[SW351] 11/3/2018 message notes by
Pastor Susan J. Wynn ©2018
“Ruins Have a Purpose”
Text: Nehemiah, various verses
The heart of the Lord, and my heart, is that His people be restored, rebuilt, and that they be a testimony of Him. Beloved, if the Lord’s heart is to restore and rebuild His people, then His people must be in ruins. But ruins have a purpose!
I will show you through one whom the Lord used — Nehemiah. He was in captivity in Babylon (1:1), but had a high position, for a Hebrew slave. He was cupbearer to the king (1:11). His job was to guard against poison in the king’s drink, so he tasted it before giving it to the king. The king trusted him, and confided in him. And he had the king’s ear (2:1-4).
He was visited by one of his brothers and some men from Judah, and asked them to tell him about Jerusalem and the remnant who were there (1:2). There were a few who were left in the land to tend vineyards and fields. There were a few who had escaped the exile.
The report from his visitors was devastating, just as it is today. God’s people were in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem was broken down. The gates were burned with fire (1:3). But ruins have a purpose!
Jerusalem was in ruins, overrun and destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. God’s people had rebelled against the Lord, and despite the warnings of the many prophets He sent to them, they did not listen.
And now, they were completely unprotected from attacks from their enemies. It is the same among God’s people today. It was the same with me, 23 years ago.
He purposely sent them into exile from His presence. He purposely sent Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem. Why? So His people would turn back to Him. He disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:5). Ruins have a purpose, beloved!
It was when I was far away from Him and rebelling against Him that I began to turn. I knew I needed Him. And beloved, just as with me, He will take you back, if you turn back! Ruins have a purpose!
After I was restored, the Lord saw fit to make me a restorer, like Nehemiah. So, just as he did, I beseech the Lord, who preserves His promise and His lovingkindness for those who love Him and obey Him (1:5). I ask Him to hear my prayer, the one I pray day and night, the prayer for restoration of the ruins. I confess the sins of His people, as if they were my own sins (1:6-7).
I had to confess my own sins in order to be restored physically from MS, and to know Him as He had given me a hunger to know Him. Just as with me then, and His people today, He will hear when you turn and cry out to Him!
As with Nehemiah, my constant prayer, day and night (1:6), is that you will turn back! In my prayers, I repent before the Lord on behalf of wayward believers, and ask the Lord to forgive their waywardness and draw them near, just as I repented, and He drew me near! I remember the Lord’s promise that if His people return to Him and obey Him, He will gather them and return them to Himself (1:9), and I beseech Him to do it.
The Lord has assigned many to pray for restoration. As Satan views the ruined condition of God’s people, he and his servants mock (2:19). The exiled psalmist writes —
Psalms 42:3, 10 My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” . . . As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me, while they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
As with all who are called to pray for restoration, I pray, “Lord, You have restored me because I returned to You and obeyed You. So, bring Your people back, in the same way.
“They are Yours, ones whom You redeemed at great cost. But they have gone astray. You want to restore them. You have said, If you return to Me, I will gather you. I cry, Hear my prayer, O Lord, I beseech You!
“Lord, You have put it in my heart (2:11) to bring about restoration. O my King, I cannot do it without your provision.”
It has pleased the Lord to send me, setting my hand to pray for restoration and to exhort His people to repent (2:8). He gave me then and still gives me His protection as I go. He has given me greater provision than what I requested (2:7-9)!
Satan is angry when he hears of rebuilding (1:10). But by the Lord’s power, many spiritual battles have been won, many threats and many mocking words from Satan have been heard and rebuked. And so, like Nehemiah, I have had had a front-row seat to see Him restore many from great ruin. Praise His holy name!
So when He put it in my heart to rebuild (2:12), I went to the ruins and inspected them. Surely, the report I heard was true! The walls were destroyed, the gates consumed with fire (2:13-15). Indeed, God’s people had no protection against the enemy, Satan.
All of this was ruin was caused by the rebellion of His people. But His heart is to restore them, if they return to Him. Ruins have a purpose!
Despite the devastation that I have seen for myself, I say, “Come, let us rebuild, so we are no longer a reproach (2:17)!” I tell them that the Lord’s hand has been favorable to me, for I, too, was once in ruins but am now restored! And other restorers have joined me, saying, Yes! Let us arise and rebuild, and have put their hands to this good work (2:18).
Though Satan says, “It cannot be done,” the restorers say, The God of heaven will give us success (2:20)! Therefore, I and the rest of His servants take heart, arise, and begin to restore the ruins!
During the restoration, Satan continues to mock, belittling us and telling us it is impossible to restore the ruins (4:1-2). But he is a liar and the father of lies, and there is no truth in him (John 8:44).
Satan will mock the quality of the restoration, saying the restored ones will be weak and unable to withstand his attacks (4:3). But the restorers pray to our God (4:9). We cry, “Lord, strengthen our hands for the work (6:9)!”
And we strengthen those whom we are restoring, exhorting them to be filled with the Holy Spirit so they will be built up to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13)!
As the restoration process progresses, the restorers gather God’s people to hear the Word of God (8:1-8). As they hear His words, the Holy Spirit convicts them of their rebellion, and they weep and sin, even a lifetime of it, is confessed.
The ruins in Jerusalem were visible, but the spiritual ruin of His people was not seen by the naked eye. Nevertheless, it was just as extreme, for they were cast away from the presence of God.
But today, the ruins within the church cannot be seen by the naked eye, for they are spiritual ruins. The church looks good on the outside, but there are many believers who are in ruins. But those ruins have a purpose!
When people hear the exhortations of the restorers and the encouragement that they can be rebuilt, and are willing to admit that they are in ruins, they will be restored! Ruins have a purpose!
But some are unwilling to admit that they are in ruins, and remain in ruins, exiled from His presence. For them, all restorers continue to petition the Lord.
I have had a front-row seat to see the restoration of some who have agreed that they were in ruins because they had rebelled against the Lord. Such ones have been restored, just as I was! Ruins have a purpose!
It is just as in Nehemiah 6:15. After a miraculously short time, those who agree they are in ruins are made whole, by the Lord’s power working through us. But that is not the end of the story.
The Lord has a promise for those who repent and cry out to Him. He will fill them with His Holy Spirit, so they never stray again! They will no longer be ruins, but completely restored, purified, and inwardly dedicated to the Lord, entirely His (12:27)! Oh, my! Ruins have a purpose!
And when they are restored, both the restorers and His restored people arise and bless the Lord our God forever and ever (9:5)! We sing songs of praise, and rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory (1Peter 1:8)!
My heart is that God’s people be restored, beloved. Your ruins have a purpose! Do you see that you are in ruins? That is the first step to restoration! Know that many restorers are praying for you to see and turn back, and are prepared to be used by the Lord to restore you.
Lord, may Your people be willing to see that they are in ruins because of their rebellion, and turn back to You. That is the purpose of ruins. Let it be so. Amen.