“Separating life into distinct categories of “sacred” and “secular” damages, sometimes irreparably, any attempt to live a whole and satisfying life, a coherent life with meaning and purpose, a life lived to the glory of God. “ – The Message Bible
Nevertheless, the practice is widespread. Where did we get the notion of and the habit of separating the created of God and the world around them into these two camps? It surely wasn’t from the Bible. The Holy Scriptures, from beginning to end, resists such a separation.
It is common for us to refer to the work of pastors, priests, and missionaries as “sacred,” and that of farmers, engineers, military, carpentry and homemaking as “secular”? Work, by its very nature is holy. It is talent, passion, and creativity given by God to do the work intended to complete the tasks and conquer the challenges of one’s calling.
Nehemiah was one of these. He started out as a government worker in the employment of a foreign king. Then, according to his memoirs, he was a building contractor, called to rebuild the walls of the city of Jerusalem. While Nehemiah worked with stone and mortar, his co-worker, Ezra, was a scholar and teacher. The stories of these two men are woven together in vocational holiness to accomplish the great challenge of rebuilding the walls of the city. Neither job was more or less important. Nehemiah needed Ezra, Ezra needed Nehemiah. God’s people needed them both.
The plan of God has not changed. He incorporates the gifts of all to accomplish the greater good. The work of the kingdom of God is highly detailed and it cannot be accomplished solely on the work of one calling.
This incredible plan of God’s interweaving of life callings unfolds itself in the book of Nehemiah. Although Nehemiah was the leader, every person’s contribution was necessary to see the task to completion. Nehemiah is quick to give accolades to all who contributed to the work of God. As a worthy leader, Nehemiah organizes and structures one of the greatest Old Testament accomplishments and God is glorified.
OBSERVATIONAL NOTES FROM NEHEMIAH, CHAPTER ONE
Nehemiah’s opening comments in chapter one create for the reader a setting and a timeframe. These first thoughts take place in the month of Kislev, which is in November – December of the Gregorian calendar. The month of Kislev is often known as the “month of dreams. “
The dream of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem seemed such a far- fetched idea to many. The walls lay in ruins and were a constant reminder of defeat, pain and complete exposure to the enemies of God’s people.
When Nehemiah first heard the news of the condition of the walls of Jerusalem, he sat and wept. The overwhelming news of God’s city lying in crumbles and its gates being burned was most disturbing.
It is interesting that Nehemiah heard this news where he lived in the beautiful city of Susa – or the citadel of Susa. This was the place where most of the story of Esther took place. Esther saved her people, the Israelites, from certain death and destruction. It was also there in the palace of Susa that Daniel would have a vision of the future events. Nehemiah lived in a period of time between the two great events. The rebuilding of the walls, which parts of still stand today, lend to the events told in the book of Daniel. In the midst of all the beauty of Suza, Nehemiah’s own home, he wept for the city of God, Jerusalem.
In Nehemiah’s time of distressful news, he began to pray. His prayer is interesting and instructive. He did not immediately begin to ask for favor or for answers to prayer. Instead he asked for forgiveness, not only for his sin, but for the sins of his father, his father’s father, and for the sins of the people of Israel. It was the sin of disrepair of the Israelites own hearts that led to the disrepair of their great city. Nehemiah did not ask for…