Nehemiah part 5: Restoring a Nation
9-11 was a day that we will forever remember as the most horrific attack on American soil since Pearl harbor. It should have been a day that brought the nation to together. People bought flags, they said we are all American and everyone sang God bless America. You would have thought a revival would happen. But instead, the opposite happened. A stark dividing began in the nation. Where many decided to leave the church in an effort to keep people from leaving the church begin to comprise on the Word of God, soft-pedaling a kinder gentler version of the gospel and avoid offending anyone. It’s as if the church in America went on this big apology tour. Not only that but we doubled in the amount of professed atheist and agnostics and have witnessed our country radically shifting away from a culture of shared Christian values to one where we are starkly divided. And the question is. Is there hope to restore goodness and civility and common sense. What kind of country will the next generation inherit? I think we heave something to learn from Nehemiah today as they were in the process of rebuilding and restoring their nation.
Remembering– you have to understand the background to know why the crowd responded the way they did. Imagine a time not only without the internet or even books but a time when most people could not read. Only a small percentage of the population such as scribes and priest and royals could read. And the crowd that was hearing this were the descendants of the Israelites that had disobeyed God. who had turned away from the worship of Yahweh and instead embraced the false religions of surrounding nations, who had offered their newborn children in the fire as a sacrifice for prosperity and committed sexual immorality among themselves exchanging God’s covenant for a lie. Many of these people had probably never heard the Bible read before. And so, when they heard the commandments of God, they were shocked and convicted to their core. They had realized just how far they had fallen.
Now I realize that America is not Israel and we are a nation of about 350 million people with varying beliefs. however, I think it is important that Like Israel we remember our past, we remember were we came from and remember what we have come through. It has often been said that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
There has been a disturbing trend recently, by some, of painting all of American history as dark and oppressive and immoral and the legacy of old white slave owners . also there have also been lies told about our founding father that they weren’t really Christians but actually just secular deists. and that any of the changes that we see now in our society are progressive and forward-thinking. Not only is this a lie but it is naïve. There is no doubt that we have had our dark moments, with slavery and segregation. There have always been struggles along the way. But we need to be honest about where we came from so we know the Hight from which we have fallen
I want to read to you a letter written at a time in the past when our nation was just as divided as it is today.
For a Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer.
Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the supreme authority and just government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation;
And whereas, it is the duty of nations, as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truths announced in the Holy Scriptures, and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord;
And, inasmuch as we know that, by his divine law, nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God, we have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!
It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do by this proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all people to abstain from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.
All this being done in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope, authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and restoration of our now divided and suffering country to its former happy condition of unity and peace.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-seventh.
By the President,
William H. Seward, Sec’y of State.
Repent- Yes, you read that Right, the United States Senate requested the president declare a day of fasting and prayer and repentance for the nation in the shadow of civil war. How far we have fallen. We have never forced religion upon anyone nor have we ever established an official church of the united states. But we have been a people who like Israel has struggled in our relationship with God and at times gone astray. 156 years later we find ourselves once again divided. The issues are different but the solution is the same. We must hear the word clearly proclaimed and explained by those who are unafraid. We must humble ourselves and pray for our nation. We must love our God and love our neighbors.
Revival- -Loving God and Loving our neighbors
When Jesus made this statement that you should love your neighbor as yourself, there was a lawyer present who wanted to qualify Jesus statement by asking. “who is my neighbor?” hoping it wasn’t anyone he didn’t care for or like. Jesus answered this question with the parable of the good Samaritan. Samaritans were despised by Jews because they did not look like or come from or believe exactly like the Jew but Jesus said this is your neighbor. Sometimes as Christians we can get tunnel vision and just focus on our lives but neglect the broader command to love our neighbors and fully understand what that means. Like the lawyers, we are tempted to think of our neighbor as those we prefer to be around or acquaintances but in fact, our neighbors include the entire community believer and non-believer alike. And if that is the case the how might we love our neighbors?
One way we love our neighbors by fighting to provide a better country for them to live in. Notice the churches role in the great historical achievements of our nation.
The abolition of slavery- although president Lincoln is often attributed with freeing the slaves it was the long hard work of the abolitionist movements all of which started in the church and were even joined by those who were not necessarily Christian that paved the way for the abolition of the slave trade. Those who properly interpreted the scriptures were often shouted down and vilified for proclaiming slavery was a sin,
they were the most hated men and women in America. All across the South, rewards were posted for their lives. Southern postmasters routinely collected their pamphlets from the mail and burned them. In the North, these radicals were mobbed, shouted down, beaten up. Their houses were burned, and their printing presses were destroyed.
The civil rights act- which ended segregation in the south and promised equality to everyone regardless of race, religion or gender. Came about as a result of Pastors such as martin Luther king daring challenge the culture of prejudice that existed in the country. No did everyone who claimed to be Christian get on board no, but that’s always been the struggle of our nation. Those who misinterpret the Bible for their own means versus those who seek to follow the true meanings of the scriptures. I am not saying that everyone in these movements was a Christian but it is very doubtful any of it would have begum without believers that were convicted to provided a better nation for their neighbors.