Blessed Builders: Life Behind Walls
Blessed Builders: Life Behind Walls
When I was a kid, we lived in Troy, Alabama. I can remember the layout of my childhood home. I had a bedroom. Just across the hall was my brothers room. Down the hall and to the right was a bathroom and then there was a guest room on the left and my Mom and Dad’s room was on the right. We had a large den and a adjoining kitchen. My Dad finished our garage and turned in into a game room. That’s where I learned how to play ping pong.
It was a great house.
Yet, there was one place in the house that me and my brother could not go. It was basically off limits. Do you know what room I am talking about?
That’s right, the living room!
No one was allow to live in the living room. If you, me or my brother lived in the living room, my mother might kill us. The carpet was always vacuumed. Everything was always dusted. It was exactly the way my Mom wanted it to be. Perfect. It was so perfect that no one could go in. She had it just the way she wanted it. The only times we really went into the living room were on formal occasions. If company came over or if family were there, we could come into the living room. We could live in the living room during the holidays and such. Only special times.
The living room was never really meant for living.
Friends, today we will look at Nehemiah 7. Jerusalem has been rebuilt but there is no one really there. It is like a living room that no one is able to actually live in. It is perfect but there are no people. Today, Nehemiah faces a choice, does he keep the city the way he likes it, or does he let people come in to live in the city.
Over the past several weeks, we have been looking through the book of Nehemiah. We have gone chapter by chapter. First we see Nehemiah’s concern. He is crushed with the huge burden of a broken city. We witnessed the call of Nehemiah from cupbearer to city planner. We see how Nehemiah assumes the role of commander. He organizes the people and puts them to work. We have witnessed Nehemiah in conflict resolution. Lots of people bring to Nehemiah problems. Some of the problems are minor, others are huge. Today we come to Nehemiah 7. In Nehemiah 7 we see Nehemiah faced with a choice. What is the purpose of this rebuilt city?
Where Have We Been?
1. Nehemiah’s Concern
2. Nehemiah’s Call
3. Nehemiah The Commander
4. Nehemiah’s Conflicts
5. Nehemiah’s Choice
So here we are. Nehemiah has rebuilt the wall. Whew! That was tough. Don’t you think that Nehemiah probably went home after the last door was set and kicked back in his lazy boy and thought to himself “well, glad that’s over”. Unfortunately for him, there was lots of work to do.
I bet God tapped Nehemiah on his shoulder and said, “Um, Nehemiah, sorry to bother you but you are just now on Nehemiah 7, you have 6 more chapters to go before you are done.”
I can imagine Nehemiah responded back with “SIX MORE CHAPTERS, BUT GOD I REBUILT THE WALL, I DID WHAT YOU ASKED, CAN’T I BE DONE NOW!”.
You see, God did call Nehemiah to rebuild the wall. Yet, God’s call for Nehemiah went far beyond that. Walls are easy. Nehemiah discovers the real reason for his calling in Nehemiah 7. I would say that Nehemiah 7 is the transition chapter for the entire book. Everything shifts in the book starting now.
You see, Nehemiah has a choice to make. What will he do with the city? He has built a fort around Jerusalem and essentially no one is there.
Do you know what you have when you have an empty city? Nothing. You have no problems. You have no complainers. You have no one to be mad at you. Nehemiah choice was this, does he kept the city just like it is or does he allow people to come in and live? You would think that is an easy decision but its really not. When you open the doors to people, you open your doors to their problems and their mess. Nehemiah had things just the way he wanted.
I spoke to a pastor who lives in Daphne and he told me that his favorite type of church member is the one who will tithe regularly but never come.
Pastors sometimes feel the same way. When you let people into the walls of the building they bring with them their issues and problems. It can be exhausting.
Jerusalem Was Rebuilt With Lots of Room!
Nehemiah 7:1-7 ESV
Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, 2 I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. 3 And I said to them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot. And while they are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their guard posts and some in front of their own homes.” 4 The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt.
5 Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first, and I found written in it:
6 These were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried into exile. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his town. 7 They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, (Na-ha-ma-ni) Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah.
Lessons To Learn From Nehemiah 7
I. Nehemiah’s Charge vs. 1-3
Nehemiah 7:1-3 ESV
Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, 2 I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. 3 And I said to them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot. And while they are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their guard posts and some in front of their own homes.”
In verses 1-3 we see that everything was in place. The wall was built. The doors set. Finally, the people of Jerusalem have the protection they need. They are safe. Don’t forget that there are people outside the wall who want to see Jerusalem in rubble again. There are people who would love to harm and hurt the limited inhabitants of the city.
So, what does Nehemiah do once the city is built. He puts people in charge. He has singers, gatekeepers and priests appointed. Yet the doors were to remain closed to the public. He even charged two men with the overall security of the city.
