Nehemiah Builds a Wall

Today’s scripture lesson and sermon — from the Book of Nehemiah — was quite remarkable. Usually sermons at our large United Methodist church deal with the Gospels, with an occasional detour into the Old Testament for background.
The Book of Nehemiah is essentially a personal memoir. Nehemiah was a cup bearer — sort of a Secret Service/Body Man, as our Senior Pastor tells it — for the Persian king Artaxerxes during the Jews’ exile in Babylon. Ezra had already rebuilt Jerusalem’s temple, but the city was largely an uninhabited wreck. Its gates and its walls had been burned and torn down.Nehemiah prayed, and God told him to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall. He secured the king’s blessing and left for Jerusalem. He told the people of the city, “You see the distress we are in, how Jerusalem lies 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.” (Neh. 2-17 NKJV) [The NIV ends with “… and we will no longer be in disgrace.”]But Nehemiah’s efforts were mocked by powerful elites like Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite, who were apparently the Don Lemon and Rachel Maddow of the 5th century BC.{SPOILER ALERT} Nehemiah used the prodigious management skills he had honed in King Artaxerxes’ court. Under his direction, the Jews of Jerusalem and its environs rebuilt the wall and all its gates in 52 days (!), despite the taunting and the physical threats of their naysayers.The message: Never give up, stay steadfast and believe. Pray and trust in your God. And work hard.I’m sure politics was the farthest thing from the Senior Pastor’s mind <wink>.In researching this thread, I turned to The Student Bible (NIV), 1989 edition (Zondervan). Its commentary on the Book of Nehemiah caused me to laugh out loud. Here’s a select passage:

Nearly 100 years had passed since [Nehemiah’s] people had returned to Jerusalem from exile. Though the temple had been rebuilt, the city was barely occupied. More Jews lived in outlying villages and towns than in the holy city. They mixed with all kinds of foreigners. They were in danger of losing their identity. Why? Partly because the city lacked a wall.
What’s in a Wall?
Compared to many concerns, building a wall may not seem terribly important. But think of it this way — what if the border between Mexico and the U.S. were wide open, so that anyone could cross and live on either side at will? One thing is certain: the distinction between Mexico and Texas would soon dissolve.

I’m thinking Zondervan has updated this text since 1989.Wikipedia: of the service (sermon begins at 35:00):

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