It was almost two years ago that I received a call from my sister at 6am. She was in tears and could hardly even speak. You know what it’s like when you get that unexpected call at an unexpected time? You’re heart quivers and a lump finds it’s way to your throat. But I managed to get out the words, “what’s wrong?” She proceeded in the best way she could to inform me that she was standing in her front yard watching her house burn down.
My sister, along with her husband and son, managed to narrowly escape a house fire that had been brewing most of the night. It was by the grace of God that they survived, but most of what they owned did not. It was difficult to imagine how such destruction could ever be restored, but there was no question in their minds - they would rebuild.
This reminds me of an Old Testament story in the book of Nehemiah. I had read the story before, but never truly understood it’s meaning until directed there by a dear friend just recently. I mean, it’s hard enough to just find the book of Nehemiah in the Bible let alone recall all the details of the story.
God, fed up with evil, allowed the Israelites to be overrun by the king of Babylon, who burned down the walls of Jerusalem - killing many people and sending others into exile. Toward the end of this time of exile, Nehemiah returned to a burned out, broken down Jerusalem with a plan and a vision. His intense concern gave him a mission to rebuild the walls of the city. He began by surveying the damage and he confessed his sins as well as his father’s sins and the sins of his father’s father. His prayer immediately led him into a time of commitment to rebuild and restore. But Nehemiah could not rebuild alone. He brought together a whole community. Everyone, including entire families worked together, each building the portion of the wall that was closest to their home.
There were constant distractions - an economic crisis was in progress and many people were starving. Nehemiah encouraged the people to rally around those in need, but they never stopped working on the wall. There were unending threats to progress - Israel’s enemies were not happy to see the walls being built. Again, the community found ways to pull together. They continued to build while defending the city.
Amazingly, the walls were completed in just 52 days - record time. It was almost unthinkable! Their enemies were certain it could not be done and there were days that the people themselves questioned whether it was even possible. But the faithful, combined effort of a community led to unimaginable success.
We can look at this story and believe it’s just that - a story about rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. But, it’s so much more. It’s not just about restoring physical walls - it’s about rebuilding the spiritual ruins of our lives. It’s about reclaiming something that was lost, pulling it from the rubble and setting it right again. It’s about reclaiming a hope for the future!
In ancient cities the only real means of protection were the walls. The walls represented strength and defense against the enemy. They were very thick and very high. In our lives, the rebuilding of the walls is a picture of re-establishing strength, restoration to a life in ruins. Do you have a wall that needs rebuilding? Do you feel like you are in exile and in desperate need of restoration? Have the flames of depression, guilt, divorce, joblessness, or physical illness burned down the walls of the place that you once found refuge? You may look at your life and see that your walls are broken down and that your defenses are gone. There is no longer the ability to resist destructive attacks. How can a life in ruins ever be restored?
The first step is concern. Nehemiah surveys the scene and he weeps. He mourns the loss, showing great concern for the city and it’s people. Have you mourned the loss in your life? Have you ever truly grieved the devastation of the hurt you are experiencing? You will never rebuild the walls until you first weep over the ruins.
Second comes confession. Nehemiah’s mourning immediately turns into a prayer of confession. Confession is saying, “there are things that I have done, or things that I failed to do, that have contributed to my life’s ruin”. In some cases, our hurts have been out of our control. But how have we reacted to the suffering? Confession is saying, “I’m sorry for responding in bitterness and anger.”
The next step is commitment. Nehemiah is a man who, out of concern, and after the confession of his heart, commits himself to a building project. We must make a commitment to God and to ourselves to rebuild the walls. Moving forward despite the threats and distractions. Rebuilding takes extreme courage. When we make a commitment to rise up and rebuild, the enemy will rise up and oppose. Satan will do all he can to make it difficult to continue.
Last, but not least is community. Do you really think Nehemiah could have built the walls alone? No way. People were willing to work. Nehemiah set them to work building the part of the wall nearest to them. They worked together as a community. We were not meant to do life alone. We need each other. And yes, we need to make commitments to restore our own devastation, but we also need to make commitments to help rebuild the walls of those closest to us.
Jerusalem remains a symbolic city - used in scriptures as a place God desires to dwell. But as we discover in the New Testament, God’s true desire is to dwell within us - His people. A personal relationship with Him is first and foremost to any restoration project we could ever attempt. You may be in great need of restoration, but it can be done. With the help of a Savior, a great concern, a heart of confession that leads to commitment and the help of a community, a successful rebuilding of your walls can take place. So go, rebuild your portion of the wall - and may God bless your efforts.