Shiloh Lord's Day Service
Date: January 9, 2022
Scripture: Nehemiah 1:1-31
Speaker: Pastor James Park
The best way to understand today's scripture reading is to understand the Babylonian deportation of the Israelites. The deportation was a form of punishment for the Israelites’ sins: idolatry, not keeping the sabbath and the sabbatical year. After 70 years of exile in Babylon, God allowed them to return to Jerusalem. This act shows us that God’s covenantal people are always in His hand. If God calls us once, He will always hold on to, never give up on, and restore us wherever we are in our lives. The first return from exile focused on the building of Zerubbabel’s Temple. In the second return, it was about having a spiritual reformation and being reeducated in the laws of God. In the third return, which took place in 444 BC, God used Prophet Nehemiah to rebuild the broken walls that were still in ruins. So through Nehemiah, the walls around Jerusalem were completed, and the Israelites had a spiritual revival. The reconstruction of the wall took 52 days — a fantastic accomplishment. How can we apply the rebuilding of the city walls to our lives today? There are things in our lives that are broken. It could be a broken heart, faith, business, or a failed family relationship. However, the main passage today shows us that God wants to rebuild and restore us so that we can stand again, just like the walls of Jerusalem. No matter what we might be going through, we must believe that God is holding on to us, and will restore us so that we can stand again.
1. Nehemiah first fasted and prayed
Nehemiah continuously prayed and fasted for four months. He and the people always asked for God’s help because there was so much interference from outside forces trying to stop the work (Neh 4:4). Nehemiah wept when he prayed, and fasted for his people (Neh 1:4-6). The first thing that Nehemiah did was repent before God for the sins committed by His people. Not only did he repent for the nation as a whole, but also his sins and those of his family. Before God restores us, He wants us to repent (Joel 2:13-14). And through this, God will rebuild the broken things in our lives. God wants us to return to Him with the same fire and compassion that we had when things were going well in our lives. Because we have lost that fire and desire for God, we don’t keep the Sabbath, pay our tithes, nor love our fellow congregation members. When this happens to us, we have to ask God for forgiveness and truly repent with all of our hearts.
2. Nehemiah and the people worked together to rebuild the wall
The history of redemption cannot be accomplished through just one person. Everybody needs to work collectively with the talents and gifts that God has blessed upon each individual. Completing the city walls of Jerusalem was a collaborative effort of the people of Israel. Despite their different socio-economic backgrounds, they worked together and joined hands with the high priest to reconstruct the city wall. During the reconstruction, they overcame gender roles as even women put their lives on the line to complete the rebuilding. Moreover, not just the people who lived close to Jerusalem helped in rebuilding the city wall: Many traveled from long distances to participate. When it came to doing God’s work, many gave with unsparing devotion to God. They gave all of their resources, time, energy, and money to do His work. God is looking for us to have this type of devotion in our lives today. He wants us to work together to restore the fire and desire we have for Him. This coming year, like the Israelites, we need to have unsparing devotion to God. Through this, we will be able to make a significant leap in the movement of redemptive history.
3. Help from God’s good hand
The people worked, served, and dedicated themselves to God. But behind all the work, effort, and zeal was God’s good hand. Nehemiah realized that God had granted him success; he knew that God moved the king of Persia's heart so that he could go back to Jerusalem to help with the reconstruction of the city wall (Neh 2:8). In our lives, we must always ask for God’s help, and depend on Him because we cannot do anything with our power. All of the great work done during the construction was through God’s great hand (Neh 2:18). The Israelites’ enemies became disheartened because they had believed that the Israelites wouldn’t be able to pull off this huge task. But through God’s great grace, they were able to rebuild the wall, so that even the enemies of the Israelites confessed this. In our lives today, we always need to confess that the success in our lives is through the grace of God (1 Cor 15:10). Apostle Paul confessed that though he was able to do the most work out of all of Jesus's disciples, it was only through God’s grace that he was able to accomplish this. People of the world need to step on each other, backstab, lie, cheat, and do whatever it takes to get ahead in life. However, we need to humble ourselves in the mighty hands of God, and He will raise us up in due time (1 Pet 5:6).
There were three elements to building the city walls of Jerusalem. Today, we need to have these spiritual elements to rebuild broken issues in our lives. Unless God Himself helps us in our lives, all the work we do in our lives will be in vain (Ps 127:1-2). On top of the city walls, there were watchmen, but the work of these watchmen will be in vain unless God is watching over their work (Zech 2:5, Isa 62:6). God Himself will be the wall and protection (Zech 2:5). So in 2022, we need to realize God is the One that protects us with His fiery barrier, as the watchman in our lives and that wherever we go, His glory will be with us.