Text: Neh 4:1, 11-23
Summary: It’s time to rebuild the temple of our hearts. Allow Jesus to be your Defender and Rebuilder.
Good morning, Everybody. It’s good to be back in God’s house. And this is the first time in our history that we are doing a multi-site service, streaming here from Alhambra and I think we have Atlanta, Malibu, San Jose, LA County.
I just started working so I am still in adjustments. So if you could pray for me. I used to have all the time that I wanted to spend in God’s Word and now I have too much computer stuff in my head. And even when I get to sit down with God’s Word, I feel it’s harder to focus so please bear with me and I need prayer for today, so let’s pray.
Father, I pray that you would clear out all of our thoughts, all the things that are weighing us down. All the burdens, all the worries. All the deadlines at work, all the tasks that we have to do at home. All the family matters. Lord, all these things we give it to you, Lord Jesus. Lord, we come to you as children of God. I pray that you would establish our primary identity. We are children of God. I pray that you would rebuild what the enemy has broken down. What you yourself broke down in order to bind us up. Teach us, Lord, in this time. In Jesus Name, Amen
I spent this week reading through Zechariah, Haggai, Ezra and Nehemiah. We’ll be talking about Ezra a little bit today and Nehemiah, and we have an Ezra here. These books are discussing the rebuilding of God’s temple. First of all, it’s just different and refreshing to finally be staring into the eyes of people instead of a little screen. It is a blessing that God has allowed us to gather with Trump’s blessing, we are here gathering.
And in some sense, I think it does mirror the four books that I just mentioned. Because these four books were the books that were involving the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah. Involving the priest and the scribe, Ezra. And involving the cupbearer and eventual governor, Nehemiah. And so God mobilized all these people to finally establish His second temple and to rebuild its walls. And that came out on the heels of 70 years of captivity.
And so, in some sense, although it’s a smaller version, we are coming out or at least beginning to come out of a several month-long captivity. And so what should we be reading in order to prepare us? And I don’t know if you might be the kind of person who had a great last few months, and as things are lifting and will continue to lift, you are coming out of the gates running with a full head of steam and you are on fire for the Lord.
You’ve been prepared by the Lord. You’ve done away with certain habits and you gained new habits and so you are ready to go after this captivity. If you look at God’s people, the shocking thing is, despite 70 years of captivity, these people when they came out were not ready. And although some of them began with a lot of momentum, it didn’t take much to discourage them. The building project came to a halt and so God continually asked to bring people and to motivate them to build His temple.
And I want to start with Ezra 3:10.
10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.
And so you might be experiencing right now as the lockdown is being lifted, that you are shouting for joy and you’re ready to go. Or you might be able to identify with the older people in this account. And they are weeping. So the main message for today is that it is time to rebuild.
Maybe you’ve already spent the last few weeks rebuilding. But if not, it’s okay. May today be the day that you rebuild. It’s time to rebuild. And these older people in the story in Ezra 3, they are looking at just the beginning of the rebuilding. It’s just the foundation. And they are weeping because immediately they think the glory days are behind them. They’re thinking about what Solomon’s Temple looked like before Babylon came in and enslaved them.
For the Christian, our glory days are never behind us. Our glory days are never behind us. For those people in the Old Testament, they looked at this shabby imitation, or version 2.0 of Solomon’s temple and of course, they would weep, in comparison to their former glory. But only if they knew what all of this talk of the temple in the Old Testament was speaking about. It was speaking about the temple of Jesus Christ.
And so for them, for sure they should have been looking forward to the true temple, Jesus Christ, and how His glory would far exceed and surpass even the most glorious man-made temple on earth. And for the Christian, it doesn’t stop with us looking in the rearview mirror to Jesus Christ who came 2000 years ago. Now we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, 1 Corinthians 6. And we have also to look forward to Jesus in His full glory and a new heaven and a new earth. So for the Christian the glory days are never behind us. It’s always in front of us.
And so when we talk about rebuilding, we’re not talking about a building. Some pastors might be coming out of this COVID-19 and saying, we need to rebuild our community. The church walls have not been cared for, we need to do a fresh coat of paint. And a lot of people will exert effort in rebuilding physical things, and even church structures.
But whenever the Bible is talking about rebuilding the temple, Jesus clearly does not have to be rebuilt. He came perfect. And so when it talks about a temple that needs to be rebuilt, he’s talking about rebuilding our hearts before the Lord.
6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.
