Lesson Twenty Five
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When one of my daughters was in Middle School, she played on the girls basketball team. Each year the team would travel to a sister school to participate in a weekend tournament that would begin Saturday night and go into Sunday. On this particular weekend we went down on Friday to enjoy the Sabbath hours prior to the tournament. What caught us off guard was when the team was asked to report to the Saturday night game before sundown.
The team was asked to report to the Saturday night game before sundown.
We went ahead and had our daughter change into her uniform assuming that the early call meant there would be a group worship. But on arrival, we only saw excited girls playing with basketballs. I asked the coach, “We’re having worship, right?” After some hesitation, he responded. “Ah, yes. Thanks for offering.” Now really caught by surprise I raced up to our room to grab my Bible, my mind racing through what worship talk might be meaningful to pre-teen girls whose thoughts were completely distracted by the upcoming tournament. That’s when I turned to Nehemiah 3.
If you haven’t read this chapter, turn to it now. When you get there, you may be surprised. At first glance, it appears to be a long description of building the wall of Jerusalem. And it is. It’s one unpronounceable name after another. But before you completely dismiss it as irrelevant, recognize it isn’t about the wall; it’s about who’s building it.
It isn’t about the wall; it’s about who’s building it.
Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem and recognized that rebuilding the wall needed to be a priority. He issued an “all hands on deck” call to the people in Jerusalem. The wall was divided into sections and assignments given. Take a moment and count the names or groups listed. You’ll find more than 40. Now notice who they are. They aren’t masons, contractors, or builders. But priests, perfumers, goldsmiths, and women—everyday people who may not have all the skills required, but together they contributed what they had.
One word that’s repeated throughout the chapter is “repair.” The word is used 38 times. Translated, this word can mean to strengthen; encourage; or to make something strong. The people weren’t simply building a wall, they were building relationships. I think you can see why it was a great chapter for a Middle School basketball team. It wasn’t about the upcoming game; it was about working together as a team encouraging each other no matter the outcome.
It wasn’t about the upcoming game; it was about working together as a team encouraging each other no matter the outcome.
This is the same message for us today. We are called to show up—in our neighborhood, our community, school, and church. It doesn’t matter our skill set, or the talent of the one next to us—the point is to pick up our part of the work. In this we are doing what Jesus called us to do. Where’s your part of the wall? Start building and be renewed.
When Ezra arrived in Jerusalem, he was told of the intermarriage with surrounding heathen nations. Ezra’s reaction is strong. The Bible tells us he sits down astonished. Some versions say “shocked” or “appalled.” When confronted with sin, Ezra is devastated for an entire day.
His remedy, however, is found in God. After his time of mourning, Ezra, too ashamed to face God, prayed face down, arms lifted in contrition and appeal. This is not a routine prayer. It is a prayer of deep confession. The community has sinned. Ezra included himself among the guilty as he appealed to God for mercy. No excuses. No conditions. No requests.
When was the last time you were appalled by sin? No matter where you live, there is corruption and depravity. And sin continues to abound! Not just with ordinary people, but leaders too. What’s perhaps most startling is that we’ve seemingly become so comfortable with sin, that like Israel, we no longer react. It’s time to be appalled. It’s time to raise our hands heavenward and drop our heads. It’s time to plead for God’s mercy, not only for us, but our communities. It’s time.
Making it Real
As a family work together this week. Here’s a few suggestions:
- Build a tower with blocks where everyone must contribute without knocking the tower over.
- Put out a jigsaw puzzle on a table. The puzzle must be finished by the end of the week. Make sure everyone contributes.
- Got a closet that needs cleaning? How about a playroom? Assign parts of the job to each person. Set a timer to see how fast the job gets done.
- Make some cookies this week from a favorite recipe. Each person is assigned a job in order to get the cookies baked. Share them with someone outside the family.
Live alone? Think about your job or things you do to volunteer. How helpful are others toward getting the job done? How helpful are you? What could be improved so relationships are encouraged?
Merle Poirier writes from Silver Spring, Maryland, where she works as the operation manager for Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines as well as the designer for KidsView, a magazine for 8-12-year-olds. She enjoys spending time with her family including being the grandmother of two active little boys, who greatly enjoy Starting With Jesus.