Because of their disobedience the Jews were conquered and displaced by Babylon. Seventy years later, the Persian Empire, after defeating Babylon, allowed the Jews to return home and rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. They were again able to worship God in their own land, but the city still lay in ruins. The once-great capital of the promised land was a depressing rubble heap exposed to her enemies.
Our scripture passage for today is a quote from Nehemiah, an exiled Jew who had become a high official in the court of Persian king Artaxerxes I. When Nehemiah heard that Jerusalem and its walls were still in a state of disrepair, he appealed to the king and was allowed to journey back to the land of Judah to restore the city walls.
Sometimes we may find ourselves languishing like exiles in a foreign land, either because of sin, or sometimes just as a result of living in a cruel, fallen world. But…God is still about the business of re-establishing His people, both physically and spiritually. Even though like sheep we have gone astray and turned, every one of us, to his or her own way, the Lord laid on Jesus Christ all of our iniquity, weakness, and lostness. Through the Good Shepherd we are searched for, found, captured, and carried back home in His loving arms.
“Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.’ I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, ‘Let us start rebuilding.’ So, they began this good work.”