Reviving The Stones

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“What next?  Where can we begin? How can we start to make the necessary changes in our ways of thinking and operating that could make the difference in the spiritual harvest that we seek?” 

Perhaps one of the best ways to begin making the transition would be to study a biblical pattern that proved to be one of the greatest examples of men and women working under a godly leader and in harmony with the Lord.  A miraculous work springs up in full view of every doubting spirit and unbelieving spectator, while the participants in God’s divine plan realize the accomplishment of His will through the work of their hands.  God can certainly do anything, anywhere, anytime, and in and through anyone—anyone, that is, that will simply cooperate with Him and say, “Here am I, send me.”

Weeping, Fasting, And Praying

“So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.”  –Nehemiah 4:6

It wasn’t going to be easy.  Everyone and everything seemed to say it was an impossible task.  There wasn’t even a good way of explaining how it could be done—but it had to be done.  It would take the hand of God to bring it to pass without a doubt.  But more than that, it would require the faith and spiritual insight of a man that became one of the most dynamic leaders that Israel would ever know.  It took a man that would not compromise, neither would he cow down to the scorn and the reproach heaped on him from others.  He had one central mission to accomplish.  He was the one chosen to rebuild the broken down walls of the once glorious city of Jerusalem.  His name was Nehemiah.

Reading the above verse in chapter four of this great Book of Nehemiah, we might be hasty in thinking that it wasn’t really such a big deal to rebuild.  But this verse and the ones preceding it tell a story of the kind of perseverance that is often lacking in today’s church leadership.  What Nehemiah had been entrusted to do, and what we have been given to do is not really all that different. 

He built the walls of an actual city with stones and timbers.  We are faced with the task of building the Church of the living God.  The Apostle Peter described the Church in 1 Peter 2:5, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”  In just the same way that Nehemiah was responsible for the placement of each stone in its proper place, the senior leadership of today’s Church must be careful in the building of God’s spiritual house. 

The zeal and the resolution shown by this great Old Testament character serve as an example to us today.  In this, the concluding chapter, we will start by looking at the process that culminated in Nehemiah’s great and lasting effort in rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls.

We would do well by understanding the condition of Jerusalem before Nehemiah’s intervention.  Here was the city long revered and spoken of throughout the eastern world, but now broken and laid waste.  It was a city that had suffered at the hands of its enemies, and its present condition was one of shame and compromise.  The city that had once been established to show forth the glory of God had been reduced to a sad showcase of misery and neglect. 

The Persian ruler, Artaxerxes, had appointed a pair of governors to oversee the once great city, but even these men were outsiders, men that came from places like Moab and from tribes such as the Ammonites.  What a reproach all of this had turned out to be!  But things began to change when news of the city’s plight fell on the ears of a faithful man of God in the Persian king’s palace at Shushan. 

Hearing that visitors from Judah had recently arrived in Persia, Nehemiah, one of the king’s cupbearers, requested any news there might be from these men.  He was shocked to hear a report that described the pitiful condition of his beloved Jerusalem. For many years now, the city had lain exposed and helpless, its walls broken down and its gates burned with fire.  Nehemiah could only imagine the extent of the damage.  His reaction, though, did not stop with despair and feelings of utter hopelessness concerning what could be done.  The plight of the city became a matter of prayer and fasting for this great man. 

What Jerusalem needed more than anything else at this time was a visionary leader like Nehemiah who would prove to be an instrument in the Lord’s hand of deliverance and revival.  The situation was indeed grave, but God was ready and willing to work His great power through a human vessel that would simply be willing to volunteer.  Verse 4 of chapter 1 tells us that he prayed and fasted for certain days.  We cannot know how long, but we can know that he was deeply affected by the simple news that the travelers had brought.  And that signals the first step in this biblical pattern of implementing the necessary changes toward revival: a simple observance had become a matter of deep prayer and fasting. 

