At the time I'm writing this, building a wall between the Unites States and Mexico is a hot issue. Donald Trump made it a campaign issue and won the election to become the 45th president. Freedom, peace, and prosperity in the US makes it a highly desirable place to live, especially to those fleeing violence and poverty in the "northern triangle" nations of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. With 11 million illegal immigrants living in the US, many citizens are concerned that the culture is changing and that peace and prosperity are at risk. So we ask ourselves what makes the difference between those living north of the Rio Grande and those living to the south.
Harvard professor Niall Ferguson offered several keys to the success of the West in his book Civilization: The West and the Rest. He sees a marked difference between the countries developed by the English and French and those colonized by the Spanish and Portuguese. The key differences are things like work ethic, property, law, and personal responsibility. It's not democracy that brings prosperity, but hard work and the respect for laws. Poverty is an acquired taste. Central America is floundering because of its culture, which involves the ethics, religion, and traditions passed from father to son. The best things in the United States come from both a knowledge of the Bible and right interpretation of the Bible. Our culture also depends upon using a correct interpretation of the Bible to arrive at a correct understanding of history.
Nehemiah knew that Jerusalem needed a wall. In 445 BC, he obtained permission from King Artaxerxes in Susa to return to Jerusalem. This was 93 years after the exiles had returned, 70 years after Ezra had seen the temple rebuilt, and 35 years after Esther had intervened before King Xerxes in the same city to save the Jews from extermination. Now it was time for a wall.
It might seem that a wall around Jerusalem was unnecessary or unimportant. After all, the Jews were living in Judea and worshipping in their temple. What more could they want? And yet, the report came to Nehemiah that the exiles were living "in great trouble and shame" (Neh. 1:3). This report caused Nehemiah to collapse into a desperate prayer of confession for the unfaithfulness of the Jewish people. The thing that was lacking was keeping the commandments, one of which was the Sabbath rest. Without a wall and gates, they couldn't keep out the vendors who came to do business. They could not keep the commandments because the people outside did not respect the law like the people inside. Until the wall was built, they were just like everyone else. That was their shame.
Building the wall was a great undertaking, which drew the opposition of many who were threatened by it. Others did not want the Jews to be strong. When the wall was completed and the gates were closed, the people inside rejoiced. Ezra was still living there. He read the law of Moses and, for the first time in a long time, they were able to put it into practice. Those who kept the law had communion with fellow believers inside. Those who did not keep the law were thrown outside the walls.
My wife and I teach a class called Boundaries. It is much needed and appreciated because many people don't know how to say no. Lives are destroyed when a lack of separation allows the destructive behavior of others to invade our personal space. Love is not all we need. We need boundaries. We need walls. We need to learn a lesson from Nehemiah.