Under Construction- Nehemiah


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Pastor Lew Upchurch September 11, 2016

"Under Construction" Series Nehemiah 4:10-21

Under Construction: Nehemiah

While the planes were hitting the World Trade Center, 27-year old Jason Thomas was dropping off his daughter at his mother's house a few miles away. When Mr. Thomas heard what had transpired, he changed into the Marine Corps uniform he had sitting in his trunk- he was a former sergeant who had been out of the corps for year- and sped toward Manhattan. Around the same time in Wilton, Connecticut, Dave Karnes was working in his office watching the attack unfold on TV. He told his boss he might not be back for a while, changed into his Marine uniform, and drove toward New York City. Once both Marines reached the collapsed towers- the site now covered in ash and debris- they began searching for survivors, but first, they found each other. Along with other first responders, the pair climbed over the dangerous field of metal, concrete, and dust calling out, "United States Marines! If you can hear us, yell or tap! According to the military news publication Stripes, "when they reached a depression in the rubble of what had been the south tower, they thought they heard someone. So they yelled down and got a reply from two men who identified themselves as New York Port Authority police officers. Karnes told Thomas to get to a high point to direct rescuers to the site, then called his wife on his cell phone and told them to call and give the New York police his location. After they were located amid the unstable mountain of debris, it took rescue workers roughly three hours to dig the first officer out, and another eight to reach the second. Both were seriously injured but alive.

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Thomas ended up staying at Ground Zero for 2 1/2 weeks and Karnes stayed for nine days before reenlisting in the Marine Corps.1 Sometimes, we all must embrace who we are and what we stand for, and do whatever it takes to get back into a place because we know that rebuilding must take place. Of course, for the two marines, this rebuilding was not connected to actual structure of the Twin Towers, but to the people trapped inside. That day, those two men could have gone about their normal routines after hearing about what happened. But instead, they reached down deep and took a chance. And that chance paid off. Lives were saved. Their story is a remarkable example of courage and leadership. Today, as our sermon series "Under Construction" continues, our bible character is one who also did whatever it took to get back into a place because he knew that rebuilding had to happen. And that man is Nehemiah. To give you a little background, Nehemiah was a high-ranking official in the Persian government. He was the king's cupbearer, which meant he was the guy who sampled the king's beverages first to make sure no one was trying to poison him. He was also a trusted and influential advisor to the king. At the beginning of the book, Nehemiah receives some visitors from his homeland of Judah, who share with him some disturbing news. Even though many Judeans had been allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar many years before, the city was still not secure because the walls had never been rebuilt. This news did not sit well with Nehemiah because he knew that at any time the restored temple, which was central to the preservation of God's covenant people, could be attacked. So instead of just hoping for the best, Nehemiah dug deep and took a chance asking the King for permission to go back to Jerusalem to help rebuild the wall. The King not only agreed, but gave him all the support he needed to make the journey. Nehemiah embraced who he was as a member of God's chosen people, left the comfort of his position in the King's court, and "went back in" to the danger zone of Jerusalem to literally rebuild. Our reading from Nehemiah Chapter 4 picks up kind of in the middle of things. By this time the wall was completed to about half its height but the many enemies of the Israelites were busy planning their attacks. Nehemiah took control. He not only prayed Paul Szoldra, "7 incredible stories of heroism on 9/11", We Are The Mighty, 2015, www.wearethemighty.com 1

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but assigned guards day and night, which enabled to work continue. He also set it up so that half the people continued working with their swords ready, while the other half remained on guard duty. Since they were so spread out in their work, the enemies tried to get in where they thought there was a weak point. To combat this, Nehemiah ordered everyone to immediately rush to a particular point when they heard the sound of the trumpet to resist a possible attack. And this plan was successful! The people worked from dawn to dark and remained on guard during the night. In the end, their efforts, under the leadership of Nehemiah payed off, as the project was completed in 52 days. Nehemiah ended up staying in Judah for many years helping to reform the resettled homeland. And it all started with a God granted opportunity. Instead of ignoring that opportunity or thinking about it from every angle, weighing all of the risks and benefits, he took a chance for the kingdom. He could have stayed right where he was in the comfort of the Persian King's court- life there was easy and predicable. He could have waited for someone else to step up and take care of that wall. But he didn't. Nehemiah chose to trust his Lord, go back in, and rebuild. What about you? No doubt, God is granting you opportunities to rebuild. Are you willing to trust Him and go back in and do them? Maybe things have deteriorated in your relationship with your spouse or your kids or another family member. Maybe there's been a separation or a divorce and you think you are done with God because things didn't turn out the way you wanted them to turn out. But he's not done with you because no matter how messy your life might be at the moment, God is granting you an opportunity to get back in there and rebuild those messes. Maybe there's something you're really passionate about, but have always found an excuse not to pursue. It might be time to change things up and rebuild. Maybe you been given the chance to talk with that friend who has walked away from the faith or has experienced a tremendous loss in their life but you're not sure if you're the one who can help because you too have felt like walking away and you too have experienced a tremendous loss. This is also an opportunity to get back in there and help rebuild. Of course it's easy to just sit back and do nothing. But what if we all just did that? What if those two Marines on 9/11 passed on the opportunity to go back in and save lives? What if Nehemiah had passed on that opportunity to rebuild the wall that would ultimately protect Jerusalem and allow the land to be repopulated?

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You see, we don't know what the outcome will be when we take those chances to rebuild. Some might work out the way we want and some will not. But when we take those chances based on God's promises, we join Nehemiah in saying "Our God will fight for us." This is not blind faith or "Jesus take the wheel" kind of stuff. This is confidence that when we act on an opportunity to go back in and rebuild something, not in our names or for our glory, but in the name and to the glory of the Lord, we have His blessing. How can we be sure you might be asking? How do we know we have God's blessing? We hear that God is love but how do we really know? We know because on the cross, He showed us how he loves us. Christ took upon himself the wrath of God fueled by your sins and mine, died under that wrath, and then rose from the grave to bring new life to God's people. Jesus, in a real sense, went back in to all of those places in our lives that have been so broken down and took them from us. He freed us from sin's evil grip, which gives us new life to get back in there and rebuild, knowing that because he chose us and we are connected to him through faith, God will fight for us. Look, as Christians we can all go through times where we are kind of half way in and half way out. You know what I mean? Sometimes Jesus means everything but a lot of the times he doesn't. And we can either keep this up and do nothing or we can follow the example of Nehemiah and take a chance on a God given opportunity to rebuild something. You never know what that opportunity will bring. Through Nehemiah's effort, that opportunity ultimately resulted in God's people settling back in the Holy Land, the land where the Messiah was born. Our God really does fight for us my friends. Pray about this, trust the Lord and then take a chance. Get back in there. And in the name of our risen Lord, rebuild something. In Jesus' name. Amen.

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