Our text is from Nehemiah, when he arrives in Jerusalem in 445 BC
Nehemiah 2:17-20 (ESV Strong’s)
Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.”
TIME FOR A REBUILD
Have you ever seen a house that’s been badly renovated loads of time s over many years? 1920s shower head leaking, wobbly toilets that leak. Extra bedrooms in what use to be verandah? Redoing kitchen, adding a nice benchtop but keeping the 30 year old drawers and painting the old handles. This added, that patched, some of you might have lived in such a house. With all the renovation, it still looks patchy and uncoordinated.
Sometimes, when things have been patched and mended too often, to create something really amazing you have to gut it, pull stuff down and completely rebuild it.
I believe the church has been like that. Not just this church, but the church. We have not significantly changed how we do or operate church for decades. Sure, instruments are new, music, some aspects are new, but for the most part we have patched and patched the original model.
But praise God, what a blessed people we are now! Because of a vocal and controlling media, a climate of fear, an overbearing government and a teeny tiny virus, we have been forced to not patch up but rebuild church!
Isaiah’s prophecy to the exiles nearly 100 years before Nehemiah rings true…
Isaiah 61:3-4 (ESV Strong’s)
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.
They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
We stand on the brink of one of the greatest rebuilds in history, yet many pastors and leaders are full of fear rather than faith, and many professing Christians are nowhere to be seen!
NO NEED TO FEAR
Franklin D Roosevelt became president of the United States at the height the great depression, and at his inauguration he said these famous words
We have nothing to fear except fear itself. I say these words to you today.
There were 2 footy fans watching TV, and one said to the other, I bet you $20 that new fullback loses the ball in the last 10 seconds and the opposition scores to win the match. You’re on said the other guy. And sure enough, thats what happened.
As the fan handed over $20, his friend said, look, I cannot take your money. We are watching a replay, and I saw the match live so I knew he’d lose the ball and they’d score. The other guy said, yes I did too, but I didn’t think he’d make the same mistake twice!
Isaiah 41:10 (ESV Strong’s)
fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Fear not. This world is in constant and total fear, and while we should be smart and careful, we have no need to fear. If I’m watching a match but know the score in advance, and that my team wins, I don’t feel any fear if we go behind during the match.
Church, this is not the time to fear,
2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV Strong’s)
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
THE CHURCH ISN’T IN DECLINE, IT’S IN REFINE
Proverbs 17:3 (ESV Strong’s)
The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts.
Isaiah 48:10 (ESV Strong’s)
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
When silver is refined by an ancient silversmith, it is heated, in a furnace of affliction. Then impurities called dross floats to the surface, and is skimmed off. This process is repeated again and again, each time a little more impurity is removed, up to 7 seven times this is done. When you ask the silversmith how he knows when the purifying process is complete, he will tell you this…
When I look into the silver and I can see my likeness reflected perfectly, it is complete. When we are tried and afflicted, the Jesus the master knows our refining is complete when He can see His likeness reflected in us!
Right now, the enemy might look like he’s winning, but I’ve read the book, I know who ultimately wins. This is not the time to roll over and give in, this is our moment to stand up and say we will serve the Lord no matter the cost.
Sure, I’m the natural it looks bleak now, but we know we win, and this is our moment. We can sit back, stay at home, go on with so called normal life, but I’d rather not be a part of the problem, but rather a part of God’s solution.
Esther 4:14 (ESV Strong’s)
And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
It’s time to lock in together and pursue Christ as never before! The church is not in decline, it’s in refine, and the final product will be greater than any patchwork job we’ve done so far!
Right now God is challenging all of us to put our hands to the wheel. It’s hats off to the past, but it’s coats off to the future. This is not the first time temple walls have had to be rebuilt. So let me briefly share the hands we are seeing today, and liken it to the Book of Nehemiah.
1. GOD’S HAND UPON IT
Nehemiah 2:17-18 (ESV Strong’s)
Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how the church lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of the church, that we may no longer suffer derision.” And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.
When Nehemiah found out about the ruined walls of Jerusalem, his response wasn’t to form a committee, have a pity party with his friends or sit in social isolation watching Netflix…
Nehemiah 1:4 (ESV Strong’s)
As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.
He wept, he prayed, he fasted and he sought his God. He waited 4 months for the opportunity to speak to the king. He knew God’s hand was upon him and upon the rebuild, and I know God’s hand is upon me and our rebuild here.
2. UNBELIEVERS HANDS AROUND IT
Nehemiah 2:4-6 (ESV Strong’s)
Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favour in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.” And the king said to me (the queen sitting beside him), “How long will you be gone, and when will you return?” So it pleased the king to send me when I had given him a time.
