In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about building a wall on the border between the USA and Mexico. One side of the argument says “it’s immoral to build a wall there.” The other side says “we need it for our protection”. Whether you agree with the wall or not, it’s not very likely you will have any influence on whether it is completed or not.
Of course building walls is nothing new. There is a wall in Israel that separates the Palestinian Territories from the Jewish territories and it’s been there for years. There used to be a wall in Berlin to separate the communists side from the rest of Europe. In the ancient world almost every city had a wall around it. Those walls are designed to keep “bad” people out and protect the people within.
We need to build walls sometimes too.
Do you need a wall in your life? Maybe you don’t need to keep bad people out but I’m sure there will be some bad things you need to keep out of your life. It seems to me the beginning of a new year is a perfect time to begin building your own wall around something in your life.
I don’t know what that thing is for you. Maybe it’s a habit you need to break or a project you need to complete, or a relationship you need to restore or perhaps a relationship you need to end. You know what you need to do; you know you ought to, but when it comes down to doing it, there is always something else you would rather do.
It might be a debt you need to repay that’s been hanging around forever. Every time you hear someone talk about generosity, every time you hear one of those commercials about debt consolidation you feel guilty. You agree in your mind to make changes but, then you don’t do anything about it. Of course your life and your relationships with the people you love the most, could be very different if you were to just focus this year, on getting rid of some of the stupid debt that you’ve been carrying around.
Your thing may not be on this list but I have a feeling if I were to sit down and talk to you we would easily discover there is something that is hanging over you; there is something that is a part of your life and shouldn’t be; there is something that in this coming year needs to be fixed above anything else. That’s your one thing. That’s what you need to build a wall around.
There is a story in the bible of a wall builder. He was called Nehemiah and his story takes place around 444 B.C. King Artaxerxes was the King of Persia – the dominant world force at the time, and Nehemiah worked for him. Nehemiah was a Jew and the cupbearer to the king. We don’t know if he had ever been to Israel because the Babylonians had conquered Israel, 100 years before and his family were carried off to captivity. But when Nehemiah hears how terrible things are back in Jerusalem he is badly effected and does a very risky thing. He asks for time off.
Now he wasn’t an “employee” of the king. He was a slave and slaves don’t get time off. So he took a risk even asking but King Artaxerxes says “I’ll do better than that”. I will make you the governor of Judea, (basically the mayor of Jerusalem) and I will give you whatever you need to help you but you can’t stay away forever. You must return in due course.
Now the walls of Jerusalem had been torn down for so long, no one living there even remembered what they looked like. So, when Nehemiah saw the city it broke his heart. He took an entire day and night to travel around the city and to meet the people. Then he comes to this conclusion “If I don’t get anything else done while I’m here, I’ve got to get this wall rebuilt.”
So, Nehemiah calls all the people together and he casts this compelling vision about the need for the wall to be built. There are no miracles in the book. He simply said here’s the problem we need to solve, here’s the solution, here’s why we need to do something about it. And the people rallied together and began to rebuild the wall around the city.
Now it easy to begin something like this, but finishing it is always the problem. The surrounding leaders felt very threatened by the fact that the wall was being rebuilt. So they tried several ways to stop the progress. They tried to discourage the people with rumours. When that didn’t work they actually sent armed forces against the people to attack the workers on the wall. When they finally they got to the place where the wall was almost complete, and they were about to rebuild the gates, the enemies realised their tactics weren’t working.
So they decided a different strategy. They tried to distract Nehemiah from the work. Their plan was to get him outside the city and kill him. But Nehemiah told them on many occasions “I’m doing a great work right here and I cannot come down.”
Friends if there is a wall in your world that you need to complete, you will need to often say with Nehemiah, “I am doing a great work and I cannot be distracted”. I’m going to keep going regardless of the issues around me.
Now here’s what is so significant for us. If Nehemiah had come off the wall and met with the enemies, they would have taken his life. And maybe there are things in your life and my life that if we do not complete them, if we do not deal with them they have the potential to ruin our lives as well. There are things relationally, that if you don’t give attention to; they have the potential to kill your family, to kill your marriage, to kill your connection with your kids and even your grandkids. If you don’t decide I’m staying on task until I finish it, some things have the potential to ruin you financially. Some of you are facing that right now because you didn’t pay attention to a breach in your wall.
Some of you have health challenges; and if you just say “I’m not going to look”; you’ve told your wife “don’t bring it up again”; or you’ve changed doctors; or you’ve torn up prescriptions; or you tell yourself “It’ll work out in the end” – you’re not paying attention! And you’re ignoring something so fundamental that if you don’t fix it, it could literally take your life.
So the challenge for you in 2023 is this, will you start then stay on your wall until you finish what you know you need to do?
Nehemiah’s story tells us that eventually they finished the wall. In fact they rebuilt the wall in fifty-two days. It wasn’t around the entire ancient City of Jerusalem – but it was enough and it was quite an accomplishment to rebuild the wall from the rubble that had been laying there for a hundred years.
Throughout this story there are no miracles. I mean they don’t wake up one morning and part of the wall was complete. There aren’t lightning bolts from heaven to strike all their enemies. There is nothing supernatural in the whole story. These are just men and women that knew in their hearts something needed to be done and did it.
So here’s the deal. 2023 needs to be the year you are done with that thing that you know you need to fix. What I am saying is this, whatever is the issue, you have got to decide this year will be the year you change things and to not give up until it’s done. 2023 could be your year.
No one else will build your wall. It’s a decision you have to make and it takes a Nehemiah kind of determination to stay on the wall until it’s dealt with.
For some of you, your marriage is going down hill. Don’t spend another year pretending! For your sake, for your health sake; for your financial sake, for your grandkids, make 2023 your year. Tell yourself “I don’t care how many marriage counsellors we have to see, but we’re going to fix this problem”. You have to decide to do whatever it takes to fix it.
This year may be very messy; it could be weird and your friends are going to think you’ve lost your mind. But that doesn’t matter. If you know what you need to do – just do it.
The great news in the story of Nehemiah, is even though there were no miracles, clearly the hand of God was at work. And when you seek after a better life, God will clearly be involved and you never know what the result may be. But you will never know what God will do until you decide to build that wall; to give it your best shot and keep going till it is finished.
Whatever your thing is, my hope, my prayer for you is that we’ll all start our wall building and this year we will all finish what we have begun.