Brokenness is a universal condition. Everything is broken in one fashion or another. It is a consequence of the fall. Nations are broken. Institutions are broken. People are broken. Nothing is exempt. It’s true that not everything is broken to the same degree, but brokenness is inescapable.
Nehemiah is a book about brokenness. The setting of the book is the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. and the subsequent deportation of the Jews from Jerusalem to Babylon. After 70 years in exile, a group of 50,000 Israelites return to Jerusalem and find it in shambles. The temple and city walls have been destroyed. What is left of the city is occupied by all kinds of people who now claim it as their home. Nothing is the same. Their release from captivity has essentially been a transfer from one nightmare to a worse one. Now, 93 years after their return, Nehemiah receives word that not much has changed. The temple has been reopened under the supervision of Ezra, but not much else has changed. The walls are still in shambles, and the Jews are in constant danger from people within and outside the city.
When Nehemiah hears this, he weeps. Who wouldn’t? Things were supposed to get better, but they didn’t. It’s how many of us feel about our own broken lives. We keep thinking that things should get better, but often they don’t. Sometimes we start to wonder why God doesn’t just fix things for us, or if he has abandoned us. After all, we are supposed to be his children! But Nehemiah is not a book of despair. In fact, it is just the opposite. Nehemiah helps us understand that it is not God’s intent that we simply hang on in a broken world, but that we live victoriously in it. It isn’t always easy, but Nehemiah shows us that if we are willing to be patient, pray, trust God, and devote ourselves to his calling, he will in his timing lift us up and give us a song of praise. It is a fascinating book that is encouraging and practical. I suggest that you read it once in its entirety before Sunday, and ask God to give you a new perspective on the brokenness in your life and in the world around you.