An unbelieving king gave letters of favour so Nehemiah had everything he needed for the rebuild. Our politicians and especially our unbelieving premier has placed laws and restrictions on us, but they are playing into God’s hands because this is causing a refinement, and we might lose some quantity but I believe we gain great quality.
Unbelieving leaders have their hands around church, but not in it.
3. OPPONENTS HANDS AGAINST IT
Nehemiah faced opponents, notably Sanballat and Tobiah. These were not Jews but foreigners, and they did all they could to disrupt the rebuilding.
They mocked, then they threatened, caused fear, attacked reputations. I’ve faced all this already trying to rebuild church walls, but like Nehemiah, I refuse to stop working.
And you should keep working with me. We should face external opposition with faith, not fear, wariness but not weariness.
Nehemiah 4:15-16 (ESV Strong’s)
When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah,
Sadly, Nehemiah even faced opposition within his own ranks, and had to rebuke and stand aside those trying to disrupt the work.
Nehemiah 5:6-7 (ESV Strong’s)
I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words. I took counsel with myself, and I brought charges against the nobles and the officials.
And every pastor talk to faces the same. People we thought would be with us are not, and some actively oppose God’s rebuilding project.
Truly church, this is the time we must stand together United in one heart and one mind. With God’s help we can rebuild church, but only if we stand as one.
4. BELIEVERS HANDS IN IT
It’s the hands of believers that do the work. It’s you and I who can rebuild church, not so it becomes like before, but so it becomes better! We have streamlined our services, our worship and the message. We break into groups so each one of you can share and discuss and be a part of, not a spectator in church.
God is rebuilding the wall of His church.
1 Peter 2:4-5 (ESV Strong’s)
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
You and I are living stones. Sure, some feel they can sit out in a field by themselves, or in small piles, doing Facebook church, having small groups, watching YouTube clips of famous pastors, but frankly they are just stones strewn in the ground.
They’re not a wall. The church is a wall that needs rebuilding, and I aim to be a part of Nehemiah team. I don’t want to be a rock thrown onto the ground, I want to be part of what God is building in the church in our nation.
No, when we gather together, God Himself builds us into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, His living temple.
The Greek for house is OIKOS, meaning a family home, dwelling or temple. It never refers piles of rocks.
Your hands, my hands can and will be used by God if we allow Him, to rebuild the walls of Ignite. And when a stone wall is rebuilt, individual stones are chipped and shaped to fit perfectly. That’s what God is doing right now, chipping and shaping each one of us to be United as one church, one house, one body, because God is rebuilding the walls broken down by this pandemic.
And we’ve faced opposition, but like Nehemiah, we refuse to be distracted. I confess, with some of the people who have left church and attacked me, I’ve lost sleep and been distracted. A small number of people have occupied 90% of my head space, but not any more! There’s too much to rebuild, and God’s hand is with us.
1 John 4:4 (ESV Strong’s)
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
I don’t see a COVID safe, socially distanced, half empty room. I see a launch pad for world changing ministries, I see lives won to Christ, marriages restored, families united and on fire for Jesus. I see revival and restoration across the churches, and across the nations.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV Strong’s)
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Right now God is calling us to join hands and and rebuild together.
GOD’S HANDS ARE BLESSING THE REBUILD
I’ve read the book, and I know we, the people of God, win in the end. I’m not upset that the enemy wins a round or two, because I know the result. God is not surprised by COVID. He is not shocked by the incredible loss of life, finances, mental health and relationships.
Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC. They were broken down for over 140 years. People said the walls couldn’t, even shouldn’t be rebuilt. People were use to it, and some liked it that way.
But Nehemiah, led by God’s hand, inspiring the peoples hands, and withstanding their enemies hands, hand made the entire structure, and rebuilt the city walls in 52 days!
No matter how bad the world looks now, are you going to float along or are you with me and are you ready to rebuild? This could be the greatest opportunity we have seen in our lifetimes to shine for Jesus, and sadly so many are dropping the ball.
It’s time for us to stand up, to regather, to rebuild and with God’s direction, to prioritise meeting together as God commands and to make church better than it ever was. It’s not time for sadness, depression or lack of direction. This is our moment to shine…
Ezekiel 36:33-36 (ESV Strong’s)
“Thus says the Lord GOD: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. And they will say, ‘This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited.’ Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the LORD; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.
Are you In? Are you ready and available to step up and build? Are your hands just around the rebuild, are they opposing it, or can God count on you to be in it, with all your heart, for who knows if you have not been brought here for such a time as this?
Psalms 127:1 (ESV Strong’s)
Unless the LORD Builds the House
A SONG OF ASCENTS. OF SOLOMON.
Unless the LORD builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
If you truly know Jesus, then it’s not just your duty, it’s your privilege. If you don’t know Jesus as Lord, then it is time to turn to Him and ask Him into your life.