive behavior lest what was holy was contaminated with the profane. Unfortunately, as has always been the case, God’s people often pay lip service to the call to holiness, and as a result, we end up mixing and mingling with the very thing that we should avoid. And in the end, the very thing that we’ve chosen to mix and mingle with becomes His rod of correction.
In my view, the body of Messiah is being chastened by the heavy hand of tolerance and coexistence, which is in effect, Babylon. We must remember, though, God doesn’t allow these things to touch our lives in order to destroy us; He uses these things to break us that we might be provoked to repentance. If we will allow ourselves to be broken and have a repentant heart, restoration is certain. Messiah put it this way:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
To be poor in spirit is to be broken, humbled and repentant. To be poor in spirit is to have a contrite heart, and where there is a contrite heart, there is forgiveness and restoration. So let our prayer be that He will do what is necessary to promote brokenness and humility in those areas of our lives that require it. We live in very perilous times and the Adversary is working hard to neutralize God’s people and, so, we need to respond. The most effective tactic we could employ in order to counter the plan of the Adversary is to humble ourselves before God and turn from our wicked ways. We have a promise that when we do this, He will hear us, He will forgive us and He will heal our land. Let it begin today.