ReBUILD: REPAIRING BROKEN WALLS AND LIVES
BEGIN WITH PRAYER
by Pastor Martha-Jean Fitch
September 22, 2019
TEXT: Nehemiah 1:1-11
(This sermon begins with a children’s sermon based on a
children’s message found at “ministry-to-children.com”)
As we begin today, I have some pictures to show you. How do you feel when you look at these pictures of broken things? Obviously, these things don’t belong to you…but it is sad to think about isn’t it – you wouldn’t want a broken screen like that on your cell phone, would you? How about a broken car – so your parents could take you where you wanted to go? Or if you broke your glasses and couldn’t see or had a broken tv so you couldn’t watch your shows?
Now let’s look at these pictures. Is anything broken in these pictures? How can you tell? What are some reasons these people are sad? Is there anything that is hurting them?
The difference between these pictures with that first set is that these are broken things – and these are broken hearts and broken people. Which of these pictures touches YOUR heart more? Well, what do you think? When God looks at the things you have that are broken – and your broken heart, which do you think concerns Him more? I think that God is more concerned with you…because He values people more than things! And for us, as followers of Jesus, our hearts should be broken more for people than for things!
Today we are going to be learning about a man in the Old Testament that certainly had a heart like God’s. His name was Nehemiah. Can you say that - Nehemiah? Well, he lived a long time ago – 400 years before Jesus came to this earth. He was living a long way away from Israel…. but he still loved Jerusalem because that is where his family was from.
One day, Nehemiah heard that things weren’t going well in Jerusalem. In fact, the walls surrounding the city were in ruins. They were in shambles, kind of like these pieces of wood up here. The people were not safe, and they were in great trouble.
How do you think Nehemiah responded to the news? The Bible says he was really upset – he was really sad for the broken walls and the broken hearts of Jerusalem. So, he sat down and cried about it and then he started praying to God, asking for his guidance on how he could help the people back in Jerusalem to rebuild. For the next several weeks, we will be learning what happened and we’ll see if a wall can be built.
What’s most important to learn today is that God cares when we are broken hearted and He wants to hear from us in prayer. And he’ll show us how to help others when they are broken.
As the children return to their seats, I invite you to get your Bibles out and turn in the Old Testament to the book of Nehemiah. That book is somewhat near the middle of the Bible, just to the left of the book of Psalms. So, if you open your Bible to the center, and then turn left, you should find the book of Nehemiah, just immediately before the book of Esther. And when you find it, put a bookmark there, as we will be referring back to the book of Nehemiah for the next several weeks, as we begin our sermon series: ReBuild, Repairing Broken Walls and Lives.
As you are looking for that, let me ask you – how many of you remember the show “Extreme Makeover”? It was a reality home renovation show that ran for 8 seasons, up until 2012…starring Ty Pennington. It was one of those shows that really pulled at your heart as less fortunate families were chosen to have an “extreme makeover” renovation. Delipidated and often unsafe homes were repaired, restored and sometimes even demolished and rebuilt to spectacular homes…usually in just about one week! For example, in 2006, the show rebuilt a free medical clinic in Mississippi and a Baptist church in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. These were shows that were often tearjerkers when you saw the families finally see their new homes. And the show actually encouraged us all to reach out and help others. At every make over, thousands of people participated by donating their time, money and help to accomplish the renovation. It was estimated, over the 7 years that the show was in production, some 500,000 people helped with the rebuilds!1
And the good news is that the show is coming back in 2020! Extreme Makeover will appear on HGTV – more shows to inspire and touch our hearts as we see homes – and lives – rebuilt!
Today, we are beginning a new sermon series that could easily have been called “Extreme Makeover” because it is a story about a major rebuild of the walls of Jerusalem – that happens in just 52 days!
Our story from the Old Testament is a is a story about a man of great integrity and prayer – who is the head of construction of the walls in Jerusalem. His story is one that begins with grief and brokenness and ends with transformation and hope. Kris Langham tells us “The story of Nehemiah is kind of like a parable that shows a spiritual truth of the New Testament. The good news that we have a God who rebuilds and restores – not just walls and cities but lives and souls. In the reconstruction of our souls, the Chief architect is the Holy Spirit of God – the One that Jesus calls our Comforter. And what’s interesting is that Nehemiah’s name means, ‘Comforter from the Lord’. Nehemiah is a powerful picture of the Holy Spirit and the work of rebuilding our souls.” 2
To best understand our story, we need to get a little background history. Back in 586 BC, the Babylonians conquered the land of Judah and leveled Jerusalem. Everything was burned to the ground – including the Temple and all the walls and gates of the city. The Israelites had been warned by God that if they didn’t stop worshipping idols and breaking the commands of God, they would be exiled. But God promised to rescue them in – and that is exactly what happened. In 539 BC, Cyrus, king of Persia defeated the Babylonians and allowed the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem, beginning in 538. And the first thing they did, upon their return, was to rebuild the Temple, which was completed in 516.
