People and Structures1
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month of Chislev, in the twentieth year, as I was in Susa the citadel, that Hanani, one of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem.
- Nehemiah 1:1-2
Nehemiah showed interest in both people and structures.
He asked about “the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile.” He wanted to know how his fellow citizens and relatives had fared when the imperial powers steamrolled Jerusalem. Nehemiah had been carried off (or born in captivity), but he suspected that people were suffering back in his homeland. Over and over again throughout the story of his life, we see that Nehemiah cared about people.
This is an important point to note. Over the next several weeks we’ll see Nehemiah embark on the remarkably complex and emotionally grueling work of directing the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. The project has enemies and will face significant opposition. But through it all, Nehemiah will continue to care for people.
One of the things we love about Nehemiah’s story is that he manages to care both for people and structures. He doesn’t just have warm and fuzzy sympathetic feelings for his fellow Jews, he also cares about the state of Jerusalem’s walls.
A city without walls didn’t just lack curb appeal, it lacked safety and pride. In the ancient world, a city without walls could expect to be raided frequently by bandits and armies passing through the area. No one wanted to set up shop in a city without walls. And certainly no one expected anyone to worship a god who couldn’t even keep his capital city enwalled.
The Lord will make remarkable use of Nehemiah’s care for people and his care for structures. And he can do the same for you.
What’s your natural tendency: to care more about people or about structures? In what ways have you grown your ability to care for both people and structures? How has the Lord used that in your life?