Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Wine-Tasting Wall-Building City-Saver

Sin is expensive. It always costs us more than we expect. That's what Israel learned. Because of their sinful rebellion, which included idolatry, immorality, and infant sacrifice, God sent them into captivity. He offered mercy and forgiveness first, but the people refused. 

If you read through the book of Hosea, you might not be able to tell pre-captivity Israel from current-day-United States. Sin isn't new. We're doing the same things Israel did, and they're just as costly today as they were in ancient times.

Exactly as God had warned, the people of Israel were carried into captivity in Babylon. Esther, Daniel, and Nehemiah were just a few of the young people who lived in Susa, one of the largest cities in Babylon. All three of them saw a chance to help save their people and they took it.

Today, we're looking at Nehemiah. He was a brave man, in many ways. His job was cupbearer to the king. He tasted the king's wine (or other beverage) before the king drank it to be sure the king hadn't been poisoned. The theory was if it didn't kill Nehemiah, it wouldn't kill the king. 

One day, Nehemiah's brother, Hanani, and a few of his friends came to visit from Judah. They told him about the conditions in Jerusalem. It was bad. The city walls of Jerusalem were still down. The gates were burned up. The people were in danger and distress.

As Nehemiah listened to them describe the horrors in the beautiful city of Jerusalem, his heart broke. The city he loved was in ruins. The people he loved were suffering.

He couldn't get the situation out of his mind. He was worried sick, but what could he do? He was just one man, stuck in Babylon, a captive in the king's palace. 

Nehemiah did the only sensible thing. He fasted and prayed around the clock for days. Finally, he decided to talk to the king, if he could find an opening.

I love his prayer (found in Nehemiah 1:5-11) He recalled God's promises to Israel, confessed his sin and the corporate sin of Israel, and begged God for help and favor with the king.

Nehemiah didn't work his connections first. Nehemiah didn't devise a plan to begin. He prayed. He fasted. He waited. He asked God to make a way for him, and He did.

There came a day when the king asked Nehemiah. "You look sad all the time. What's wrong?"

Nehemiah told him. 

"What do you want me to do?" 

"Send me to Jerusalem and let me rebuild the walls. Let me help my people." 

"Okay. I'll help you," the king promised, and he did.

Nehemiah headed to Jerusalem, knowing he had a limited time there. He had to work fast. 

He met resistance all along the way. There were death threats and arguments and whining people who didn't want to work, but God helped him. In a mere fifty-two days, the walls were rebuilt.

Rebuilding the walls made the city safe, but it was the faith of the people that needed the most repair. Everyone gathered in the center of town and Ezra read the law from early morning until mid-day. The people wept so hard that the Levites had to calm them down. People studied the law in order to understand it, and they tried hard to obey it.

I love what happened next, and it gives me great hope for our messed-up world.

"And the entire assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in them. The sons of Israel had indeed not done so from the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day. And there was great rejoicing." Nehemiah 8:17 nasb

For the first time, the people obeyed the law completely. This time, they weren't obeying because of habit or because someone forced them. They did what God said because they understood the law and they wanted to obey.

Nehemiah wasn't a supervisor of large numbers of people. He wasn't a builder. He wasn't a teacher. Some people probably looked at Nehemiah and wondered how a wine-taster could possibly do all that needed to be done.

Nehemiah's leadership was fueled by the equipping of Almighty God and driven by his compassion for his city and his people. He was, in many ways, an ordinary man who saw a need and tried to meet it by the power of his extraordinary God. 

God doesn't require us to be "great" men and women to save our nation. He needs willing men and women who will step outside their comfort zone and allow Him to work through them.

He needs people like us, you and me, who will pray and fast, then take the opportunities God gives us. He needs those who are willing to work as hard and as long as it takes.

If God judged the nation of Israel for their sin, He will judge ours for the same sin. Have we passed the point of no return? There are some who think so, but I believe the mercy of God is still possible. IF we repent and return to Him.

As in Nehemiah's day, one man or woman, committed to doing God's work God's way, can still make a difference. Once Nehemiah started, God sent others to help along the way, and He will do the same for us.

What can we do?

Pray and fast. Ask God to break our hearts with the things that break His heart, then ask Him to show us what He needs done, and do it.

He is faithful. The question is whether or not we will be.

One at a time, doing what we can do, God will use all of us to make a difference, so pray. Fast. Listen to God. Allow Him to make a path of favor and aid. Step up. Step out. Do what only you can do. 

A nation looks to you to do your part. Small or large, it matters. 

Be the one.
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Power of One 
#powerofone #disciple #saveournation