Interviewing at an agency for an internship, the gentleman talked about the idea of not ringing that bell. The context of the conversation was about ethics and proper therapeutic relationships between a professional and his/her client. His simple statement, once that bell is rung, it can’t be undone. There are certain experiences that we all have faced individually and collectively where that bell has tolled and once it tolled, it could not be undone. As a society, we looked on at the tragedy of two young boy’s life being taken by their father. We have witnessed three mass shootings, one of which innocent children had lost their lives. 2012 has also seen human triumph, as well as a very divisive and polarized political election. Through all of this, we survived – including the supposed end of the world on December 21, 2012 – and are most likely wondering where do we go from here? The reality is somber that change needs to occur. Change in our families, change in our communities, and significant change in our very own nation. Once that bell has rung, it definitely can’t be undone. However, we can begin anew and move forward toward rebuilding and repairing the damage that has resulted in the ringing of the bell.
Therefore, the Marysville LDS Church exmainer will be publishing weekly articles that look at one of the most interesting books of the Old Testament. This book is about a nation that has started to rebuild itself from the Babylonian captivity. The Prophet Ezra oversaw the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem and a restoration of the worship of Yeshuah/YHWH. Nehemiah, a contemporary of Ezra, worked as a cupbearer in the court of King Artaxerxes. Inquiring about the state of the remnant people of Jerusalem and the House of Israel, Nehemiah takes leave from his duties in serving the King and begins to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. From the humble prayer of repentance, to the commission to go forth and accomplish that which Nehemiah set out to do, we will read the struggles and triumph Nehemiah experiences, the dedication and loyalty to the people and to God Nehemiah displays, and how we can begin to rebuild and repair those things that have become broken down and trodden under by an opposing army.
The Book of Nehemiah contains thirteen chapters. Each chapter will have a brief devotional presentation, along with a downloadable study guide, as well thoughtful questions to ponder and the ability to record one’s impressions and thoughts. The hope of this thirteen week study is to help facilitate change and restoration within our own homes, communities, and eventually within our own nation. Change does not come over night, nor does it come without a struggle. And, if we want to see change happen in our own lives, in our own homes, in our own communities, and within our own nation then we must make the commitment to apply the principles of the Book of Nehemiah in our lives. This is not a casual participation to gain knowledge about the subject matter, but to impact and change our own perception and thinking in how we can make the necessary improvements and repairs that is necessary.
The LDS Institute Manual (Old Testament Manual: Kings to Malachi) provides this synopsis of Nehemiah and the impact he had on his people:
Nehemiah stands out as one of the noble men in the Old Testament. As he fulfilled a necessary mission in his day, he demonstrated the highest level of dedication and courage, both in the practical matter of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and also in the spiritual matter of rebuilding the religious life of his people.
The Institute manual goes on to quote the following:
The book of Nehemiah carries the history of the Jewish people down to a later date than any other of the avowedly historical works in the canon of the OT. Its interest is manifold, since it describes not only the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, but the reconstruction of the Jewish ecclesiastical organization; and as an authority for the events it relates, is first-rate, since it is largely based upon contemporary materials. And its value is augmented by its vivid portrayal of the noble character of Nehemiah himself. His career presents an exceptional combination of strong self-reliance with humble trust in God, of penetrating shrewdness with perfect simplicity of purpose, of persistent prayerfulness with the most energetic activity; and for religious faith and practical sagacity he stands conspicuous among the illustrious personages of the Bible. (J. R. Dummelow, ed., A Commentary on the Holy Bible, p. 278.)
In a sermon given by Ray Stedman, he gives this particular observation of the Book of Nehemiah:
But Nehemiah did more than rebuild a wall, as we will learn. This book is also the story of the restoring of a people from ruin and despair to a new walk with God. Jerusalem is not only an historic city which has for centuries been the center of the life of the nation of Israel (and, in fact, the center of the biblical record), it is also a symbolic city. Jerusalem is also used in a pictorial sense throughout the Scriptures. What it pictures is the place where God desires to dwell. When the city was first designated to King David as the place where God wanted him to build the temple, he was told that this was the place where God would dwell among his people. Jerusalem therefore, throughout the Old and New Testaments, has pictured the place where God seeks to dwell. However, it is only a picture -- it is not the actual place where God dwells for, according to the New Testament, man is to be the dwelling place of God. God seeks to dwell in the human spirit. That is the great secret that humanity has largely lost today, but which ... Christianity seeks to restore. The Apostle Paul's great statement in the letter to the Colossians is, "Christ in you, the hope of glory," (Colossians 1:27). This is God's provision and desire for man.
For Latter-day Saint Christians, we also have the sacred record of the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants (of which we will be studying this year as part of the Adult Sunday school curriculum) and the Pearl of Great Price. Thus, we have an opportunity to begin anew with a restored hope in rebuilding and creating a dwelling place within our heart, our homes, our communities and hopefully our nation. In addition, as the mutual theme for the youth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is focused on standing in holy places and not be moved, this thirteen week study will compliment how we are able to do just that - stand in holy places and not be moved by rebuilding from the rubble of our own disparity.
Stedman also provides this observation about the study through Nehemiah and its importance on our own individual lives:
Jerusalem in ruins, therefore, is a picture of a life that has lost its defenses against attack and lies open to repeated hurt and misery. If you are at all acquainted with the world in which we live today, you will know that every time you turn your television on you are exposed to the hurt and misery of people whose walls have been broken down. Jerusalem in ruins is a vivid picture of their danger and despair. The book of Nehemiah depicts the way of recovery from breakdown and ruin to a condition of peace, security, restored order, and usefulness.
Stedman then continues with this perfect summation of why beginning the New Year with a study through this wonderful book of scripture:
What an appropriate book to begin the New Year with! It is the story of a new beginning. Traditionally, New Year's Day is the day on which we review our lives. We examine our walls and our gates, as it were, reflecting on the damage and destruction that may have occurred, and we resolve to do better in the New Year. This practice of making New Year's resolutions has largely fallen out of style, however. It used to be quite common, but it has fallen into neglect. People break their resolutions so quickly they have given up making them, or else they have gone in for rather foolish, silly things, like giving up eating ice cream in bed, or wearing overshoes, or something else easy to do or to stop. But this is the day when we traditionally resolve to do better, and so is appropriate to beginning the study of the book of Nehemiah.
Mirroring the sentiments expressed by Stedman, the Marysville LDS Church Examiner brings this study to the reader for personal edification, reflection, and devotion as we enter into the New Year. Through this study, the hope is to encourage thoughtful discussions and conversations about the given subject matter that will be covered and encourage all people to share how this study is making significant change in their own perceptions and lives. Through sharing how we are applying the principle teachings with one another, we are encouraging one another by sharing how it is working in making strides to have a deeper and more meaningful relationship with family, friends, neighbors and strangers.
Also, this specific study is not based on any specific doctrinal understanding because we are not drawing out doctrinal similarities or differences. We are drawing out the principle truths and applications that we can come to understand in our own lives and how best to apply them. Therefore, we highly discourage any doctrinal discussions on these weekly studies. This is because the end result is bringing our own selves out of ruin and despair and into a newer and deeper walk with our Heavenly Father.
It is the hope and desire for each one of us to come closer to our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as we stand in holy places and not be moved. Let us spend the next thirteen weeks focusing on rebuilding our own walls where the Spirit of the Lord can dwell as we resolve to stand in holy places and not be moved until the coming of our Lord and Savior - Jesus Christ.
© 2013 by Timothy R. Berman and Clarity Digital Media Group, LLC: Express written permission of both must be given to quote or utilize the contents of this article in any way – All Rights Reserved.
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