Certainly Nehemiah was not the first, nor the only one to have heard the sad news concerning Jerusalem.  But he was the first one to respond to the challenge.  We may often pray that we become more sensitive to the call of God in our lives, but will we be ready and positioned to respond to the call?  Nehemiah did so.  It became his call, his burden, and his responsibility to act.  It would have been much easier to wait on someone else to act, but what if that never came to pass?  It might have been more convenient to blame the present on the past, and simply ignore the condition of Jerusalem like everyone else.  But this is not what true leaders do.  Real leaders initiate needed change!

Send Me Unto Judah

After a sincere time of prayer and repentance on behalf of the children of Israel and for himself, Nehemiah brings the need before the king of Persia with a simple yet profound request in Nehemiah 2:5: “Send me unto Judah.”  At this point, there is no clear plan on rebuilding, no materials with which to build, and no personnel joined with him in the idea.  But God starts with a man; one leader who stands out from the rest when the opportunity presents itself and says, “Send me.” 

It’s really no different today.  God will use someone who is ready and willing, someone that is not willing to settle for a compromised look at church growth.  He will use someone that is moved to action upon learning of the true condition of his spiritual Jerusalem.  While everyone else may justify the present condition of his local or national church experience, a revival-minded leader will hear the call and obey.  It must become a personal experience, springing from a personal burden for change.

Three Days In Jerusalem

Once arriving at the formerly great city, Nehemiah did not immediately launch forth into a building program, nor did he boast of his great plans to the locals.  The first three days were spent in a careful assessment of the present condition of the walls and gates. 

Verse 12 of chapter 2 tells us that though he had “some few men” with him, he did not reveal all that was in his heart concerning what had to be done.  Too often we hear great goals being set in public, goals that are impossible to attain because, quite simply, God had not inspired them.  Much more important than sounding good to others, leaders know that one of their chief roles is to inspire others according to a God-given plan, a plan that is part of the overall vision of the Church.  And this takes time and careful analysis of the past and present in order to formulate a plan for the future.  As was stated in the revival principles we have already studied, we cannot go forward with certainty if we do not know where we are now! 

Nehemiah made his assessment each night, carefully considering the challenge before him.  It was one thing to hear of the task while safely at Shushan, but it was another thing all together to see the actual condition of Jerusalem.  Nehemiah had to see for himself.  Somehow the vision of what needed doing had to become even more personal than before.  And that is why, for three days, he traveled and inspected, planned and considered, without the knowledge of others and without announcing goals that would certainly sound unattainable.  He knew that at first he might be the only one to believe it was possible.  After all, he was the only one that answered the call until then!  Then, and only then, after his precise assessment of the past, present, and future was made, he made the clear call to action.  He was ready to answer any question and could explain how and where each family could be placed in the task.  This was not a vain goal he was casting before the populace; Nehemiah had a plan that was custom made for “reviving the stones.” 

Let Us Rise Up And Build    

In verses 17 and 18 of chapter 2, we can see the revelation of the vision that Nehemiah had kept to himself thus far:  “Then said I unto them, Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach.  Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king’s words that he had spoken unto me.  And they said, Let us rise up and build.  So they strengthened their hands for this good work.” 

This plan being revealed had truly come from God, and that is what casting the vision is really all about.  It consists of a leader describing where the Church needs to go, and giving a clear plan of how to get there.  It goes on in clearly showing that this is attainable and that it is not at all impossible.  That is vision, and that’s real leadership! 

This kind of dynamic character in Nehemiah now affects the rest of the Jews at Jerusalem.  The same ones that up until now had done nothing to rectify the situation are rallied together behind the leadership of one single personality.  What a change begins to take place when others start to receive the vision being cast!  Reviving the stones of Jerusalem’s walls had to begin by reviving the people of Jerusalem.  And so it remains today—real revival in the Church begins with real revival in the saints.  They must first be able to see like God sees; the task is a great one, but they are capable with God’s help.  He will equip them and use them in their respective responsibilities.  It always starts with a vision being cast, and a vision being received by the nucleus

There’s Always Resistance!

