I read somewhere that basically there are three kinds of people.
1. Those who do not know what is happening.
2. Those who just watch what is happening.
3. Those who make things happen.
Nehemiah is in the 3rd category. Jerusalem had been in ruins for 140 years. The people in Jerusalem had become accustomed to the mess and lived with the mess as part of life. It took an outsider to come and rebuild the city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah was a Jew but lived in exile in Persia.
He had come to Jerusalem with the king’s permission. Nehemiah assessed the ruins late one night. He had the burden to rebuild. He provided decisive leadership.
Nehemiah had come to rebuild in order to remove the disgrace from the people. They lived in “disgrace” (2:17). He wept, mourned, fasted and prayed for Jerusalem (1:4). When he was given the opportunity to go to Jerusalem to rebuild, Nehemiah gladly went. He left behind comfort, security, safety, a good life, a good job to go to a place that was in ruins and full of mess.
Bishop Stephen Neill in his book On the Ministry, says, “As you enter on the work of the ministry you must seek the place of hardest work, greatest sacrifice and least recognition, and there you must be content.” On the contrary our temptation is to seek the easiest work, least sacrifice and greatest recognition. We see Nehemiah seeking the hardest work...... and being content. A number of times he says, “Remember me O God” and left it at that.
Nehemiah has consecrated himself to do what God had called him to. Oswald Chambers defines consecration as “the act of continually separating myself from everything except which God has appointed me to do.” That was Nehemiah too.
He had come to Jerusalem confident that God was involved in the work (v18) and that God would give them success (20). The vision to rebuild was not birthed in Nehemiah’s mind but it was birthed in God’s heart. The plan was God’s plan. When a plan is God’s plan it cannot fail.
Many people have asked me what is my vision for the Methodist Church is. But a more important question is, “what is God’s vision for the church?” We live in challenging times. There is political uncertainty, covid19 reality, socio-economic challenges. In the midst of all of these what is God’s vision for the Methodist Church in Malaysia? What does God want the Church in Malaysia to be and to do? That can only be known by God’s people who have spent much time in the presence of GOD.
When the church carries out God’s plan, that plan cannot fail. When the enemies opposed the work, Nehemiah confidently dismissed their harassment saying, “The God of heaven will give us success.” He was not dependent on his ability to lead, or the people’s skill in rebuilding, or the resources that they had. The work would not fail because God was involved in the work. Nehemiah’s confidence was in GOD. The God who had called him would not fail him. The God who has called us will not fail us.
A Final Word
Nehemiah’s vision was from God. His ambition was for the people. He cast the vision in simple terms. V17. He did not compel them in the name of God or threaten them in the name of the king. But he pointed them to the need to rebuild. He pointed them to the condition they were in. The people immediately caught the vision and joined in the work. He said, “Let us rebuild.” They replied, “Let us rebuild.” So, together they rebuilt.
For 32 years between 1920 and 1952 seven major expeditions tried to make it to the summit of Mt Everest. All expeditions failed. In 1953 Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary accomplished what no other human being ever did. They stood on the summit of Mt Everest, the world’s highest peak.
Could Tenzing and Edmund have made it alone? The answer is “No.” Of the teamwork involved Tenzing remarked: “You do not climb a mountain like Everest by trying to race ahead on your own, or by competing with your comrades. You do it slowly and carefully, by unselfish teamwork.... for that is the mountain way.” It is also the church way, the family way, the business way and the way forward for this nation. The call is to rebuild together.
God, we offer our lives to be consecrated to You. May my consecration be a visible representation of the consecration of all our lives to You. So that together we may live for you and do that which you have appointed us to do.