Repairing the Breach

Text: Nehemiah 3

Proposition: Repairing the breach in any wall recognizes that it can’t be done alone and that what was thought impossible before is no longer so.

Introduction: During his presidency, Abraham Lincoln regularly attended worship services at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. The pastor was Dr. Phineas Gurley. One particular evening, while walking home from church, an aide asked President Lincoln about Dr. Gurley's sermon. The President replied in fragmented phrases: "The content was excellent... he delivered it with eloquence... he had put work into the message..." "Then you thought it was a great sermon?" asked the aide. "No," replied the President. "Dr. Gurley forgot the most important ingredient. He forgot to ask us to do something great!"

Perhaps Lincoln was referring to the need to exercise faith and not just feed it. Perhaps he was wanting to see application of truth and belief. Last week we looked at Nehemiah 2 and we talked about discretion being the edge that distinguishes any leader. We recognized that to some degree every Christian is a leader since the call to make disciples is extended to us all and to do that will require leadership. We looked at what discretion really is, the ability to see what others often have overlooked, to then believe the truth that is there before you in what you see and then to act. It may mean to say something or not to say something, to do or to hold back. That is leaderships edge, discretion. Today in chapter three we see this great outpouring of response to Nehemiah’s call to rise and rebuild the walls and gates of Jerusalem. The whole chapter is kind of unique because it records the collective effort of thousands of people. Let’s read it and you’ll see what I mean, Neh. 3.

I. Gates and the Walls That Connected Them…

If you were to look at a map of Jerusalem from Nehemiah’s day you’d notice a number of things.   (https://ca.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search;_ylt=AwrTcc978ttX1sMAhK4XFwx.?p=Map+of+Jerusalem+in+Nehemiahs+time&type=25431_070816&fr=yhs-tightrope-tig4&hsp

What’s not evident from this map is that the city is located at the confluence of three valleys, especially the Kidron Valley and the Valley of Hinnom. The valleys are fairly steep which is what helped to fortify Jerusalem but it’s the walls and gates that made the place not only a fortress but a place to live. In Nehemiah 3 there are 10 gates mentioned, they go from the highest elevation to the lowest then back up to the highest. Don’t forget when Nehemiah arrived here in about 440 BC the walls and gates had been laying there in ruins. Almost 75 years earlier the first wave of people had returned to the city, they had rebuilt the Temple and had begun to rebuild the gates and walls but ran into opposition from the foreigners in the land. The ruins lay there for over 50 years and then God in His perfect timing sent Nehemiah. For 50 years nothing was done, the people had adjusted to living in a vulnerable meagre existence. Nehemiah 3 describes the city with its gates and walls in a counter clockwise direction beginning at the northern most point of the Sheep gate and coming all the way around and ending where it began. Gates and walls, the overall distance of the wall would seem to be almost 2 miles, it would have to have been built to a good fortification height, perhaps 12 to 16 feet high at least. It was a huge challenge but the raw materials for the walls were laying right there in the rubble. Nehemiah had brought the timbers to reconstruct the gates when he came from Persia. The materials were there to build with but what the people needed was a vision to see it through and leaders to step up and make it happen. So Nehemiah asked them to do something great, to put in place the gates and walls of Jerusalem.

II. When God Rebuilds He Seldom Does It With Professional Builders.

Did you see the way Nehemiah describes these people? Several times they are described as living in other communities. Jericho, people from Tekoa, men from Gibeon, Mizpah, Zanoah, the men of the plain, Meronothites and the Nethinims. Look at the way he describes them, priests, goldsmiths, perfume makers and merchants, Shallum the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem and his daughters, Levites and others. Everyone did what they could and they went at it with all they had. For 50 years they had stepped over and walked around the rubble, now it was time to build and the people that God used to do it were the men and women of God’s placing and timing. Look at how Nehemiah begins his description of these people in verse 1, “Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel.” They build this wall section and then they build as best they could this great gate on hinges called the Sheep Gate and they sanctify it. That is, they call what they have done ‘holy’, set apart for God’s purposes. We know because of the name that it was the gate that the shepherds would bring their flocks of sheep into the city. We know that it was the gate closest to the Temple. It was probably not much to look at but it was holy to the Lord. The work of their hands and hearts is what God would build with and so it went from gate to gate and wall to wall.

III. Gates, Names, Purposes, Values…

There were ten gates in Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day, each had a name and that name spoke to its purpose or function. Listen to the names of the gates and you can hear the functions or purposes they served: Sheep Gate; Fish Gate; The Old Gate; The Valley Gate; The Dung Gate; The Gate of the Fountain; The Water Gate; The Horse Gate; The East Gate; The Gate Miphkad. Some of the names are evident in what they were used for, some of the names are descriptive of their location, some of them are described by their tradition. From names and purposes we also see what they valued, what was not only important to them but essential to life itself for every person who would walk through its gates.                                                                                     Faith Community Church also describes what it does in terms of what it values. They are the very values of why you come to this place or any place of worship. Here they are:

  • Biblical Teaching and Preaching
  • Unity and Sincerity in the care of the Church Body
  • Hospitality
  • User Friendly Facility
  • Care for the Children of the Church and Community
  • Missions Mindedness
  • Inspirational Christ Centered Worship
  • Embracing and Following up on Newcomers
  • Evangelism
  • Good Financial Stewardship
  • Family

With prayer, faith, hope and love we approach each of these values like both gates and walls, the entry points for all people and the things we are called to stand for.

What if we were able to repair or improve on just two of these values?                        

What would it look like to see this church be a place of meeting and friendship and discovery on week days as much as it is on Sundays?                                                          

What if what was needed to do any of this is not only already here but could be increased with those who are reached?                                                                          

What if Proverbs 3:5,6 happened?  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.”

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