Our theme for this year’s convention at lads to leaders is “rise up and build.” One of the things that we notice in the book of Nehemiah is that there were several great leaders in Israel. They were determined to make something good happen when bad things happened, over and over for the people. It was time for revival!
The book of Nehemiah opens much as the news does each evening - with doom and gloom. Hanani, one of Nehemiah’s brethren, reported that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and the gates had been burned with fire (Nehemiah 1:2-3; 2:3, 13, 17). Furthermore, the people that were there were in great affliction and were suffering great reproach. The report broke Nehemiah’s heart and almost cost him his head (Nehemiah 2:1-5). When he heard the report, he “sat down and wept, and mourned for many days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4).
No doubt, when Nehemiah went to Jerusalem and surveyed the damages for himself, the reports that he had heard must have seemed like nothing. Like the Queen of Sheba when she surveyed Solomon’s wisdom and wealth, Nehemiah must have felt as if the half had not been told. In some places the destruction was so bad that Nehemiah had to get down off of the beast upon which he was riding and proceed on foot (Nehemiah 2:14).
Today, reports come in all the time about the sad condition of spiritual Jerusalem, the church. Yet, reports cannot do it justice. If you have seen it firsthand, then you know how bad it is. Many congregations of the Lord’s people are in ruins today. The walls are broken down and the gates have been burned with fire. Liberalism, legalism, anti-ism, materialism, worldliness, and years of indifference have left their mark on us. Hopefully, the condition of present Jerusalem (the church) touches our hearts as much as it touched Nehemiah’s (Lamentations 1:12). Many of you may have wept and prayed over it.
It was reproachful for Jerusalem to be in ruins. After all, this was the holy city. This was where God’s people lived. The ruins were a constant reminder of the people’s sins. Someone has defined sin as “self-inflicted nonsense.” I believe that this is a pretty accurate definition, don’t you? As you know, if the people had obeyed God, He would have prevented the enemy from ever shooting an arrow there as He did in the days of Hezekiah (Isaiah 37:33). However, because of their sins, God allowed them to be carried away into captivity (Nehemiah 1:6).
Because of the condition of the city, the people were a constant reproach (Nehemiah 1:3). In fact, the word “reproach” appears five times in the first six chapters of the book. Nehemiah learned firsthand when he arrived just how shameful the present situation was. In fact, when he announced his plans to the people, the enemy laughed him to scorn (Nehemiah 2:19; 4:1-3). In like manner, the present condition of many congregations is reproachful. Again, sin (self-inflicted nonsense) is to blame.
Paul Harvey is famous for saying, “And now, the rest of the story.” Up to this point, the story of the book of Nehemiah has been dark and dreary. However, I want to tell you the rest of the story. The rest of the story is not about ruin or reproach, but about revival.
As you may know, the enemy ridiculed the idea of reviving stones (Nehemiah 4:3). Yet, Nehemiah and the people would do just that; and, I might add, in record time (Nehemiah 4:1-6; 6:15). Of course, the greatest revival took place in the hearts and minds of those who worked with Nehemiah to rebuild the walls.
Today, let me assure you that revival is possible. Our God will help us, as He did Nehemiah (Matthew 19:26; Romans 8:31). As was the case in Nehemiah’s time, revival today must begin in the hearts and the minds of God’s people (I Peter 2:5). If we desire revival in the church we must consider passages that tell us the terms of revival. II Chronicles 7:14 says, “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
We must also study great stories of revival, and this is one of those great stories. I am enjoying the role of tour-guide as we watch Nehemiah recognize the Savior, revive the servants, rebuild the stones, and remove the shame. By following his example, we can do the same today. In each chapter within this book, Nehemiah has handed us another building block that will lead us to growth in God’s kingdom.
It took only 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15) to bring revival to God’s people. How long will it take to revive the church today? Let’s rise up and build.