Think symbolically for a moment. What if Jerusalem is really a picture of the church? The church is a safe place, a solid environment where people can come and worship. We have our own singers, gatekeepers and ministers right? Just like Jerusalem.
The People Loved Their City…
A. They Gave
When is the last time you thought about the church? Are you thankful for it? Think about it for a second. When it came to Jerusalem, the people gave to the city. They wanted to see the city provided for and they longed for the city have have needs met and people ministered to. So they gave. They didn’t just give money, but they also gave manpower. They volunteered and worked inside the city walls.
Oh, before I forget, the people served joyfully not begrudgingly. They modeled Colossians 3:23.
Colossians 3:23 NLT
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
Is that not a picture of the church? Should we not give our monies and our manpower?
We should make sure as a collective body that we are giving generously so that ministries can occur.
We should give so that people can be on mission and so that the Gospel can be spread.
Currently, we are about $60,000 behind on budget. That means that ministries cannot function at their maximum and we as pastors are going to have to start making some really difficult choices as to what ministries and missions can happen and take place. We need to be good generous givers because God loves givers and blesses them.
2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Yet, there is more to giving than money. It is about service. It is about manpower. We need volunteers in the children’s ministry, youth ministry, mission’s ministry, choir and so may other places. Have you ever heard that 100% of the church’s work gets done by 20% of the people? I have and I think in some ways we might be guilty of that here. The people in Nehemiah’s day gave of their time, treasures and especially talents. How can you use your gifts, your talents, to enrich God’s church here at Eastern Shore Baptist Church?
I Peter 4:10 ESV
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace…
B. They Guarded
Notice that Nehemiah sees the value in the city. He sees the value in protecting the city. He installs 2 trusted people to oversee the protection of the city. If the city is a picture of the church, we should see the value in protecting the church.
So…what is the church? Well some are confused by that question. They will say that the church is sticks and bricks. Its the pew and pulpits. That is actually not correct. The church is the people. We are the church.
Many people today understand the church as a building. This is not a biblical understanding of the church. The word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The root meaning of “church” is not that of a building, but of people. It is ironic that when you ask people what church they attend, they usually identify a building. Romans 16:5 says “… greet the church that is in their house.” Paul refers to the church in their house—not a church building, but a body of believers.
Nehemiah understood and we know today that people are worth loving and protecting. Friends, make no mistake, we are a family here. We are a member of a body, not just some arbitrary organization that we can come and go when we please. When you join here you make a commitment not just to God but to everyone. It is a marriage that is not easily dissolved.
Do you love the church?
Will you protect and sacrifice for this body?
I Corinthians 12:13 ESV
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
Lessons To Learn From Nehemiah 7
I. Nehemiah’s Charge vs. 1-3
II. Jerusalem’s Challenge vs. 4
Nehemiah 7:4 ESV
The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt.
Human beings have always been preoccupied with building walls. In the first century, the Roman emperor Hadrian built a 75-mile wall across Roman Britain. It was just 2 years ago that my wife and I stood atop The Great Wall just outside of Bejing China. This wall stretched some 4000 miles and built over the centuries to keep out foreign invaders. The Berlin Wall went up in 1961, dividing East from West for almost 30 years. In 1975, South Africa built a 3,500-volt electric fence dubbed the Snake of Fire to keep the civil war in Mozambique from spilling over into the frontier.
We love building walls and throughout the course of humanity, we have become very good at building them.
Walls don't just divide us. They make us ill. After the Berlin Wall went up, East German psychiatrists observed that the Berlin Wall caused mental illness, rage, dejection, and addiction. The closer to the physical wall people lived, the more acute their disorders. The only cure for "Wall Disease" was to bring the Wall down. Sure enough, in 1990, psychiatrists noted the "emotional liberation" felt after November 9, 1989 when the Wall finally fell. Thousands of jubilant Germans climbed the Wall, wept, and embraced each other atop the concrete, and proceeded to tear the Wall down with joyful abandon.
Jerusalem needed a wall. God sent Nehemiah there to build one. There was a problem though after the wall was built, there was no one there to enjoy the city. Nehemiah himself actually points out the problem.
The city was wide and large. There were few people there and there were hardly any houses. What good is a city if there is no one to live in it.
Again, look at the city of Jerusalem as a tale of the church today.
Just in the Baptist denomination the statistics are telling.
1. The Baptist denomination losses nearly half a million people a year. Half a million!
2. Southern Baptists baptized 310,000 people in 2015. You might think to yourself that is a pretty solid number. However, that’s the lowest number of people baptized since 1946.
3. Giving has steadily dropped over the years. Just last year, the International Mission Board had to bring home some 1000 missionaries for no other reason as the giving could not keep up with the demand.
