READ: Nehemiah 1-2
THINK: In Nehemiah’s days every major city in the world was surrounded by walls. The walls served as a fortification to protect against enemies and also as a mark of pride. The walls of Jerusalem had been down for 140 years and this was a huge embarrassment to the people of God. And it wasn’t just embarrassing. It also left them very vulnerable to attacks and oppression. 140 years is a long time. Just to get a picture – that’s like saying that the walls and defenses of the United States have been down ever since the Civil War. It’s a long time! And so, the people of God living in Jerusalem were very depressed. They felt like they had no hope, and they thought, “Life is never, ever going to get better, the walls of our city are broken down.”
Well, how did that happen? If you know the story of the Old Testament you know it went something like this: God told the Jewish people, He said, ‘If you obey me, I will bless you. If you disobey me, there will be consequences.’ And sure enough, the hearts of God’s people drifted away from God and they began to they were worshiping false gods and idols and performing all sorts of sacrifices that were displeasing to God. So God said, ‘There will be consequences for your disobedience.’ And God allowed the Babylonians to come in and to wipe out the city and the people. They destroyed the temple, which was incredibly important since it was the place of worship where the Ark of the Covenant, which symbolized God’s presence with Israel, was kept. And the Babylonians tore down the walls and they took the people into captivity.
Eventually Persia became the world superpower and they had a little bit of a different philosophy about captive people groups than the Babylonians so they sent some of the Israelites back to Jerusalem – not very many of them, just a small remnant – to try to rebuild the temple. And they tried, but the temple was nothing like it had been when Solomon made it into one of the most fabulous buildings on earth. It was a makeshift temple, but it was the best they could do so that they could resume their worship. But the walls of the city were still razed to the ground and so they were incredibly vulnerable to being attacked . And this was difficult and frustrating and humiliating. The entire nation was heartbroken and distraught. And then something happened. One man, a cup-bearer, an ordinary nobody poison-tester had had what I call a Twisted Sister Moment.
No, he didn’t perm his hair and dress in a disturbingly tight leather jumpsuit. He just decided that the situation was not okay and declared, “I’m not gonna take it. No! I aint gonna take it. I’m not gonna take it anymore!” He recognized a need in his world and said, “Somebody has got to do something about it, and it might as well be me!” I think that God is inviting all of us to have Twisted Sister moments. He is inviting us to line our hearts up with his and allow our hearts to break for the things that break his. Not to avoid the pain of our broken world, or ask God to send somebody else while we sit back and wait on the world to change, but instead, to do three things – just like Nehemiah did. 1 – Sit down to cry. 2 – Kneel down to pray. 3 – Stand up to act.
Nehemiah saw the need and said, “This is not okay with me.” And what I wanna do is push you a little bit today and ask you something. When you look at your world – at the people and the realities that surround you – what is it that’s not okay with you? What breaks your heart? What is it that you know breaks God’s heart and you just feel like he has given you that same burden – like your heart is lined up with his – and your heart is breaking for what breaks his and you just wanna shout, “THIS IS NOT OKAY!” Sit down to cry about it. Kneel down to pray about it. Stand up and take action to fix it. Believe this: just like he used an insignificant cup-bearer thousands of years ago, God wants to use you change the world and to create a better future for the people around you.
PRAY: Ask God what he wants to break your heart for. Let him do it. Then ask him what action he wants you take. And then stand up and take action.