It seems to come with the territory.  Once the vision starts to be received by the people of Jerusalem, immediately there is resistance inspired by the so-called rulers of the area, Sanballat and Tobiah.  They laughed at Nehemiah and the others that were joined with him in the vision.  They called it a rebellious act against the king.  People just don’t seem to be apt to change easily.  Change brings resistance because change attacks the status quo.  Were these Jews rebelling against the king?  Or was Nehemiah expressing his dissatisfaction with the present situation under the reign of the king and his designates?  We can expect those that are compromisers and accustomed to “maintaining” rather than growing to challenge rising leaders that are looking for more.  They will be labeled as rebels and worse all too often.  But this is part of senior leadership’s sacrifice to the task. 

Nehemiah 2:20 concludes the chapter with a serious allegation made against these governors that stood against the needed change in Jerusalem.  “Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.”  Again, according to the vision, Nehemiah states the outcome of the effort—they will succeed, it is possible, nothing will defeat them.  But beyond that, he informs these so-called leaders that they will never be part of what God wants to do.  They can have no portion of the revival, and they have no right to the revival.  They cannot be part of the revival while they do not share the spirit of the revival! 

Out Of The Heaps Of Rubbish

While Sanballat continued his attempts to discredit the vision and to stop Nehemiah, the people continued their labors.  Chapter 3 is a revelation of the plan for each family engaged in the work.  Every person had a place and a particular responsibility.  Each one was dispatched to a certain portion of the wall and the gates. 

God, working through the leadership of Nehemiah, had carefully chosen and made the best use of the gifts and talents available.  The walls were going up, and no amount of resistance could stop them!  A great revival of stones was taking place. And the more that their enemies claimed its impossibility, faster went the work.  The more the resistance mounted, higher went the walls.  With one hand equipped with a weapon of warfare and the other hand equipped with a tool of reconstruction, the workers put themselves to the task.  What a picture of real revival this is for today’s church leadership.  This is what we must be about.  

Casting the vision and equipping the saints for the work of the ministry, building with the nucleus, and the best use of the gifts and talents available will indeed bring a glorious work out of the heaps of stones and timbers.  We must not forget also that there was a careful balance of the ministry on the walls.  They went up together—no section was left out. 

Sanballat had cruelly mocked the leadership of Nehemiah and the work of his followers in asking,” Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?”  The answer, however, was a resounding, “Yes!”

A Mind To Work

And so they built the wall according to the vision and the plan that Nehemiah had provided.  Once joined to this vision, the people of Jerusalem became a united force in reviving the dead city.  They had a mind to work.  In other words, they knew what needed to be done, how to do it, and they knew that despite the resistance, God would favor them and they would be able to complete the job.  That’s a real revival!

It’s really not so different today.  In every local church and in every regional or national administration, we need visionary leaders to answer the call to “more.”  There is more out there—we do not have to settle for less than God’s best design for His beloved Church.  We can be the ones used by His mighty power to effect the necessary changes that will revive the stones and build new walls to His glory and honor.  But it has to start with leadership and an honest look at the present condition of the revival. 

Is it really taking place as it should?  Are our churches growing the way they are intended?  Are we adhering to the unchanging principles that are part of true revival and which bring us to a real harvest?  What is really holding us back from pursuing the clear goal of going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature? 

  • Casting the vision
  • Equipping the saints for ministry
  • Building on the nucleus
  • Using the gifts and talents available in the best possible way
  • Providing a balanced ministry in the church
  • Organizing and administering for sustained growth

We can do this.  It is possible.  God does want to use each of us in His divine plan for revival and harvest.  Nehemiah prayed, “Send me to Judah.”  Can we be bold enough to pray, “Send us into the harvest?”  Psalm 85:6 asks, “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee?”  May we ask the same? 

About Jim Poitras

Enlisiting, educating, equipping, empowering, and encouraging members, ministers, and missionaries in apostolic global missions. Director of Education/AIM