I heard a really neat sermon the other day about Nehemiah. Nehemiah is the guy who was cupbearer to the king in Babylonia when he heard that Jerusalem’s wall was in ruins. Here’s his intro in the Bible (Nehemiah 1 from Biblegateway.com):
1 The words of Nehemiah son of Hakaliah:
In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa,2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.
3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”
The story goes on to explain how heartbroken he was over this news and how he looked so sad that the Babylonian king asked him what was wrong. Nehemiah 2:1-6:
In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”
I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?”
Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.
He goes on to explain all of the red tape he needed to take care of before he could even journey the hundreds of miles to Jerusalem. When he got there, he was very methodical in his ways. He had a plan, God’s plan, to execute and nothing was going to get in the way.
First, he surveyed the damage to the wall. He didn’t come in and have a big committee help him parade around the wall saying, “This wall will stand again! I, Nehemiah, will see to it!!” No, he quietly rode around the wall at night. He wanted to see a full picture.
After he had a good idea what the work would consist of, he then took it to the people of the city and told them what the Lord had put on his heart. He rallied the troops, inspired them to see God’s plan, and then set about organizing them for their jobs. He didn’t just randomly assign rock, wheelbarrow, and dirt duty to the crowd, he made sure everyone fixed the part of the wall close to their house. They had a vested interest in the part close to their house.
When bad guys came and tried to interrupt the work, he gave the workers weapons to hold in one hand while they worked with the other. The Lord made sure Nehemiah had the organizing and rallying skills he needed to get these people the wall that would help keep the city safe from invasion.
Long story short, 52 days later the wall was finished. Fifty-two days!
The sermon that I was talking about in the beginning of this post, pointed out that we need all kinds of people in the church — workers, encouragers, and prayers. It is really important to have the people who can harness the enthusiasm and work effort of all of those people in a methodical way.
It is also neat to use the book of Nehemiah in a personal way to fix those walls that are torn down in our lives and making us vulnerable to the outside world. We can approach those seemingly overwhelming problems in a methodical way, like Nehemiah, keeping in touch with the Lord every step of the way and letting our strength come from Him.
So, take another look at the book of Nehemiah next time you are stuck with a project that seems overwhelming and hopeless. You might just pick up an organizing tip or two.