The God of heaven will prosper us. We God’s servants will start the rebuilding.”-Nehemiah, in Nehemiah 2:20
Rarely does life go as we hope and expect. Disappointment and discouragement are often unavoidable realties in both our personal lives as well as in our public involvements. New ventures start up: some succeed and some fail. So how do we react and what can be learned when our lives and our ventures take unexpected turns for the worst?
The Scriptures recount the challenges faced by God’s people over the centuries. Some of life’s tragedies are the result of personal or communal failings. Others are due to conditions beyond human control such as a national pandemic. We can learn much from the experiences of Nehemiah and the courageous group of returning exiles.
Biblical scholars consider the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile to Babylon of 586 BC as a major event, second only to the great exodus out of Egypt for impacting the nation of Israel. A new normal had been established. Nehemiah made his return to Jerusalem some decades after the fall of the city known as Zion. He sets the tone for the rest of the book when he says courageously: “We God’s servants will start the rebuilding.” And so they did. And so can we.
Those years in Babylonian exile brought about many changes for the people of Israel. One of those changes was the establishment of the first synagogue. Synagogues were not intended to replace the temple; rather, they were meant to be places of prayer in the absence of the temple.
In addition, with the Israelite return came a spiritual renewal, including increased interest in reading and studying Torah, the Hebrew Scriptures. The new normal meant a return to the worship of God and rebuilding of community. The reign of kings also ended with the exile. People no longer had the mediating and sometimes meddling presence of an earthly king to get in the way of the allegiance and loyalty to God.
All these changes took place as Nehemiah was rebuilding the walls surrounding the city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah gathered these returning exiles and gave them a sense of purpose and a reason to be hopeful. Brick by brick they rebuilt their city, their religious practices, and their sense of community.
What needs rebuilding in our congregation?
What are the technical and adaptive changes necessary to move ahead?
We usually think about walls being torn down. What are the walls and structures that may need rebuilding and repair?
What kind of spiritual renewal may be needed in our lives as disciples when we experience disappointment and discouragement?
Is God still able to restore a people and renew a vision? History suggests that this restoration is exactly what our God does best. One brick at a time, God is able to rebuild and restore God’s people and their passion. But it will require courage to let go of the past and allow a new vision and work of the spirit to blow at its will.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:17
Grace and Peace,Pastor Eckman