“Nehemiah Inspects The Walls of Jerusalem,” by Robert Theodore Barrett
Seventy years after being taken captive by the Babylonians, the former inhabitants of Judah were permitted to return. Jeremiah had prophesied, “After seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place” (Jeremiah 29:10). About a hundred years before Jeremiah, Isaiah had prophesied that a king named Cyrus would please God by “saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid” (Isaiah 44:28).
Now, King Cyrus of Persia fulfilled those prophecies by issuing a decree that the people of Judah return to Jerusalem and rebuild the house of the Lord. “The Lord God of heaven…hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem,” he said. (See 2 Chronicles 36:22-23, Ezra 1:1-4.) Two of the people who participated in that rebuilding effort were Nehemiah and Ezra.
Nehemiah: “Why should the work cease?”
As a trusted servant of the king, Nehemiah was authorized to travel to Jerusalem and supervise the rebuilding of the walls around the city. Multiple times, detractors tried to convince him to come down from the walls, either to slow the work or potentially to lure him into a dangerous situation. Nehemiah’s answer was always the same: “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3).
The Lamanite military leader Lehonti faced a similar challenge as Amalackiah tried to convince him to leave his strong position on the top of a mountain for a meeting. Several times, Lehonti said no, but in the end, he agreed to meet. That meeting cost him his life and led to a horrific war between the Lamanites and the Nephites. (See Alma 47.)
Here’s the lesson I take from these stories: Our best defense against the erosive effect of temptation is to stay busy doing our duty. When we are diligent and conscientious, we are less likely to be worn down by inappropriate influences.
Here is a blog post about the experiences of Lehonti and Nehemiah: He Durst Not Go Down – Alma 47:10-12.
Ezra: “Ye are holy unto the Lord; the vessels are holy also.”
In response to questions from civil authorities in the land of Judah, a later king of Persia confirmed that his predecessor, Cyrus, had decreed the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. He directed the civil authorities not to interfere with the work, and in fact instructed them to support it financially (Ezra 6:1-12).
Not long after, a scribe named Ezra obtained permission to assemble a group of priests to carry the vessels (instruments and utensils used for temple worship) back to the newly completed temple (Ezra 7:6-10). As they prepared to make their journey, Ezra and his team fasted and prayed for protection (Ezra 8:21-23). Then, he instructed them to take their mission seriously: “I said unto them, Ye are holy unto the Lord; the vessels are holy also…. Watch ye, and keep them” (Ezra 8:28-29).
This was consistent with prophetic guidance given by Isaiah nearly 200 years earlier: “Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord” (Isaiah 52:11).
During His visit to the American continent following His death and resurrection, Jesus Christ quoted this admonition from Isaiah. (See 3 Nephi 20:41.) Clearly, it has broader application than just to Ezra’s mission, which had already been completed.
Here’s the lesson I have learned from this event: Any time that we are asked to contribute to the work of the Lord, we ought to take that assignment seriously. We not only need to do the work well. We also need to be as good as we can be while we are doing the work.
Here is a blog post on the topic: What Are the “Vessels of the Lord?”
Blog Posts: July 19-24
Fasting with Purpose
I am impressed with the feelings and the desires which motivated Ezra and Nehemiah to fast. When Nehemiah learned firsthand of the state of Jerusalem—walls broken down, gates burned, and the people “in great affliction and reproach”—he was devastated. “When I heard this,” he wrote, “I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I…
“I Will Gather Them from Thence”
While serving in the palace of the king of Persia, Nehemiah was devastated to learn of the sorry state of the city of Jerusalem. The people who were left there were “in great affliction and reproach.” The walls of the city were broken, and the gate had been burned. As Nehemiah pleaded with God for…
His Mercy Endureth Forever
When the ark of the covenant arrived in Jerusalem, the people gathered and King David delivered a psalm, which included the following words of praise: O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever.1 Chronicles 16:34 Many years later, when the temple of Solomon was completed, the occasion was marked by music: singers, cymbals, psalteries,…
About a hundred years before the Babylonian Captivity, Isaiah described how it would end. He named a specific individual who would send the people back to Jerusalem and support them in rebuilding the temple: Thus saith the Lord, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb…That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to…
Building a Wall
Walls are useful. I spend most days in a room surrounded by four walls and a ceiling, which shields me from adverse weather while eliminating (I think) a lot of distractions. Walls and fences can delineate land that is intended for a specific use. Walls can also serve a decorative function, allowing us to hang…
Preparing My Heart
Samuel spoke to the Israelites before a significant battle against the Philistines. “Prepare your hearts unto the Lord,” he said, “and he will deliver you” (1 Samuel 7:3). When King David’s people donated materials to build a temple, he asked God to help them remember that day and “prepare their heart unto thee” (1 Chronicles…
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