This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel. Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. So already there’s a clue here, although Zerubbabel was motivated and inspired by the Lord to build a physical temple, we already know at the beginning that it’s not primarily a physical building. That it’s not by might, nor by power, but it is by God’s Spirit. It is a spiritual rebuilding that is being foreshadowed in the physical rebuilding.
1 In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: 2 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” 3 Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 5 Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 6 You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. 7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. 9 You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. 10 Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce.
And a phrase that Haggai, the prophet, repeats twice is, consider your ways. God is motivating them to rebuild as a metaphor and as a foreshadowing to rebuild the house of God. But the people are too busy with their own houses, their own paneled houses and their own things they have to do in their own lives. They started maybe with some motivation to rebuild, but because of spiritual opposition and satanic attack and slander, and all these things that are happening politically around them, they lost steam.
And in the same way. You might have had a great several weeks of rebuilding your house, which is your heart and drawing close to the Lord and abandoning bad habits and creating new ones. And just drawing close to the Lord and being in His presence. Or you might have been busy or too afraid or too weighed down or too worried. And you’ve neglected the temple of your heart.
And in the same as the Lord says through the prophet Haggai in the Old Testament, God is speaking the same word to us today. Consider your ways. Consider your work. And when God is saying to the prophet Haggai, consider your ways, He’s saying, what is the condition of your heart? You’re so busy with external things but the temple of your heart where the Holy Spirit wants to dwell, what condition is it in? Have you neglected? Are you okay that it’s in ruins? It’s time to rebuild.
The main text for us today is Nehemiah 4. Let’s read v.1.
1 Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews.
As it was in the days of Nehemiah, Ezra, Haggai, Zechariah, and the people of Israel, so it is the people of God today. If you are prioritizing the building of the temple of your heart where the Holy Spirit dwells, you can bet that you will be opposed by many evil forces.
The last thing that satan wants is for you to rebuild the most essential temple of your heart. If you’re busy building a physical temple and rebuilding the church, Satan may not interfere. But if you through God’s revelation understand that the most important rebuilding is myself, the temple of my heart, you should be sure satan will oppose you. That is the last work that he wants you to rebuild. Jumping down to Nehemiah 4:11.
11 And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” 12 At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.” 13 So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14 And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.” The Work Resumes 15 When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work. 16 From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, 17 who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. 18 And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me. 19 And I said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “The work is great and widely spread, and we are separated on the wall, far from one another. 20 In the place where you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” 21 So we labored at the work, and half of them held the spears from the break of dawn until the stars came out. 22 I also said to the people at that time, “Let every man and his servant pass the night within Jerusalem, that they may be a guard for us by night and may labor by day.” 23 So neither I nor my brothers nor my servants nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us took off our clothes; each kept his weapon at his right hand.
It’s such a visual picture of what it takes to rebuild the temple of our hearts. And Nehemiah is a type of foreshadowing of Jesus Christ. And his military and civil strategy is to build a wall with one hand holding a tool to plaster the wall or some kind of a tool to build. And in the other hand, a weapon. A coat of mail, a spear, a sword, a shield, some type of defense, or offensive weapon.
And this is such a picture of what the new Nehemiah Jesus does. That Jesus, on the one hand, He is our defender. He is our shield of faith and when flaming darts of the evil one are flying toward us, we hide behind Jesus. Because if you prioritize the rebuilding of the temple of your heart, know that spiritually you will be attacked continuously. That is the last thing that Satan wants, for you to prioritize not the external building, but the internal rebuilding of the temple of your heart where the Holy Spirit can do well.
Jesus not only defends us, but He also rebuilds us. It is my testimony over the last few years that I have been undergoing a difficult and painful rebuilding. Early on in my Christian journey, I was formed in a certain image by the pastors that I had submitted myself under. And my primary identity was minister. And you know in the beginning, I was just a lump of clay. God pours out His water and I’m malleable, moldable. And through the teaching of various pastors that I had submitted myself under, I got formed and shaped. And what came out was my primary identity as a minister.
And so I thought God delighted in my sacrifices. And then now I’m coming to realize He does not delight in sacrifices. He wants steadfast love. And so over the course of those years, I did so much sacrifice. Going on missions, staying up all night ministering to people, teaching the Word, planting churches. I delighted it in the sacrifices and I assumed the Lord also delighted in these sacrifices. And the one thing that I neglected is the one thing God cares about the most. My heart.
I had neglected my heart and the walls of the temple of my heart were crumbling and weeds were coming out from the ground and enemies had easy access into me. And God in His mercy sent Jesus Christ. And Jesus has been patiently pulling up the weeds, defending against satanic attack, plastering the wall painting the wall, patiently rebuilding and defending.