Our story begins in the year, 445. Nehemiah’s family had been exiled to Babylon and had lived there some 141 years. Nehemiah was probably born there and had never been to Jerusalem and seen the Temple. He had become very influential and was serving as the cup bearer to the king – which means he was an officer in the royal courts whose duty it was to serve drinks at the royal table. His job was making sure the king’s wine was not poisoned … and sometimes had to swallow it before serving it! It was a position where he became a very trustworthy in the eyes of the king – and greatly valued.
So, with that background information, let’s look at our text for today, found in Nehemiah 1. Let’s begin reading at verse 1.
In late autumn, in the month of Kislev, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign,[a] I was at the fortress of Susa. 2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came to visit me with some other men who had just arrived from Judah. I asked them about the Jews who had returned there from captivity and about how things were going in Jerusalem. 3 They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.” 4 When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.
The first thing Nehemiah did when he heard that the walls were broken down and destroyed in Jerusalem, was to sit down and cry. This was devastating news for Jerusalem. In ancient cities this was the only means they had to protect themselves. These broken-down walls left the people of Jerusalem vulnerable and defenseless against their enemies. When Nehemiah heard the news, he sat down and wept and mourned for days, fasting and praying to God. This is the first step in any spiritual renovation is to recognize what is broken – and to have a heart that is moved to take the burden to God in prayer. Our God is a God of restoration – He is wanting to come into our lives and bring healing and hope.
What is it that you are mourning right now? What is broken in your world that needs repaired?
This past week, I posted an impromptu survey that asked: “What is it that breaks your heart?” I was so amazed to have 46 people respond. While I have no time to share all the responses – what I noticed that was common among the answers were things like cruelty and hatred, abuse to children, human trafficking and abortion, the death of a spouse or of a child. Relationships that are broken and concerns about people who don’t believe or don’t care about the church. These are things that bring a tear to the eye and a hurt in your heart.
But what about you? How do you answer that question – what is broken in your life that needs repair? What is broken in your world that needs fixing? Maybe you are grieving the loss of a spouse or a child and you don’t know how to rebuild your life without that person there. Maybe someone you love is struggling with an addiction and you don’t know how you can help them – or your marriage is broken and there seems to be no hope of reconciliation. Or maybe you are being swallowed up in financial troubles and can’t see any way out. What are those broken walls in your life – places that you need to rebuild?
Throughout the study of Nehemiah, we are going to be looking at how we can take these broken places in our lives to God and how He can work a spiritual renovation in us. As we read and study the life of Nehemiah – I am hoping you will look for your own story in it. Consider how God is rebuilding your own life. Whatever is broken or torn down in your own life, know that God is the divine healer. He is the only one that can take what is old and make it new, take what is broken and make it whole and take what is dead and bring it back to life.
As you came into worship today you received a card that says, What’s Broken in Your Life that needs ReBuilding? We would like you to tell us how we can pray for you. You don’t have to write your name down – so it will be anonymous. We just want you to be as candid as you want. Maybe you write down – my marriage or my finances. Maybe you have a relationship that needs repaired or someone who is lost and is in need of prayer. Just write down whatever comes to mind. And we are going to pray for you. And if you are here today and feel like you don’t have any broken in your personal world right now, open your eyes up and don’t ignore those global burdens. Open your ears to the Spirit’s leading and let your heart feel the pain in the world. Write down those things that need to be repaired in our world so that we can pray for them. It just may be that God is placing that burden on your heart so that He can use you to make a difference. You can place those cards in the offering plate as it is passed in just a few moments in worship.
We have been called to bear one another’s burdens – and to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. And so, if you would be willing to pray alongside us – we will be posting these burdens so that you can read them and put them in your own prayer time. You know, Nehemiah was a great man of prayer. He has several prayers all the way through the book of Nehemiah and he truly saw the amazing power of God as he helped build the wall around Jerusalem in just 52 days! I believe that throughout these next 60 days as we focus on ReBuilding and praying together, we too will see the power of God at work in our lives.
You know, things happen when people open their hearts to the pain and ruins of life – and depend on God’s leading and direction in prayer. It did for Nehemiah – and it did for a man by the name of Bob Pierce.
Back in 1947, Bob was in China, holding an evangelical rally. On the trip, he met a missionary teacher, who showed him a battered and abandoned child. Unable to take care of the child herself, the teacher asked Bob, “What are going to do about her?” Bob rummaged through his pockets and all he had was $5, which he gave the teacher. And then he pledged that he would send her $5 every month, to help care for this orphan. That experience broke his heart for children living in poverty. He would later write in his Bible this prayer: “Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours!” So, as his heart was broken - and as he prayed – he began to wonder - what if other people could send $5 a month to help other children? So, led by God’s direction in 1950, he founded World Vision. Since then, millions of children all over the world have been helped by people giving monthly gifts that provide clean water, food, education. Entire nations are being transformed – because one ordinary man prayed a dangerous prayer: “Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours.”
What would happen if you prayed this prayer for the next 60 days? What do you think might happen? What could be repaired in your life – in the lives of your family – or in this church and community? How could God use you to be a Nehemiah?
Let us go together now in prayer.
1Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Article in Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extreme_Makeover:_Home_Edition
2Kris Langham, Through the Word: Introduction to the book of Nehemiah. www.throughtheword.org
3Robert Pierce. En.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert Pierce