I once went to a beautiful Mediterranean island called Cyprus on a work assignment, and as was my normal custom I travelled all over the country visiting sites of interest, especially those connected with Christianity. As many of you know the first country Paul visited on his first missionary journey was Cyprus, he landed at Salamis and travelled through the country until he arrived at Paphos, (Acts 13:4-5).
This was 1973 and I arrived at Paphos therefore with great expectation and the more so because the brochure I had said that in Paphos, in memory of the Apostle Paul, there was a column named after the famous Apostle called Paul's Column. With images in my mind of the famous Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London, I ventured boldly on to the Paphos site and with my head elevated to see this spectacular monument I stumbled over something. When I looked at what I stumbled over it was a piece of concrete about twelve inches high in the bush and a local said to me, "That's Paul Column, it once was surrounded by a wall." To say I was gobsmacked would be putting mildly. Whatever wall was there initially to protect the monument was gone and people, animals and nature did the rest.
A wall has a purpose and when it comes down, that which it is suppose to protect is disadvantaged and at times where the wall protects people they are imperilled and can suffer great loss.
Five hundred years before Paul visited Paphos there was another situation involving a wall but this time the wall was more significant and its condition drove a prophet to tears. Literally. The Northern Kingdom of Israel was gone; the Assyrians saw to that, the Southern Kingdom was gone; the Babylonians saw to that and now under the Persian Empire some Jews who were permitted to return lived on in Jerusalem, with a few who had remained, in a wretched state.
Nehemiah, who was a cupbearer to the King in Persia, met with Jews returning from visiting Jerusalem and enquired how the city was and he was told this: "And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire." (Nehemiah 1:3) Jerusalem was in a terrible state because the wall of protection for its citizens was broken down and the people were easy prey for roving gangs of bandits, disaffected tribal gangs and cutthroat opportunists ravishing the country.
Nehemiah was devastated and grieved for three months over the news and the Bible recorded his demeanour in words like this, "And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven." (Nehemiah 1:4)
Just like Nehemiah we have cause for concern for everywhere we look the fabric of Christianity, the wall that has preserved human values throughout the ages, is being viciously bombarded and breaches are everywhere occurring.
In Europe, this once important bastion of Christianity, the situation is so perilous that its citizens now regard themselves as "post-Christian" and in the United States of America efforts are being made at the highest level to jump on that bandwagon with a plethora of anti-Christian measures that read like the manifesto from Hell; no prayers in schools, no God/Bible in public places, same-sex marriages, promotion of homosexual rights, support of the Lesbian/Gay/Bi-sexual/Transgender agenda, euthanasia (assisted suicide), and the list goes on.
There are those who do not care if people and conditions degenerate to the feral level of the jungle, where life is of little value, and dog eat dog and cat devour cat. For some, this life is the only life there is, and there is nothing beyond the grave; so do whatever you like, if it feels good do it, and be damned with the consequences. These are the ones pushing a Satanic agenda.
Emperors and kings and the rich have always lived this way and even the influences of modern civilization have not altogether deflected them from this debauched lifestyle.
Believers everywhere are saddened at the decline of morality and Christian values and many are determined to stand their ground and fight for what they believe in; and no power on earth can stop us.
Nehemiah's response to the bad news, his agony that the wall was broken down serves as an excellent example of what believers can do to turn the tide.
Here is what Nehemiah did and believers should not despair but do likewise:
1. Nehemiah sat down and wept. This weeping may seem to some as a weakness, he broke down, he lost it and so was mired in pity and remorse and unable to take the necessary action. But that would be wrong thinking since this was a moment of high compassion, similar to when Jesus wept (John 11:35); and no one of knowledge could ever accuse Jesus of idleness. There are times when weeping is appropriate, when it is a precursor to serious action, when it clears away the emotional entanglement and frees the head. Jesus once told the weeping women, "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me..." (Luke 23:28a) because he was not a proper object for their crying but he next advised them, "...but weep for yourselves, and for your children." (Luke 23:28b).
Weeping comes because of overwhelming sadness and sometimes it comes with pain:
a) When something valuable and precious is being destroyed sadness surely is a proper reaction.
b) Generations of saints have laboured, and died to protect the wall that God put in place to elevate and sustain humanity. Its demise, in whole or part should move us to tears.
c) The current young generation is being brought up in an environment alien to Christianity and they are being taught perverse, alternative lifestyles; and it is so hard for them to know the grace of God and we weep for them. Jesus being mindful of this said, "Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh." (Luke 6:21)
2. Nehemiah mourned for days. Nehemiah did not just weep and forgot the whole thing as if weeping unburdened him, no, he did much more; he mourned for three months, he carried his sadness everywhere he went, his clothes reflected his mourning, his visage and countenance were agonisingly visible, he was broken and distressed and eventually the king took notice.
Mourning is prolonged sorrow and when we mourn because of the effects of the devil's work on humanity we are in exalted company. Jesus sorrowed too as he saw the desolation of the Jews, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." (Matthew 23:37-38). Believers' mourning will not be in vain for the Bible says, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted." (Matthew 5:3)
3. Nehemiah fasted. So many believers do not fast and do not understand nor appreciate the huge value of fasting. They are certain things that are stubborn and demand something out of the ordinary to deal with them effectively, as Jesus reminded his disciples when they failed to heal a sick child, "Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." (Matthew 17:21). Jesus commenced his earthly, humanity-saving mission with a fast that lasted 40 days and 40 nights (Matthew 4:2); Paul's missionary work was the most demanding in Christendom and he fasted often, "In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness." (2 Corinthians 11:27); when Esther undertook the life-threatening task of approaching the emperor, without his consent, making request to save the Jews she asked the Jews to fast for three days and three nights (Esther 4:16). The Bible tells us that Moses fasted, Elijah fasted, Isaiah fasted and all the Old and New Testament saints fasted and so should we since we are experiencing something as serious as ever the church has faced.
4. Nehemiah prayed before the God of heaven. Some people think that praying is useless because it can't really change things and whatsoever will be will be; but that is not the case. Prayers work and the Bible speak of effectual fervent prayers achieving much (James 5:16) and instead of fainting one should pray (Luke 18:1). Joshua prayed and the sun stood still (Joshua 10:12); Paul prayed and the dead man Eutychus rose from the dead (Acts 20:9-10). Many believers know from solid experience that it was because of prayer that they were able to overcome, or solve some difficult problem and the need for effective prayers are now as great as ever. The Bible tells us, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14)
The call is for believers everywhere to stand up and let their collective voice be heard, let all the politicians and decision makers hear it, let the aristocrats in high places and the demons in low places hear it, let the school and business leaders hear it, let the wishy-washy in church hear it; in fact let all humanity hear it, loudly and with unmistakable clarity; and the message is this. We will fight to our last breath to uphold Christian values just as Jude tells us, "...contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3); for this wall will not be taken down, and we will not stand by nor roll over and allow it to happen. No matter what it takes, faithful believers everywhere must find common purpose in making sure that we don't let this wall come down.
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Dr. Henderson Ward received his Doctor of Divinity in theology, with distinction, from Masters International School of Divinity, USA, where he is currently a post-doctoral fellow. Dr. Ward's career involved pastoring, evangelism, and teaching. Copyright 2013
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