Around the year 597 B.C., King Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem and held the people of Israel captive for nearly 70 years. Around 538 B.C., a Persian king named Cyrus conquered the Babylonians and granted the people of Israel permission to return back to Jerusalem. In a sense, you could say that the people of Israel have a chance at a new start.
When the people return to Jerusalem, they find the place in shambles. The walls of the city are broken down and its gates are burned. Judging by appearances, it looks like the people are still being punished by God. This is a terrible way for the people of Israel to begin making a new start. To make matters worse, they're defenseless from attackers. With walls broken and gates burned down, their sitting ducks. In a sense you could say that the people of Israel have a chance at a new start. However, it doesn't look like their set up to succeed.
We have come into a new year. It's what many would consider to be a chance at a new start. Reflecting on the people of Israel, they are given a new start to get established and grow as the people of God. We, also, are able to look at this year as an opportunity to get established and grow as the people of God.
As you think about getting better established this year as a follower of Jesus Christ, can I offer a few questions for us to consider? Where are our defenses weak? Where are our walls broken? Where are our gates burned? Are we broken by some recurring sin that we've grown complacent towards? Are we broken in our lack of love for God? Are we broken in how we talk about one another? Did somebody burn us relationally and we're having a hard time forgiving them? There are many more questions we could ask but I think you get it.
New starts don't mean anything if you're willing to continue on broken and burnt. As we walk through another year, let us take time in fasting and prayer as Nehemiah did. When he heard the news about how the people of Israel were in disgrace because of Jerusalem's brokenness, he didn't react by trying to handle it himself. Rather, he spent time mourning and fasting and praying before God. Let us follow his example. Let us seek His face in the areas of our brokenness. He will guide us in finding the healing and restoration that we so desperately need to be His people.
("From the Pulpit" is a weekly sermon provided by the clergy members of The Weirton Ministerial Association)