By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  January 25, 2014

            It takes a lot of faith to look upon a pile of rubble and see a majestic wall of unspeakable beauty, strength, and resilience. Even better is when that one can communicate the vision to others. Such is the visionary leadership of a man named Nehemiah.
            Following the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonian armies, the great city that once stood as a bold testimony to the glory of God now only bore the scourge of desolation and disgrace. When Nehemiah learned of Jerusalem’s degradation, he was grieved so deeply that the foreign king whom he served knew something horrible was wrong. God then used the compassion of that king to begin something new and wonderful for Jerusalem. The king sent Nehemiah home to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls.
            The plight facing the people of God is one with which many Christians are very familiar. Nehemiah was facing massive project. All odds were against him, the people he needed to work were tired, discouraged, and disillusioned.
            Like many such projects, the initial energy and enthusiasm toward the job was energetic. Once Nehemiah called them to the task, there was an initial burst of energy and the workers set aside their discouragement and narrow-minded, pessimistic agendas to quickly set about the common good. They started rebuilding.
            That is, of course, until the ominous task became hard work. Adding to the tiresome drudgery of the massive rebuilding project, God’s people faced scorn and ridicule from beyond the walls. Enemy kings and rival leaders mocked God’s people and berated their efforts. They used cutting language to belittle and beguile the hard labor of the workers and demoralize the spirit of all who loved God.
            It is human nature. When others do things that we either do not fully understand or perceive as a threat to values and securities we take for granted, a common response is to respond in words and deeds that only serve to undermine the confidence and assurance of others. So much of the violence, hatred, discrimination, and outright dehumanization of others that takes place in our world today is nothing short of people seeking to emotionally or physically beat down those whom they do not understand or fear.
            Nehemiah’s response was to remind the discouraged and frightened workers that their identity was ultimately through God, not through the words and actions of others.
            So often we let the voluminous words and rancorous deeds of those in our world determine who we are or how we ought to see ourselves. And for all the vile poison they carry and ungodly venom they unleash, we frequently fail to remember it is not of God at all.
The call for Christians is to remember. Remember that we are created in God’s image and called good! It is God, and not other people, that determine who we are or measure the value of a person. It is God who had his only son die for a world God loves, not just those people you or I may particularly like.
          The lessons from Nehemiah are simple and powerful. In the end, the walls were rebuilt and the greatness of Jerusalem was not only restored, the ancient city of God once again stood as a bold testimony to who God truly was. It was a powerful success that was achieved by focusing on the work of God and not giving up, even when the efforts seem futile and overwhelmingly inadequate. The God we serve and love, who also loves us unconditionally and powerfully, will not give up on us.