4. For the first time there were more Southern Baptist Churches closing than opening.
5. Dr. Ed Stetzer noted years ago that "Every year we have more members, but have a smaller percentage of the nation. We are not reaching more people. We have finally gotten to the point our numbers are not increasing."
Amos 6:1 NLT
What sorrow awaits you who lounge in luxury in Jerusalem, and you who feel secure in Samaria! You are famous and popular in Israel, and people go to you for help.
Friends, look around. There are more empty seats than filled seats. We are living this trend right her and now and if we don’t do something about it, we will lose our way and our influence in this city. Friends, this church was build wide and high but there is room for people. Room for salvations. Room for baptisms. There is room people and if we are not burdened to expand the walls of heaven then we need to close the doors now.
I think that it is easy to sit back and think how great it is at Eastern Shore Baptist Church. Wow, look what we’ve done. Friend, we have challenging days in front of us.
We need to break the mold that evangelism is someone else’s job.
We need to break the mold that telling someone about Jesus is the pastor’s deal.
We need to break from the tradition that making disciples belongs to everyone but me.
We need to break from the mindset that “Ill do missions when they are cheap, convenient and easy.”
Friend, building God’s Kingdom is our task…our job. Its our assignment.
What’s the solution? What can be done? Well the answer comes in the very next verse. Let’s read what it says.
Lessons To Learn From Nehemiah 7
I. Nehemiah’s Charge vs. 1-3
II. Jerusalem’s Challenge vs. 4
III. Nehemiah’s Change vs. 5
Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first, and I found written in it…
I love hearing stories of people who have heart changes and shifts. Listen to this one.
Jacob Koshy grew up in Singapore with one driving ambition: to be a success in life, to gain all the money and possessions he could. That led him into the world of drugs and gambling, and eventually he became the lord of an international smuggling network. In 1980, he was arrested and placed in a government drug rehabilitation prison in Singapore.
He was frustrated beyond endurance. All his goals, purposes, dreams, and ambitions were locked up with him in a tiny cell, and his heart was full of a cold emptiness. He was a smoker, and cigarettes weren’t allowed in the center. Instead, he smuggled in tobacco and rolled it in the pages of the Gideon Bible. One day he fell asleep while smoking. He awoke to find to find that the cigarette had burned out, and all that remained was a scrap of charred paper. He unrolled it and read what was written; “Saul, Saul Why do you persecute me?”
Jacob asked for another Bible and read the entire story of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. He suddenly realized that if God could help someone like Saul, God could help him, too. There in his cell he knelt and prayed, asking Christ to come into his life and change him. He began crying and couldn’t stop. The tears of a wasted life washed away his pain, and God redeemed him. He started sharing his story with the other prisoners, and as soon as he was released he became involved in a Church.
He met a Christian woman, married her, and is now a missionary in the Far East where he tells people far and wide, “Who would have believed that I could find the truth by smoking the word of God?”
So there was Nehemiah, kicking back. Basking in the glow of a project finished. It was nice. Real nice. Then Nehemiah 7:5 happens. “Then God put it into my heart”. This means that God put something into Nehemiah’s heart that was not previously there.
You see, for more than 50 days (6 chapters) Nehemiah had been wrapped up in a wall. That was his heart. His heart beat for a building. His heart beat for a wall.
But in Nehemiah 7:5 God changes his heart. Instead of his heart beating for a building, it would be pounding for people. For the first four verses, Nehemiah locked the doors and kept people out of his perfect city. Now in verse 5, that would change. It would be come about people.
The temptation is to turn the church into a fort that keeps people out instead of letting people in.
The temptation is to turn the church into a living room where no one is really living.
Have you ever wondered why people would want to keep certain people out of the church?
Nehemiah knew that if he let the gates open and let all the people in they would bring their problems with them. They would not look or sound like Nehemiah. It is tempting to keep the church looking just like us. It is tempting to keep all of our issues whitewashed and clean. it’s tempting, its just not Biblical.
John 12:32 ESV
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.
From the beginning, the wall Nehemiah built was to protect but not necessarily to keep people out.
Are any of us guilty of trying to keep the doors of the church shut instead of keeping them open.
The other day I went to Waffle House. My entire family went there to celebrate the conclusion to baseball season. It was on a Monday night and it was late. Did you know that Waffle House never closes? Never. It is open all day, all night, 365 days a year.
I asked one of the waitresses if she ever wished that Waffle House would close and she responded promptly, “NO”.
I was a little stunned by her answer and I asked her why she felt that way.
She said very plainly, “We can serve people the food they want if those doors are closed”.
There is a sermon in that response.
Friends, there are people in our community that need the spiritual food of Jesus. We cannot serve them the food they need if those doors are closed.
I pray that we will become the most inviting and open church in Daphne. I pray that we will lay aside our prejudices and that we will be a church where all people can find a home. I pray that our church will be the city on a hill, a light in the community that people are drawn to.
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