Nehemiah, Nehemiah, w-h-o-o-o-O-Z-E Nehemiah?
Highlights for Ezra 1, 3-7 and Nehemiah 2, 4-6, 8
This story is meant for our times. In both Ezra and Nehemiah’s accounts, we see a familiar model that repeats in more recent Church history. You and I will most likely see this same pattern in our lifetimes.
The Jews were captured and exiled from their lands. Later, Cyrus the emperor, miraculously decided that the Jewish people could return and rebuild the Jerusalem temple. The plan got an enthusiastic start but was quickly shut down by jealous and controlling locals. The temple effort rallies again, and still suffers vehement opposition and delays. The temple’s warrior-builders endure daunting setbacks, whether political propaganda or local vigilantes. Because of all the dangers, the workers had mason tools in one hand and a spear in the other.
Nehemiah is not a prophet but originally a Jewish official in the emperor’s court. He transforms into a military general/leader through passion and great effort. Nehemiah sometimes receives miraculous help from foreign aid – only to have dark, angry forces crush their temple rebuilding efforts. This repeats over and over.
In the end, they are successful.
Why chronicle all the difficulties? Answer: so we could recognize similar patterns in our lives and be prepared.
Consider the Salt Lake City temple. The construction took 40 years because General Johnston’s army occupied the surrounding foothills, waiting for a justification to attack. Brigham Young instructed the saints to bury the temple, fearing the army could destroy it as they did the Nauvoo temple.
New Jerusalem also faced dark, angry forces which prevented Independence, Far West, and Adam-ondi-Ahman (Missouri) from ever seeing a temple even though they all have dedicated temple sites. The local Missourians drove the Saints into exile much like the Jews experienced.
What is happening now? Saints are pouring back into Missouri of their own accord. My family is among them. Missouri has become a stronghold of dedicated Saints whose ancestors were once cast off. We all have a similar story – we felt strong promptings to come here. Sometimes those promptings and experiences have been miraculous and life-changing.
Can we expect opposition here? Absolutely! Patterns repeat. We can also expect miracles, victories, and notable events to occur. I am so grateful for Ezra and Nehemiah’s story this week – it helps me not be overly concerned when difficulties invade here. Things take time, but triumph will still be the outcome. I expect to see temples here.
Joy and Celebration
In the Old Testament, spiritual occasions are often marked with happiness and a cause to celebrate with each other. They had lots of festivals and parties.
Nehemiah and Ezra ensured joy and celebration, even on a holy day.
The Hebrew Bible – Nehemiah 8:8-12
8 And they read from the book, from the Book of God’s Teaching, expounding and giving reasons, and they explained what was read.
9 And Nehemaiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and the Levites, explaining to the people, said to all the people, “Today is holy for you to the Lord your God. Do not mourn and do not weep,” for they were weeping when they heard the words of the Teaching.
10 Then he said unto them, “Go, eat delicacies and drink sweet drinks and send portions to whoever has none prepared, for the day is holy to our Master, and do not be sad, for the rejoicing of the Lord is your strength.”
11 And the Levites were silencing the people, saying, “Hush, for today is holy. Do not be sad.”
12 And all the people went to eat and to drink and to send portions and to make a great joyous celebration, for they had understood the things that had been made known to them.
Then the Jews brought back the lost festival of the booths and celebrated some more.
Time to Celebrate
Never have our people needed gatherings, feasts, and regular traditions that unite us –more. Especially after so much isolation!
Ward activities infuse:
- mutual understanding
- self-identity as one who belongs to a group of Saints
Becoming Zion is defined as becoming one heart and one mind – feasts, traditions, and gatherings help us with that process.