Susa was the capital city of Persia. It was 850 miles away from Jerusalem, across barren wastelands. We quickly learn that Nehemiah is not only a resident of Susa, he lives in the citadel, that is the fortified palace of the king.
When he inquires of his Jewish brother, Hanani, who has just returned from Jerusalem, about the condition in which he found Jerusalem, the report is bleak. “The remnant there… who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”
On the face of it, it seems like a man as important as Nehemiah would have other things possessing his mind than a distant city to which he‘s never even seen. But not so! His body may be in Susa, but his heart is in Jerusalem, for he knows that place is the very dwelling place of God.
Nehemiah may very well have had Psalm 137:5-6 on his mind when he made his inquiry, “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth; if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.”
Look at the news from Hanani. Notice the words he uses to describe the people of Jerusalem and their conditions. He calls them “survivors”. Their condition is one of “trouble and shame”. The wall around Jerusalem is utterly broken down and the gates burned with fire.
In the ancient world, a city without walls was a city completely vulnerable to its enemies. It had no defenses and no protection at all. An unwalled city was always a backwater town, with nothing valuable in it. Those living in an unwalled city were in constant fear and tension. They never knew when they might be attacked and brutalized. What is more, any temple or place of worship in such a town could never be made beautiful; because anything valuable would be easily carried away.
Join us Sunday morning as Scott Parsons preaches "From Sorrow to Success".