I was driving through our small town a few months ago and I noticed a young girl standing on the corner. I'd seen her before. I knew why she was standing there and what she was soliciting. And yet, on this day, she caught my attention. I witnessed a man in a truck drive by slowly, his window was down and he waved inconspicuously. It was a hook up. I felt a surge in my soul to pray for her- and him. I felt an urgency to pray for an intervention. I don't know the outcome of the day for her, but I do know the outcome for me. I was awakened. I wasn't sure what I could do, but I knew that I had to do something.
Nehemiah was a man who lived in a tragic time for the children of Israel. It was after the Babylonian captivity had ended, over 70 years had passed, and many of the exiles had returned to Jerusalem. King Cyrus let the Jews return, and God used Zerubbabel to lead them in rebuilding the temple. Ezra had returned and stood as a spiritual reformer to call Israel to a renewed submission to the Law, for many had adopted pagan practices. Then, we hear of a man named Nehemiah. He heard the walls around the holy city were broken down, the gates were burned, and the people were in great distress.
"So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven." Neh 1:4
We see a man with great sorrow in his heart. He was living in Persia, God had placed him in the position of the king's cupbearer. He was not suffering, but was living well within the palace. And yet, he felt sorrow.
A few months passed after I had witnessed the hook up. I stood before our ladies Bible study group and taught on Joshua and the battle of Jericho, Rahab's role in the story helped to save the Israelites and bring a victory. The amazing part of Rahab was that she was in the lineage of Christ. Yes, a prostitute is one of the five ladies mentioned in the first chapter of Matthew as we learn of the line of Jesus. We read this story and rejoice in her redemption, yet when we see ladies standing on street corners, we turn our head.
We are called to be like Christ. He talked with sinners, ate with them, and loved them. But, so many times we live far from His example. We live in a world of robotic Christians who show up at church out of habit more than desire. We are surrounded by people who just go through the motions, who give God one hour on Sunday to subconsciously check it off their spiritual 'to-do list', so they can get on with life- the things they really want to do. They have a religion and not a relationship.
I lived that way for many years. It seemed as if my walk with Christ had become robotic. I stayed in the shallow water and never waded out into the deep. Was that why I faltered and failed God over and over? Was that why I had to make myself read the Bible? Was that why my prayer life was up and down? But God awakened my soul!
Our ladies group began praying for the "Rahabs" in our town. We began to look for opportunities to pour into others. We partnered with another ministry who has an outreach in the downtown area. We began to share the message of Christ.
A message of love--hope--life.
Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem. He left the luxury of the palace and returned to his homeland and began the arduous task of rebuilding the walls, to protect those inside. The people realized that God had called Nehemiah, and they said in chapter 2, verse 18, "let us rise up and build, then they set their hands to this good work."
God saw his compassionate heart and used him to miraculously carry out this mission in 52 days. Was it easy? Hardly!
"Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon." Neh 4:17
Are we aware of the brokenness around us?
Do we seek to reach out and rebuild?
Are we rolling up our sleeves, ready to work?
Are we ready to carry our weapon as we rebuild?