Nehemiah Week 10: "Transformation"
Pastor Terry Inman
Spiritual transformation is a catchword in the church world right now. It means total change—like a reformation. Nehemiah’s story of national transformation has applications for our own personal transformation.
This trusted leader in a Persian administration hears about the deplorable conditions in his Jewish homeland. He weeps, fasts, prays and confesses the sins of his people and their ancestors. Then he gets this foreign dictator’s permission to rebuild the ancient city walls of Jerusalem.
It wasn’t the first time the Lord, “moved the heart” of a godless Persian King. (Ezra 1.1) Ezra reconstructed the Temple earlier, but the city walls that provided identity, boundaries and defense were in ruin and rubble.
Transformation begins in our Spirit—then changes our whole being!
May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he’ll do it!
1Th. 5.23 MSG
Nehemiah uses his leadership skill to rally a citywide construction crew. Within a few weeks, the walls of Jerusalem were built and standing tall.
Each tribal family built the section of the wall directly in front of their houses. With hard work and vigilance, the wall was completed in less than two months! Incredible! Their enemies totally lost their confidence!
This story is not about building fences to keep people out. It is about rebuilding our identity in Christ and restoring healthy spiritual and emotional boundaries. We have all been compromised, maybe even conquered by our own failures and the subtle attacks of the enemy.
When we repent and return to Him, He restores! Prayer and confession go a long way in to rebuilding our lives. It takes teamwork. The church, our culture and our nation are in desperate need of transformation.
When the walls were about half way up, the local warlords threatened to stop the work with violence. Up until then it was just a war of words.
Nehemiah says, “I stationed armed guards at the most vulnerable places of the wall and assigned people by families with their swords, lances, and bows. After looking things over I stood up and spoke to the nobles, officials, and everyone else:
“Don’t be afraid of them. Put your minds on the Master,great and awesome, and then fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”
(Neh. 4.13 MSG)
Here, we reveal the fragile places in our lives and receive the support we need through our brothers and sisters.
“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed.” (James 5.16 MSG)
In the second half of the book, Israel celebrates the recovery of their national identity and faith, after the long period of the exile in Babylon.
Ezra the priest led the nation in a renewal ceremony. They praised God, they listened to the words of the law, they wept, they sang, they prayed with their faces to the ground. They revived their ancient feasts and renewed their commitment to live according to God’s moral mandates.
Now you would think with new city walls in place that the rural Jewish exiles would be excited to re-populate the newly renovated Jerusalem. Repopulating the city with families was not as easy as we may think.
When we clean up the rubble in our lives, we have to replace it with good stuff. Don’t let the enemy rent space in your brain. Evict his stinking thinking and repopulate your mind.
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Rom. 12.2 NIV)
The Message says it this way, “don’t get so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking”
Spiritual transformation is repopulating our minds with God’s truth.
Jesus talks about clearing the house then re-filling the house…
“When a corrupting spirit is expelled from someone, it drifts along through the desert looking for an oasis, some unsuspecting soul it can bedevil. When it doesn’t find anyone, it says, ‘I’ll go back to my old haunt.’ On return, it finds the person swept and dusted, but vacant. It then runs out and rounds up seven other spirits dirtier than itself and they all move in, whooping it up. That person ends up far worse than if he’d never gotten cleaned up in the first place. (Luke 11.24-26)
Repopulating Jerusalem wasn’t that easy. These poor peasants existed on subsistence faming. They lived on what they could grow in their small patches of ground in the country. Establishing a thriving city was going to take a lot more than bodies. They would need housing, industry and jobs.
So in chapter 11 the leaders are the first to move in—followed by one out of ten who basically won the lottery for a small adobe dwelling in town.
Now the leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem, and the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of every ten to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while the remaining nine were to stay in their own towns. The people commended all the men who volunteered to live in Jerusalem. (Neh. 11.1-2 NIV)
The key word here is “Holy City”. This is a call for the transformation this city to its original purpose—a “Holy City”—a hometown for God and His people. The bible predicts a future, “new Jerusalem” the capital for the coming Messianic kingdom.
For now we are His Holy Nation. Peter said, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Pet. 2.9 NIV)
I was raised with the notion that America was at least a Christian nation.
Recently I was in Washington D.C. while there I participated in a late night prayer gathering with Senators in the Capitol rotunda.