And the new identity that emerges after that I hope is emerging more and more. After a few years of rebuilding as I’m no longer a minister primarily. Yes, I still do ministry. I still will teach the Word, but that is not the primary thing that I’m doing before the Lord. I’m not coming before the Lord as a minister. I’m coming before Him as a child. And He is my father.
And He’s not angry with me that I haven’t worked hard enough. I don’t have that kind of relationship with Him. He is not that kind of a harsh Father. He doesn’t have a stick in His hand that if I had a bad week and I come to Him, He’s upset. That I’m in His presence and I am not worthy to be in His presence so He sends me out into the field. That is not the kind of Father that I have.
And so it has been a rebuilding of my primary identity, and it begins in my heart, that we are all children of God, sons and daughters. And if there’s anything that is blocking that relationship, or that Satan has come and deceived you that your primary identity is as a worker, either for your company, or even for the Lord, that thing needs to be demolished.
And everything that we see in the Old Testament, we can say, yes, satan came in and he stole, and he killed and he destroyed God’s people. We also have to see God allows it, and God Himself tears down in order to build up. And so when I was being shaped in the wrong image, it was God Himself who came and He broke me down. And it was a painful breaking down of a core identity.
But it is God’s way to rebuild us the way that He wants to build us, so that there is a heart to heart connection. So that there is a steadfast love. And that kind of a person, He will send out to be sure to do His work and to offer sacrifices, but we cannot get the order wrong. He is more interested in you, before He’s interested in your work. He’s interested in your heart. More than He’s interested in the work of your hands and your labors. He wants a son and a daughter who is in love with Him and who expresses steadfast love.
So now is the time because shelter-at-home is being lifted step by step, now is the time to rebuild. What is the condition of your heart? That is the only question that we should ask. Ask ourselves each day, as you go through your day, at the beginning of your day, at the end of your day, what is the condition of my heart?
And if it’s not right, ask the Lord to break you down, and submit under His discipline. It is painful, but would you rather remain a minister who sacrifices, and at the end of your life you get into His presence, and Jesus says I don’t know you? Or would you be one who now receives the judgment and the discipline and the pruning, and the painful breaking down, so that you get rebuilt in a proper way so that when you get into His presence, you’re so confident. I know Jesus and He knows me.
He has been my defender all the years of my life. Satan could not touch me. I am an overcomer not because I’m so great or my faith is so strong. When my Jesus is such a good defender, He’s blocked all of satan’s assaults. Not only is He also a rebuilder, He is my new Nehemiah, and He takes the ruins, and He shapes us patiently. And He rebuilds us in the image of God. And at the end of our journey, we are a match made in heaven because we look just like Jesus.
He is trying to rebuild us, brothers and sisters. As the shelter-at-home is being lifted, it would be such a tragedy if we came out of this shelter-at-home exactly the same as when we entered in. Let’s make it a point that we want to leave this shelter-at-home a different person, a beloved son and daughter who knows my Father in heaven loves me, and I have a Jesus, whom I will follow for all the days of my life. Okay, let’s pray.
Father, thank you so much for your message of Haggai, Zechariah, Ezra, and Nehemiah. Lord, today as we heard the word of the Lord, we remember Ezra 8 where Ezra preached from the law of God. And the people hadn’t gathered in God’s temple and heard the Word of the Lord for so long, and they were weeping. Some weeping tears of joy. Others weeping because they were convicted of their sin.
But as you’re saying, today is not a day to be grieved. Today is a day to rejoice. The joy of the Lord is your strength. Lord, as we come out of this shelter-at-home, worldwide lockdown, we pray that your joy would be our strength. We pray that we would come out of this shelter-at-home with so much momentum.
Because we see how you’ve been tearing us down gently and how you’re rebuilding us gently. And it’s not the external things that you’re primarily concerned about. Your concern is for the temple of our hearts where the Holy Spirit dwells. We pray that whatever idolatry is there that you would tear it down and remove it from us. If there’s anything displeasing, any way of thinking, that you will demolish the stronghold of our thoughts and renew our minds. We pray that anything displeasing, any worry, any fear, that you would gently uproot it.
We want to come out of this a new son and daughter, a beloved son and daughter, somebody who has rebuilt the temple of our hearts. We know that we can’t do it. Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Father. You sent Jesus Christ and He is the new Nehemiah. He is the defender against the enemy. And He is the rebuilder of our hearts. We celebrate you and exalt your name, Lord Jesus. We pray that you minister to us as we pray and as we examine our hearts and as we take the Lord’s Supper. In Jesus Name, Amen