by Doug Rehberg
Do you remember the old story about the missionary who is on his way home to the States after thirty years on the mission field? During his tenure both his wife and only child had died after battling long illnesses. He’s tired, lonely, and a bit discouraged. Questions of purpose and meaning clutter his mind. “What am I supposed to do now?”
As the ship pulls into New York harbor he sees a huge crowd gathering. There’s a band playing a triumphant tune. Instantly, he thinks, “Maybe they’re here for me!”
But when the ship gets closer to the dock he can read the signs. The crowd is here, not for him, but for the popular politician. In fact, as it turns out, no one is there for him. In his discouragement he silently cries out, “Why Lord? Why does he get all the acclaim? Why is everyone here for him and not one for me?” And in the quietness of his gloom he hears the Lord whisper to his troubled heart, “You’re not home yet!”
In Hebrews 11 there’s an interesting verbal interlude that has captured the attention of many throughout the years. In the midst of the author’s recitation of biblical examples of faith (from Abel to the prophets) the writer injects these words:
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
The Book of Nehemiah gives us a glimpse of what the writer is talking about. At a time of deep desperation the people of God are given a tremendous gift of comfort. The former nation of Israel lay in shambles. It had been laid waste a century earlier. It is ready to join a host of nations consigned to the dustpan of history. But suddenly Nehemiah receives a word from God that will change everything. Jerusalem is in ruins. It’s defenseless. Since the Babylonians had destroyed it in 586 B.C. attempts had been made to reconstruct it, but all failed. The Persian King Cyrus had allowed exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem years earlier, but every attempt to rebuild the city and its walls had been thwarted by other enemies. The resettlement had been tepid to say the least. The majority of returning exiles were poor Jews or foreign immigrants incapable of restoring a city.
Into this bleakness the Lord lights a flame of hope for the future of Israel. When Nehemiah catches a vison for rebuilding the city walls and gates, it’s only a piece of the vision God will reveal. Rebuilding the wall is critical, but the rebuilding of a nation dedicated to God’s purposes is paramount. The wall is important because of what was being restored behind the wall –the dwelling place of God.
It’s hard to overstate the comfort the Lord provides through His servant Nehemiah and the huge stones used in the reconstruction. Archaeologists have discovered five of these stones, the largest of which measures 55 feet long, ll feet high, and 14 feet wide, weighing an incredible 570 tons. Imagine moving such stones into place. What the Lord does in the time of Nehemiah is only a foretaste of what He intends to do through Jesus. It’s far greater than a huge crowd and brass band.
Beginning September 9th, we will explore this amazing thirteen-chapter book and see what God did then and what He intends to do today in your life and in my life, and the life of Hebron. The lessons are abundant. Scott Parsons and I are looking forward to digging into them with you. Make plans to be with us every step of the way!