In last month's e-newsletter I shared one of the things the Lord spoke to me concerning 2023, in part:
“Strengthen what remains...Strengthen what you have...For many, this will be a year involving a course correction...”
Nehemiah's experience repairing and rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem is similar to what the Lord said to me for this year. Strengthen what remains, and a change of direction.
Nehemiah - and a little history first
When Solomon died the nation of Israel split into 2 nations. The northern nation was known as Israel, and it was mostly 10 tribes who made Samaria their capital. They are called 'the northern kingdom'. They made their own temple and priesthood in Samaria which is north of Jerusalem, and most of their kings were evil.
In 722BC Assyria conquered Israel/Samaria and captured most of the population, resettling them in other nations under Assyria's control. Then they brought other people from those nations into Samaria and settled them there.
Over the decades the remaining Jewish population inter-married with the gentile refugees that Assyria had settled in the land, leading to half-breed Jewish people generally called 'the Samaritans'. They were very much hated by the 'pure blood Jews', and would not even talk to them. (II Kings 17:5-18, 24; John 4:9)
The southern kingdom was known as Judah and consisted of 2 main tribes, Judah and Benjamin. There were also the Levites who served in the temple, and remnants of the tribes of the north who loved God and wanted to worship in the temple following the laws of Moses. Most of Judah's kings were good. But the nation fell away from the Lord, and were conquered by Babylon in 587BC.
Almost there, but just a little bit more history...
Babylon carried away most of the Jewish population to Babylon. Among these captives were Daniel and Ezekiel. Jeremiah had prophesied they would be captive 70 years, 1 year for each of the sabbath years they had refused to keep. (Jeremiah 29:10-14, II Chronicles 36:13-21)
As mentioned above, Jerusalem fell to Babylon in 587BC. The ruler Cyrus decreed in 539BC the temple could be rebuilt, in the well documented, 'Edict of Cyrus'. Zerubbabel then led 50,000 volunteers to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, and the temple was finished in 517BC, exactly 70 years from destruction to restoration.
Decades later the walls surrounding Jerusalem were still in disrepair, leaving the temple and city open to attack. Nehemiah was the king's wine bearer, and asked permission to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall. His request was granted in Nehemiah chapter 2, and the wall was completed in just 52 days; 445BC. (Nehemiah 6:15)
For our lives...
Many have gone through life-changing things in the last 2 years. In some ways it is similar to the ups and downs that Israel and Judah experienced over a much longer time. There were moments of confusion, conflicting prophetic words, prophets of various 'streams' of their faith prophesying opposing things. Friendships were broken, families and friends moved away or had to move due to circumstances - there are many similar things in our day.
Nehemiah wants to return to his roots. He wants to build up the defensive walls of the city. There are people all around him that don't understand what God has done in his heart and what he is trying to do in life. The walled city of Jerusalem represents our own lives. Outside the walls of our life is 'Judah', which are relatives, but not living within our 'city walls'. Those outside our 'walls' must be a lesser priority for us.
It is also in Nehemiah 2 that we learn of 3 men who are important for our study, for they tried to get Nehemiah to stop working on the wall. Their methods are what Satan uses against you and I today. Nehemiah's example provides an example for us concerning some of the things the Lord told me for 2023.
The names of the 3 men are:Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem.
Sanballat (Sinballat) was governor of Samaria to the north of Jerusalem, and his name means; (the Samarian god called Sin) "Sin will give you life." Or, "sin has vilified (made you evil)."
Tobiah means 'pleasing to Jehovah', and lived in the area around Jerusalem. He joined Sanballat to try to stop Nehemiah. Geshem lived to the south and east of the city. His name means 'hard rain', used in Israel of the fall and winter rains which can be overwhelming. He is known as "Geshem the Arabian", an Arab chief of those who lived in the area around Jerusalem.
Nehemiah was surrounded by those trying to distract him from what the Lord had called him to do. Do you ever feel like that?
Nehemiah was trying to strengthen what remained. The broken wall was still there, but it needed fixed. That's how our lives are quite often, or it feels like that. If you were with Nehemiah you could see the wall, where it was, the foundations in some places was the only thing left.
Nehemiah 2:10 says
"When they heard of it (Nehemiah coming to repair the wall), it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel."
The first thing to notice is that very often, any change of direction will make some people unhappy. These are people you would think would be happy for you, but they aren't. For personal and selfish reasons, they don't want you to 'rebuild your walls' of protection - they want full access to your life as they have had for some time. They now see you asserting yourself as shutting them out. It wasn't that Nehemiah was shutting them out, but by rebuilding the walls it meant he was setting the terms by which they could have a relationship with him. We need to do that - set the terms with some people rather than them dictating to us the terms of the relationship.
Maybe you are rebuilding your life, changing, and putting up a guard against those who are toxic or just not good for you emotionally and spiritually. But there is protection and provision from the Lord when we set our priorities right, when we wake up and realize we must first be strong within ourselves so that we may give out to others. This is time to strengthen our own 'Jerusalem' and get those walls built.
We will pick it up there next week, until then, blessings,
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