“By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.
Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” I also told them about the gracious hand of my GOD on me and what the king had said to me.
They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.” Nehemiah 2:13-18
Our assessment is complete and the news is not good. It is downright discouraging to be exact. I echo Nehemiah when I ask, “Do you see the trouble we are in?”
You may be asking yourself now, “Why did I pick up this book? There is enough bad news in the world to wallow in and now this!” That could not be further from my intention here but I believe it is important to not understate the gravity of the situation, and to make clear the truth that the answer lies with us, the body of Jesus Christ, the Church.
The body of Christ is the “last man standing”
While leading a team from a church in Brazil on a mission to work with children in a neighborhood that had grown up around the city trash dump, one of our team members and a dear friend, upon seeing the poverty, unsanitary conditions and widespread fatherlessness, commented, “Where is our government!? Why is this allowed to go on?” My answer to him, and others that might think that the government, or any other institution, holds the key, is this, “The root of the problems of fatherlessness, poverty and crime are not only, or even primarily, physical, educational or financial, but spiritual, and the church of Jesus alone is capable of answering all of these needs.”
Civil Servants of the Kingdom
The responsibility for addressing these needs does indeed belong to the government, but not the earthly one my friend had in mind. The job belongs to the civil servants of GOD’s Kingdom and that means you and me. If you are a man reading this you might be thinking, “Here we go, another thing I am responsible for.” But let me assure you, this is not another hammer to pound men over the head with. We have enough of those today. These are GOD sized problems that no one of us alone, man or woman, can completely remedy. The answers lie with the whole family of GOD empowered by the grace of God through Christ. Nehemiah did not call only on the men to stand in the gap and rebuild the walls, but rather for the men to lead their families in this great endeavor.
“Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows.” Nehemiah 4:13 (emphasis added)
We have done it before. Just consider this excerpt from an article written by Timothy Larsen for the web site Christianhistory.net about the early Sunday school movement.
“By the mid-19th century, Sunday school attendance was a near universal aspect of childhood. Even parents who did not regularly attend church themselves generally insisted that their children go to Sunday school. Working-class families were grateful for this opportunity to receive an education. They also looked forward to annual highlights such as prize days, parades, and picnics, which came to mark the calendars of their lives as much as more traditional seasonal holidays.
Religious education was, of course, always also a core component. The Bible was the textbook used for learning to read. Likewise, many children learned to write by copying out passages from the Scriptures. A basic catechism was also taught, as were spiritual practices such as prayer and hymn singing. Inculcating Christian morality and virtues was another goal of the movement. Sunday school pupils often graduated to become Sunday school teachers, thereby gaining an experience of leadership not to be found elsewhere in their lives.”
Far from gloom and doom, my hearts desire is to hear the Church of Jesus Christ say with gusto, “Let us start rebuilding,” and begin the good work of reestablishing our defenses and going on the offensive for the hearts of children in GOD’s Kingdom.
“I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land…” Ezekiel 22:30a