I love the story of Nehemiah in the bible. Taken captive and transported from the city of Jerusalem to a foreign land, he now served the king of Persia.
While in captivity, Nehemiah received news that Jerusalem was in ruins — disgraced — and the people remaining in the land were in distress. What was once a necessary and beautiful wall of defense surrounding the city was now only a pile of rubble. Burnt ash. Charred stones.
Through a miraculous series of events, Nehemiah found great favor with the Persian king. The king sent him with full provision to repair the walls of Jerusalem that had been burned and torn down by enemy armies.
It was a huge undertaking and dangerous, with the enemies of God still lurking about the city. I love Nehemiah’s statement to those who mocked and tried to stop him: “The God of heaven will help us succeed.” (Nehemiah 2:20, NLT)
I’ve read the story many times over and it was just the other day that I noticed a wonderful and important detail to the story. The enemies, in their mocking, unwittingly revealed an intriguing aspect of God’s character.
They taunted Nehemiah and the workers as they rebuilt the wall: “What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they are doing? …Look at those charred stones they are pulling out of the rubbish and using again!” (Nehemiah 4:2, NLT).
It’s a key detail in the story. Nehemiah’s workers were digging through the ash and debris and using the charred stones to rebuild God’s wall.
So often in life, we are the ones who are charred, we are the ones who are scarred and tossed on the rubbish pile. Maybe the world hasn’t disqualified us (or maybe they have), but we have disqualified ourselves. We consider ourselves as rubbish, rubble, too far gone or burned or wounded or scarred to ever be of use to God or anyone else anymore.
Maybe it’s a failed marriage or a bankruptcy or kids that have gone wayward… Maybe it’s physical or emotional abuse that has charred and disfigured our bodies and our mindset. It could be a zillion different things, but there you lie on the rubbish pile. And you think God is done with you.
Or maybe he’s not. Maybe he’s reaching into that pile and picking up that charred person that you are and setting you into his wall.
You are valuable to God. Dust yourself off and believe.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10, NLT).