In late autumn, in the month of Kislev, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, I was at the fortress of Susa. 2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came to visit me with some other men who had just arrived from Judah. I asked them about the Jews who had returned there from captivity and about how things were going in Jerusalem. 3 They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”4 When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.
Today as we begin a new series in the book of Nehemiah titled “Building in the Battle” we meet a man called by God named Nehemiah. God not only used Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem but to restore worship of the One true God. As we go through this book, we need to understand that it wasn’t just about rebuilding walls but about restoring worship. We also need to see that the building happened in the midst of the battle. Our struggle is that we want to work on the wall we just don’t want to have to deal with the war. But Nehemiah reminds us that even though there will be obstacles and enemies God’s people can still build in the mist of the battle. To give you a little background God’s people had walked away from God, they chose the path of rebellion and ended up reaping its ruin. In 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army captured the Jews, and Jerusalem was destroyed, the walls were knocked down, and the temple was burned. The people were deported and were forced into slavery and Jerusalem was left in ruins. But God did not forsake His people. He moved King Cyrus to make a decree to let some of the Jews return. And in three stages, over about a hundred years, they were allowed to migrate back to Jerusalem, only to discover the city was still demolished and desolate. They started to rebuild but they got discouraged and quit and it’s here that we meet Nehemiah. The book falls into several divisions. The first six chapters cover the rebuilding of the wall, while chapters 7 through 10 deal with the renewing of Jerusalem’s worship, while the final chapters deal with the repopulation and revival of God’s people. As we start in chapter one, we discover that it begins with Nehemiah’s:
The story appears to start with the condition of the city but in actually starts with Nehemiah’s concern for the city. Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king, which provided him with intimate access to royalty, political standing, and a place to live in the palace. In some respects, it was a comfortable job that provided everything he needed. You see he could have insulated himself in his comfortable life, but a heart of compassion compels us to care. And so, Nehemiah inquires as to the condition of Jerusalem because he cares. It’s here that we see Leadership principle number one, without love you will never lead effectively. Leading starts with loving. When leadership flows out of love the focus is on the people not just the project. But leadership without love leads to lording, it becomes about me not the mission. Do you have a loving leadership or a lording leadership? Your kids don’t need a dictator they need a dad. Nehemiah learned about the condition of Jerusalem because he cared enough to ask. Do you care about the condition of your kids’ hearts? Do you care that their walls have been broken down and their gates have been burned? That their hearts are unprotected and open to attack? Do you know the condition of your kids? Proverbs 27:23 says: “know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds”Are we like Nehemiah concerned enough to take the time to find out what is really going on in the heart of our home? Because Nehemiah leads with love, because he cares he discovers the real condition of Jerusalem. And as he learns about the devastation, he becomes broken and starts to cry over the complacency of the people of Jerusalem. You see the real tragedy was that they were living in ruins and they had accepted it. They were willing to walk around the devastation instead of being concerned enough to do something about their situation. Nothing is ever going to change in your life or in this nation until we become concerned about the problem. Some of you have become complacent about the way your life is going. You’re living in the rubble and the mess and it doesn’t even bother you anymore. A building hand starts with a broken heart. You will never carry out God’s call if you don’t first care. Do you have a caring heart or a calloused one? Like Nehemiah we need to learn to first focus on the person of God not the problem.