All round us on the pillars and walls were biblical reminders of our nations Judaeo-Christian heritage. Thomas Jefferson actually held Sunday worship services in the Capitol at one time. The separation of church and state was never intended to remove faith from governance; it was simply a guarantee that the state could not impose its form of religion on its people. It is freedom of religion not freedom from religion!
Legislating our Christian values doesn’t make people Christian but “righteousness does exalt a nation”!
In our attempt to embrace people of all faiths or no faith we have secularized our government and all its public institutions. Can we really pledge, with integrity that we are “one Nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all”?
As a nation are we really “under God”? We are certainly not indivisible.
We appear to be more divided than ever. With liberty—we are loosing precious freedoms at an alarming rate! More people are in moral and spiritual slavery than ever…and justice for all? What about the unborn?
Racial injustice is a sinful disgrace. Social media now keeps it in our face. We profile certain races but we also stereotype public servants like our policemen and women. There’s plenty of prejudice to go around!
This election season has further tarnished the evangelical brand in America. A few loud and not so loving voices have created a false media image that bible believing Christians are judgmental and hypocritical.
We care deeply about the protection of the unborn, the sanctity of life and biblical marriage and we should! But we should also be concerned about poverty, injustice, and the conservation of God’s creation.
How we treat minorities—especially immigrants also matters to God!
As you pray and vote at the polls for national and local officials and ballot measures consider this scripture. “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8 (NKJV)
It’s time to tone down the political rhetoric, humble ourselves—repent of our wicked ways and pray for healing in our land! What we really need in America isn’t something the President, the Congress or the Supreme Court can deliver.
It is something only God can deliver. He said, “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Jer. 31.33 NIV)
We are a nation of laws but we have become spiritually lawless. Jesus mentions the last days on earth. “Many will be offended, and betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.”
Matt 24.10-13 (NKJV)
Speaking of offence and betrayal. It seems there is a spirit of offence in our nation. “If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” (James 3.14-16 NIV)
Bill Johnson Pastor of the Bethel church in Redding CA tweeted this the other day. “This election is the most bizarre in my lifetime, yet it's not confusing. The spirit of offense is robbing people of their ability to discern. Pray for wisdom, without the accusations.”
Here’s the question many of us are asking today. “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Psa. 113. 3 NIV)
We do what Nehemiah and the exiles did. They wept, they prayed, they repented, they rebuilt, they celebrated and they are returned. First the leaders, then a trickle, then the whole community resettled their holy city.
The rest of chapter is a census of all the heads and families returning.
When most of the Jews were captured and hauled off in Babylon captivity Jeremiah gave them a plan.
“Seek the peace (blessing) and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." (Jer. 29.7 NIV)
Sometimes it feels like we are living in exile. Our nation has changed. But what happens right here in Fremont and the Bay Area affects us more than what’s going on in Washington D.C. Let’s pray and serve right here!
Don’t take your anger out on presidential candidates. Pray for them also. One of them is going to get elected in a couple days! God doesn’t need the Democrat or Republican platform to change this nation. He’s God!
We need to be crying out to Him for our nation—the government and the people. I believe we get the leaders that reflect us. Israel begged for a King. They got a succession of oppressive Kings!
I’m not sure why the Lord lets some folks govern but the scripture says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13.1 NIV)
Nehemiah demonstrated Godly leadership. The leaders the Priests and Levites followed him back into the Holy City. They took it back—not at the polls—they went back to the Temple. They reinstated worship; they reinstituted God’s laws in their own lives. The nation was transformed.
God’s presence in His people made the city Holy again! God presence in us makes us holy and whole again! Let’s pray for our self, our community and our nation! Let’s pray for spiritual transformation!
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1Tim. 2.1-4 NIV)
PRAYER: Lord we thank you that we live in a nation where we have the right to pray and to vote according to our values. We acknowledge this freedom comes from you.
We thank you for those in our government that are righteous and stand for truth and justice. We thank you that you govern over all!
Lord we pray for all in authority in our nation, our state and our local communities. We ask you to accomplish your will though them. We pray for the elections. We pray that no matter who is elected you will have you will and your way with this nation.
We pray for peace and reconciliation in this nation. We pray for righteousness in this nation. We acknowledge our sins. We pray that our nation will continue to support religious freedom so the good news can be shared openly. We look to you to transform our nation and us! AMEN